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Viking Influence on the Bayeux Tapestry

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Presentation on theme: "Viking Influence on the Bayeux Tapestry"— Presentation transcript:

1 Viking Influence on the Bayeux Tapestry

2 Viking Ships From a Standing Stone found on the Island of Gotland, Sweden. Ships were incredibly important to Viking culture. The clearest example of Viking influence on the Bayeux Tapestry would be the Viking longships.

3 Viking Ships Above: Viking Brooch depicting A longboat. Right: archeological find of a Viking longboat. Note the broken mast and the raised prow and bow. Far right: artist’s depiction of a longboat. In Oseburg, Norway, a ship was excavated and measured to be 22 meters long and 5 meters wide.

4 Viking Ships in the Bayeux Tapestry
Take a look at the shields on the red boat above. Vikings mounted their shields on the sides of their ships when not rowing (They got in the way of the oars).

5 So What? In the process of comparing these ships, we see square sails, raised prow and bow, long, wide decks for infantry and seaborne battles. We also see the use of both sails and oars and shields on the sides of the deck. The tapestry makes it clear that the Normans used Viking longboats in their invasion of England. Indeed, we see the longboat used by Harold as well. This part of the tapestry depicts Harold being captured by Count Guy. (Apprehendit)

6 Even Still: So What? The fact that the Normans and the English were using Viking ships proves a level of dissemination of ideas between the cultures at a practical level. Normans in Viking ships also provide an example of the shared history and ancestry of all the groups involved. The use of Viking ships also suggests shared tactics and understanding of Viking shipbuilding, since one cannot sail or build such a vessel without some knowledge. And one cannot succeed in battle against a foe without knowing the flaws or strengths of one’s vessel. The Vikings enjoyed incursions and invasions into Britain. That left an indelible mark on the English language and customs, and thus influences the Bayeux Tapestry.

7 Vikings and England More important things to know about Vikings in this period: “According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, compiled about 891, the first Viking raids against Engand occured in the year 787. The most infamous of these early raids was the Danish attack at Lindesfarne in 793. This momentous event, we read in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, was presaged by terrible omens, including flashes of lightning and fiery dragons seen flying through the air.” ( Towns ending with –by have Viking origins. Vikings also were the settlers of York. The English had to pay “danegeld” in order to keep the Vikings from pushing further into English lands. The “Dane Law” helped to end the constant bloodshed between the two factions.

8 Viking Ship Battles While there was no sea-battle in the B.T., it is important to note how sea-battles were handled, since we’re discussing Viking ships and influence at the time. “A Viking sea battle would consist of each opposing flotilla tying their boats side on and sailing towards one another head on. When the boats collided, they would fight until one side was victorious or they were totally exhausted or they could not pass over the dead bodies in front of them.” (

9 More on Viking Tactics Amphibious Landing At Pevensey

10 The Shield-Wall Utilizing spears and shields in unison. Very
effective at handling cavalry. Like riding into a porcupine.

11 Vikings and 1066 For all intensive purposes the end of the Viking age coincided with King Harald’s invasion signals the end to Viking power. It is rather interesting that the Battle of Stamford Bridge does not appear in the tapestry, even though the Normans are busy building Viking vessels for their invasion, and arguably, the invasion succeeded thanks to the events at Stamford Bridge. Weakened English forces, after so long of a forced march, were logically at a military disadvantage.

12 Some Ideological Issues
First and foremost of Viking values was that of the ring-giver. The relationship between thane and ring-giver was practically divine; betrayal was most certainly a taboo in Viking culture. Harold swears his service to William on relics. The tapestry stresses this point. Harold’s betrayal spits in the face of these values. The Vikings probably didn’t influence the Tapestry’s stress on this point, but contextualizing these values relating to the tapestry provides some understanding as to why breaking an oath is such a serious offense. The values of the Vikings are certainly echoed in the history of 1066, as well as in the tapestry.

13 Works Cited

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