Review – Viking: rediscover the legend
March 21, 2019
British Museum, Early Medieval, Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery, York Museum Trust
|Found in 2012, the Hingham Hoard contains silver jewellery and coins from the reign of King Edmund, who was killed after losing in battle against the invading Viking Great Army. (IMAGE: Anthony Chappel-Ross)|
An exhibition tracing the Vikings through the British Isles has reached the final stop on its two-year tour. Lucia Marchini headed to Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery to learn more about Norsemen in Norfolk and beyond.
A fragment of a 9th-century stone cross from a church in North Yorkshire carries on it a dramatic image: a central figure, armed with a large sword, seemingly drags a captive woman. This scene vividly conjures up a popular perception of the Vikings, but it is far from being the whole picture, as Viking: rediscover the legend – a British Museum and York Museum Trust partnership exhibition, featuring material from the collections of both institutions – explores.
Another stone cross on show at Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery (the exhibition’s final venue) tells a different story. Presenting a mix of imagery, with the combination of angels and interlocking beasts reflecting Anglo-Saxon Christian and Norse religious traditions, the limestone cross from Newgate, York, was carved between AD 925 and 975. Many Vikings in the British Isles adopted Christianity while still retaining some of the beliefs from their homelands. This fusion can be seen also in their coinage, with some showing Christian symbols on one side and pagan motifs on the other. Even the adoption of coins (which were more prevalent in England) in preference to ingots for trade, highlights their pragmatic approach towards commerce and how they adapted to maximise trade in new lands.
|The spectacular Ormside bowl, an 8th-century ecclesiastical vessel presumably looted from a church, was found in a Viking burial in 1823. (IMAGE: York Museums Trust)|