Today in Catholic History – Viking raid on Lindisfarne

On 8 June 793, the Viking Age began with a raid upon the Benedictine monastery at Lindisfarne in northern England. The monastery was an important center of learning in Europe. Sources at the time described the raid in dramatic terms:

In this year fierce, foreboding omens came over the land of Northumbria. There were excessive whirlwinds, lightning storms, and fiery dragons were seen flying in the sky. These signs were followed by great famine, and on June 8th the ravaging of heathen men destroyed God’s church at Lindisfarne.

and

Never before has such terror appeared in Britain as we have now suffered from a pagan race. . . .The heathens poured out the blood of saints around the altar, and trampled on the bodies of saints in the temple of God, like dung in the streets.

During the raid, the monks were killed in the monastery, drowned in the sea or carried off into slavery. The reported savagery of the attack would help establish the traditional image of Vikings as bloodthirsty warriors in the minds of Europeans.

The Vikings would assault Lindisfarne several times seeking wealth and eventually the monks would be forced to flee the monastery in 875. Benedictine monasteries were not designed to withstand severe attacks, which also made them preferable targets by the Vikings. The monks would return in 1093 and remain until the monastery was suppressed in 1536 under Henry VIII.

Lindisfarne

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