Viking Age

History of Latvia between 800 AD - 1149

During the Viking Age the Scandinavian expansion into the Eastern Baltic increased, and their influence reached as far as the Volga and down it to the Caspian Sea, as well as to the Black Sea and Byzantium. The territory known today as Latvia became famous as a trading crossroads. The famous "route from the Vikings to the Greeks" mentioned in ancient chronicles stretched from Scandinavia through Latvian territory via the Daugava River to the ancient Rus and Byzantine Empire. Vikings started to establish colonies for example in East Prussia, near Elbing and another in Latvia, near Grobina (formerly Seeborg).

This expansion ended with the adoption of the Christian civilization. The Vikings who had become the rulers and kings of Russia, became slavonised and started organizing the Russians for unceasing attacks on the Baltic lands. On the whole, however, this combined Viking-Russian aggression was unsuccessful. The Baltic peoples had learnt from the Scandinavians better use of weapons and military and political organisation. For short periods the Viking-led Russians succeeded in establishing a tributary overlordship, but they were soon driven away and independence was re-established. Thus, the Chronicles tell us that in 1106 the Russians of Polotzk organised an attack down the Daugava against Zemgale (Semigallia — a Latvian Kingdom), but lost 9,000 men and were completely beaten. However, in spite of the occasional restless times and periodic wars, the Viking period gave the Baltic peoples many valuable contacts and stimuli. Large deposits of Arabic and Anglo-Saxon coins have been found, dating from that period. This clearly shows that the cultural tentacles of the Baltic peoples went as far South as the Arabic Caliphates and Iran and so far North-West that they had gained an insight into the Anglo-Saxon world.

Baltic peoples already had their own monetary system (the so-called oserings) and their own system of weights and measures. They had partially adopted the Orthodox Christianity. They had their own penal codes, their own kings, their own states, their own national administration and taxation, their own strategically arranged lines of fortified castles. It is quite clear, therefore, that the lands inhabited by the Baltic nations were a very pronounced independent cultural area. On the other hand, the Slav territories, which in present days encircle the Baltic lands from the East and from the South, have always been much poorer in material culture and their civilization much more monotonous. In the borderlands the Slays make use of many elements that have been borrowed from the Balts. This is particularly noticeable in the ancient Balt territory, White Ruthenia.

Reference: Latvians.com

Popular sites founded between 800 AD and 1149 in Latvia

Tervete Hill Fort

Tērvete village is famous for the historic hillfort built for the kings of Western Zemgale in the Middle Ages. According to popular legend the Semigallian king Namejs made a ring called the 'namejs' so he could be identified by his family. But his enemies got hold of this information and sought the ring to kill the king (during a war) to have victories. The villagers also created these rings in order to pro ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Tērvete, Latvia

Grobina Burial Ground

Very little evidence of, Scandinavian settlement has been found in the eastern Baltic area, outside of the towns and trading places which grew up along the shores of the Baltic Sea in the pre-Viking and Viking periods. One such was Grobina in modern Latvia. Grobina seems to have been a centre of Scandinavian settlement on the Baltic Sea coast. It has a fort and at least three cemeteries containing grave goods of central S ...
Founded: 9th century | Location: Grobiņa, Latvia

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Lübeck Cathedral

Lübeck Cathedral is a large brick-built Lutheran cathedral in Lübeck, Germany and part of the Lübeck UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 1173 Henry the Lion founded the cathedral to serve the Diocese of Lübeck, after the transfer in 1160 of the bishop's seat from Oldenburg in Holstein under bishop Gerold. The then Romanesque cathedral was completed around 1230, but between 1266 and 1335 it was converted into a Gothic-style building with side-aisles raised to the same height as the main aisle.

On the night of Palm Sunday (28–29 March) 1942 a Royal Air Force bombing raid destroyed a fifth of the town centre. Several bombs fell in the area around the church, causing the eastern vault of the quire to collapse and destroying the altar which dated from 1696. A fire from the neighbouring cathedral museum spread to the truss of the cathedral, and around noon on Palm Sunday the towers collapsed. An Arp Schnitger organ was lost in the flames. Nevertheless, a relatively large portion of the internal fittings was saved, including the cross and almost all of the medieval polyptychs. In 1946 a further collapse, of the gable of the north transept, destroyed the vestibule almost completely.

Reconstruction of the cathedral took several decades, as greater priority was given to the rebuilding of the Marienkirche. Work was completed only in 1982.

The cathedral is unique in that at 105 m, it is shorter than the tallest church in the city. This is the consequence of a power struggle between the church and the guilds.

The 17 m crucifix is the work of the Lübeck artist Bernt Notke. It was commissioned by the bishop of Lübeck, Albert II. Krummendiek, and erected in 1477. The carvings which decorate the rood screen are also by Notke.

Since the war, the famous altar of Hans Memling has been in the medieval collection of the St. Annen Museum, but notable polyptychs remain in the cathedral.

In the funeral chapels of the southern aisle are Baroque-era memorials by the Flemish sculptor Thomas Quellinus.