Viking Age

History of Denmark between 793 AD - 1035

With the beginning of the Viking Age in the 9th century, the prehistoric period in Denmark ends. The Danish people were amongst those known as the Vikings during the 8th–11th centuries. Viking explorers first discovered and settled in Iceland in the 9th century, on their way from the Faroe Islands. From there, Greenland and Vinland (probably Newfoundland) were also settled. Utilizing their great skills in shipbuilding and navigation they raided and conquered parts of France and the British Isles.

They also excelled in trading along the coasts and rivers of Europe, running trade routes from Greenland in the north to Constantinople in the south via Russian and Ukrainian Rivers rivers, most notably along the River Dnieper and via Kiev, then being the capital of Kiev Rus. The Danish Vikings were most active in Britain, Ireland, France, Spain, Portugal and Italy where they raided, conquered and settled (their earliest settlements included sites in the Danelaw, Ireland and Normandy). The Danelaw resulted when Alfred the Great was forced to cede half his kingdom to the Vikings, who then settled there for a time and engaged in peaceful trade, but attacks eventually resumed and the English kings had to pay tribute (Danegeld).

Relations with Franks

In the early 9th century, Charlemagne's Christian empire had expanded to the southern border of the Danes, and Frankish sources (e.g. Notker of St Gall) provide the earliest historical evidence of the Danes. These report a King Gudfred, who appeared in present day Holstein with a navy in 804 where diplomacy took place with the Franks; In 808, King Gudfred attacked the Obotrites and conquered the city of Reric whose population was displaced or abducted to Hedeby. In 809, King Godfred and emissaries of Charlemagne failed to negotiate peace, despite the sister of Godfred being a concubine of Charlemagne, and the next year King Godfred attacked the Frisians with 200 ships.

Viking raids along the coast of France and the Netherlands were large-scale. Paris was besieged and the Loire Valley devastated during the 10th century. One group of Danes were granted permission to settle in northwestern France under the condition that they defend the place from future attacks. As a result, the region became known as "Normandy" and it was the descendants of these settlers who conquered England in 1066.

In addition, the Danes and Norwegians moved west into the Atlantic Ocean, settling on Iceland, Greenland, and the Shetland Isles. Brief Vikings expeditions to North America around 1000 did not result in any settlements and they were soon driven off by natives. Other Viking raids into Germany and the Mediterranean were short-lived and had no lasting effect.

United Denmark and Christianization

Jelling gr Stein 1
Jelling Runestone announces the unification and
Christinization of Denmark
The oldest parts of the defensive works of Danevirke near Hedeby at least date from the summer of 755 and were expanded with large works in the 10th century. The size and amount of troops needed to man it indicates a quite powerful ruler in the area, which might be consistent with the kings of the Frankish sources. In 815 AD, Emperor Louis the Pious attacked Jutland apparently in support of a contender to the throne, perhaps Harald Klak, but was turned back by the sons of Godfred, who most likely were the sons of the above mentioned Godfred. At the same time St. Ansgar travelled to Hedeby and started the Catholic Christianisation of Scandinavia.

The Danes were united and officially Christianized in 965 AD by Harald Bluetooth, the story of which is recorded on the Jelling stones. The extent of Harald's Danish Kingdom is unknown, although it is reasonable to believe that it stretched from the defensive line of Dannevirke, including the Viking city of Hedeby, across Jutland, the Danish isles and into southern present day Sweden; Scania and perhaps Halland and Blekinge. Furthermore, the Jelling stones attest that Harald had also "won" Norway.

Cnut the Great

In retaliation for the St. Brice's Day massacre of Danes in England, the son of Harald, Sweyn Forkbeard mounted a series of wars of conquest against England. By 1014, England had completely submitted to the Danes. However, distance and a lack of common interests prevented a lasting union, and Harald's son Cnut (Canute) the Great barely maintained the link between the two countries, which completely broke up during the reign of his son Hardecanute. A final attempt by the Norwegians under Harald Hardrada to reconquer England failed, but did pave the way for William the Conqueror's takeover in 1066. Following the death of Canute the Great, Denmark and England were left divided and despite some attempts were never reunited.

Canute thanked the Norwegians for their patience and then went from assembly to assembly outlawing any sailor, captain or soldier who refused to pay a fine which amounted to more than a years harvest for most farmers. Canute and his housecarls fled south with a growing army of rebels on his heels. Canute fled to the royal property outside the town of Odense on Funen with his two brothers. After several attempts to break in and then bloody hand to hand fighting in the church, Benedict was cut down and Canute struck in the head by a large stone and then speared from the front. He died at the base of the main altar 10 July 1086, where he was buried by the Benedictines. When Queen Edele came to take Canute's body to Flanders, a light allegedly shone around the church and it was taken as a sign that Canute should remain where he was.

The death of St. Canute marks the end of the Viking Age. Never again would massive flotillas of Scandinavians meet each year to ravage the rest of Christian Europe.

Reference: Wikipedia

Popular sites founded between 793 AD and 1035 in Denmark

Jelling Runestones

The Jelling stones are massive carved runestones from the 10th century, found at the town of Jelling in Denmark. The older of the two Jelling stones was raised by King Gorm the Old in memory of his wife Thyra. The larger of the two stones was raised by King Gorm's son, Harald Bluetooth in memory of his parents, celebrating his conquest of Denmark and Norway, and his conversion of the Danes to Christianity. The runic inscr ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Jelling, Denmark

Fyrkat

Fyrkat might be the oldest of Denmark"s former Viking ring castles. It is built on a narrow piece of land with a river on one side and swampy area on the others. It could have controlled the traffic on the main land route between Alborg and Aarhus. Like the other forts at Aggersborg or Trelleborg near Slagelse it is designed as exact circle with four gates opposite to each other and connected by two wooden roads that ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Hobro, Denmark

Nonnebakken

Nonnebakken (literally, "Nun Hill") is the site of one of Denmark's six former Viking ring castles, built during the reign of Sweyn Forkbeard, who had forced his father Harold Bluetooth to leave the country and seek refuge by the Jomsvikingson Wollin (modern Poland) around 975. The fort enabled its occupier command of the Odense River passing next to the hill. The name refers to the Benedictine Nunnery located on the site ...
Founded: 975 AD | Location: Odense, Denmark

Trelleborg

The Trelleborg near Slagelse is one of the five of six Viking ring castles in Denmark. Similar to the other Viking ring castles found so far, the Trelleborg at Slagelse was designed as an exact circle with two roads that crossed at right angles in the geometric center and led to the four gates with two always opposite to each other. In each of the four quarters stood four almost identical longhouses arranged in a square. ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Slagelse, Denmark

Ladby Ship

Ladby Ship is Denmark's only ship grave from the Viking period. Around 925 AD, the king of Ladby was buried in his ship, which was 21.5 meters long and 3 meters wide. A burial mound was raised above the ship. His grave was furnished with all his fine possessions, including 11 horses and 3 or 4 dogs. In the bow of the ship lies the original anchor and anchor chain. Unfortunately, the grave was plundered back in the Viking ...
Founded: c. 925 AD | Location: Kerteminde, Denmark

Aggersborg

Aggersborg is the largest of Denmark's former Viking ring castles, and one of the largest archeological sites in Denmark. It consisted of a circular rampart surrounded by a ditch. Four main roads arranged in a cross connected the castle centre with the outer ring. The roads were tunnelled under the outer rampart, leaving the circular structure intact. The ring castle had an inner diameter of 240 metres. The ditch was loc ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Logstor, Denmark

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Moszna Castle

The Moszna Castle is one of the best known monuments in the western part of Upper Silesia. The history of this building begins in the 17th century, although much older cellars were found in the gardens during excavations carried out at the beginning of the 20th century. Some of the investigators, including H. Barthel, claimed that those cellars could have been remnants of a presumed Templar castle, but their theory has never been proved. After World War II, further excavations discovered a medieval palisade.

The central part of the castle is an old baroque palace which was partially destroyed by fire on the night of April 2, 1896 and was reconstructed in the same year in its original form by Franz Hubert von Tiele-Winckler. The reconstruction works involved an extension of the residence. The eastern Neogothic-styled wing of the building was built by 1900, along with an adjacent orangery. In 1912-1914, the western wing was built in the Neo-Renaissance style. The architectural form of the castle contains a wide variety of styles, thus it can be generally defined as eclectic.

The height of the building, as well as its numerous turrets and spires, give the impression of verticalism. The whole castle has exactly ninety-nine turrets. Inside, it contains 365 rooms. The castle was twice visited by the German Emperor Wilhelm II. His participation in hunting during his stay at the castle was documented in a hand-written chronicle in 1911 as well as in the following year. The castle in Moszna was the residence of a Silesian family Tiele-Winckler who were industrial magnates, from 1866 until the spring of 1945 when they were forced to move to Germany and the castle was occupied by the Red Army. The period of the Soviet control caused significant damage to the castle's internal fittings in comparison to the minor damage caused by WWII.

After World War II the castle did not have a permanent owner and was the home of various institutions until 1972 when it became a convalescent home. Later it became a Public Health Care Centre for Therapies of Neuroses. Nowadays it can be visited by tourists since the health institution has moved to another building in the neighbourhood. The castle also has a chapel which is used as a concert hall. Since 1998 the castle housed a gallery in which works of various artists are presented at regular exhibitions.

Apart from the castle itself, the entire complex includes a park which has no precise boundaries and includes nearby fields, meadows and a forest. Only the main axis of the park can be characterised as geometrical. Starting from the gate, it leads along the oak and then horse-chestnut avenues, towards the castle. Further on, the park passes into an avenue of lime trees with symmetrical canals running along both sides of the path, lined with a few varieties of rhododendrons. The axis of the park terminates at the base of a former monument of Hubert von Tiele-Winckler. On the eastern side of the avenue there is a pond with an islet referred to by the owners as Easter Island. The islet is planted with needle-leaved shrubs and can be reached by a Chinese-styled bridge. The garden, as part of the whole park complex was restored slightly earlier than the castle itself. Preserved documents of 1868 state that the improvement in the garden's aesthetic quality was undertaken by Hubert von Tiele-Winckler.