The raid on Lindisfarne


The first raid in the British Isles by Vikings was on the monastery on the island of Lindisfarne, off the coast of Northumbria. Northmen had appeared at Portland Bay in Dorset in 787 and killed the Reeve’s man who tried to get them to pay taxes on what he thought were merchant’s ships, but the first planned raid was 6 years later at Lindisfarne in 793.

“AD. 793. 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.”

Entry for the year 793 in the Anglo Saxon chronicle.

Map of Britain showing Lindisfarne

Map of Britain showing Lindisfarne

Lindisfarne is a tidal island only accessible by land at low tide, a perfect isolated retreat for monks who wished to lead a life of quiet contemplation. The monks prayed, farmed what they needed to live, and wrote manuscripts – the most famous of which was the Lindisfarne Gospels.

Viking First ContactThe Great Army Arrives