Were Normans Vikings

The Vikings conquer northern Germany

Status: 02.07.2018 12:54 | archive
The Vikings built excellent ships, traveled the great seas and traded around the world.

In the 8th century, wild seafarers set out from Scandinavia for foreign countries: the Northmen or Vikings, famous and feared. They spread fear and terror across Europe when their sails appeared on the horizon. With their fast, seaworthy boats, they reached Russia, England, France and even America. They also left their mark in northern Germany.

The Vikings were feared warriors. They often raided trading places, stole valuable goods and then disappeared again. This was also the case with young Hamburg in 845. Vikings appeared on the Elbe, sacked the city and burned it down. The bishop Ansgar had to flee. He went to Bremen and took over the local diocese. Bremen experienced a significant upgrade as the seat of the Hamburg bishop. Ansgar's successors promoted the city and expanded it.

Haithabu - The city of the Vikings

But the most important settlement of that time arose around 770 on the Schlei: Haithabu, the city of the Vikings (from heðr = heather and býr = court). The place, once the largest trading center in Northern Europe, is easy to recognize to this day. The former Viking settlement has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since summer 2018.

Haithabu was connected to the Baltic Sea by the Schlei, and along the Danewerk the Treene and the North Sea were also within easy reach. In its heyday, Haithabu was a city that could compete with Cologne at the time: an area of ​​24 hectares was secured with the semicircular wall in the 10th century. Even the harbor was protected against attacks from the sea.

At least 1,000 residents lived here, and there were also guests of the city, mainly foreign traders. The port, in the border region between the Danish and Frankish empires, was also visited by Frisian and Slavic traders. The wooden houses with the side supports corresponded to the construction that the Vikings from Scandinavia were used to. But time and again they skillfully adapted to new circumstances and seized opportunities. Not only were they feared warriors and conquerors, they were also successful as craftsmen and merchants.

Famous blacksmithing

This is how Haithabu became a lively gateway to the world of the Middle Ages. The amulet founders made Germanic Thor's hammers as well as Christian crosses - they found buyers for everything, as did other craftsmen and traders. The blacksmiths under the Vikings were famous throughout the North and Baltic Sea region. They forged dreaded weapons with the simple means of that time. A Viking sword was one of the most valuable things you could own back then. The best pieces were decorated with silver on the pommel and quillons - and sometimes the blade was even decorated with higher consecrations.

The Normans and Varangians among the Vikings

The Vikings built mighty ships. A partially reconstructed one is on display in the Haithabu Museum.

In the mud of the port of Haithabu, the archaeologists found a ship that has since been reassembled from its individual parts. The reconstruction shows its unusual length: more than 30 meters. It was probably a Viking prince's ship. With such longships the people from the north reached all the coasts of the ancient world. In northern France they founded the Duchy of Normandy, from there they conquered parts of England and Sicily as Normans. They reached the Black Sea via the rivers of Russia - called Varangians - and became one of the founders of the Russian Empire. And they set themselves monuments: rune stones on which the heroes of their sea voyages are immortalized, in Old Norse.

Schleswig inherits Haithabu

In 1066, Haithabu was burned down and completely abandoned.

In 1066 the history of Haithabu ended in disaster. Enemy Vikings had already attacked and sacked the city several times - the trading center increasingly lost its importance, because trade needs peace and security. Now Haithabu has been burned down again by attackers. The settlement had to be completely abandoned.

Another settlement, only three kilometers away, took over Haithabu's legacy: Schleswig.

The Vikings disappeared as a people of history. But they live on in their descendants: in Iceland and Greenland, on the Shetland Islands, in Russia, Scandinavia and also in Schleswig-Holstein.

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Schleswig-Holstein Magazine | 06/30/2018 | 19:30 o'clock