Vikings raid Lindisfarne in AD793
For the year AD 793, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle recorded a dramatic event:
"This year came dreadful fore-warnings over the land of the Northumbrians, terrifying the people most woefully: these were immense sheets of light rushing through the air, and whirlwinds, and fiery dragons flying across the firmament. These tremendous tokens were soon followed by a great famine: and not long after, on the sixth day before the ides of January in the same year, the harrowing inroads of heathen men made lamentable havoc in the church of God in Holy Island, by rapine and slaughter."
The more popularly accepted date for the Viking raid on Lindisfarne is June 8, a much more favourable time of year for a Viking sailing expedition.
Michael Swanton, editor of Routledge's edition of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, writes "vi id Ianr, presumably is an error for vi id Iun (June 8) which is the date given by the Annals of Lindisfarne, when better sailing weather would favour coastal raids.”
The AD 793 attack on Lindisfarne monastery was the first recorded Viking raid on the English coast and marked the beginning of the end of Northumbria’s Golden Age.
The Northumbrian monk Alcuin wrote at the time:
“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.”
Click here for more about the AD 793 Viking raid
Despite this devastation, the monastery was rebuilt and monks continued to live, work and pray there until the threat of further Viking raids finally forced them to abandon Lindisfarne in 875AD.
The monks took with them the revered body of St. Cuthbert, together with relics of other saints, on a 100 year journey that ended in AD 995 when they found sanctuary at Durham.
The story of the Viking raid of AD 793 is told in an exhibition at the Lindisfarne Heritage Centre on Holy Island. The display features an audio-visual show narrated by archaeologist Julian Richards, presenter of “Meet the Ancestors” and “Blood of the Vikings” on BBC TV.