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

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

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

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

Château de Chaumont

The Château de Chaumont was founded in the 10th century by Odo I, Count of Blois. The purpose was to protect his lands from attacks from his feudal rivals, Fulk Nerra, Count of Anjou. On his behalf the Norman Gelduin received it, improved it and held it as his own. His great-niece Denise de Fougère, having married Sulpice d'Amboise, passed the château into the Amboise family for five centuries.

Pierre d'Amboise unsuccessfully rebelled against King Louis XI and his property was confiscated, and the castle was dismantled on royal order in 1465. It was later rebuilt by Charles I d'Amboise from 1465–1475 and then finished by his son, Charles II d'Amboise de Chaumont from 1498–1510, with help from his uncle, Cardinal Georges d'Amboise; some Renaissance features were to be seen in buildings that retained their overall medieval appearance. The château was acquired by Catherine de Medici in 1550. There she entertained numerous astrologers, among them Nostradamus. When her husband, Henry II, died in 1559 she forced his mistress, Diane de Poitiers, to exchange Château de Chaumont for Château de Chenonceau which Henry had given to de Poitiers. Diane de Poitiers only lived at Chaumont for a short while.

Later Chaumont has changed hands several times. Paul de Beauvilliers bought the château in 1699, modernized some of its interiors and decorated it with sufficient grandeur to house the duc d'Anjou on his way to become king of Spain in 1700. Monsieur Bertin demolished the north wing to open the house towards the river view in the modern fashion.

In 1750, Jacques-Donatien Le Ray purchased the castle as a country home where he established a glassmaking and pottery factory. He was considered the French "Father of the American Revolution" because he loved America. However, in 1789, the new French Revolutionary Government seized Le Ray's assets, including his beloved Château de Chaumont.

The castle has been classified as a Monument historique since 1840 by the French Ministry of Culture. The Château de Chaumont is currently a museum and every year hosts a Garden Festival from April to October where contemporary garden designers display their work in an English-style garden.