Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Monday, 12 October 2020


The Vikings seem to be turning up on the Internet and in this blog these days about as frequently as they were turning up on the coasts of the British Isles in the eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh centuries.

I recently posted Downtime with the Vikings at Torksey and Another winter, another camp...the Great Army moves on about the Great Army and its winter camps at Torksey and Repton in the early 870s. Viking genes was about research into the genetic makeup of the Scandinavian raiders and settlers. In Viking insights I posted about research into the lives of some remarkable women in the community and a study of Viking personal names.

I have now come across posts about the excavation of the site of a pagan ‘God House’ in western Norway. There are reports about it from the MailOnline at 1,200-year-old pagan temple used to worship Old Norse gods in Norway and from LifeScience at 1,200-year-old pagan temple to Thor and Odin unearthed in Norway

I was particularly interested in the explanation that pagan Norwegians copied Christian church bellturrets to ornament their temples - a striking instance of cultural appropriation. Given that only post holes remain it is worth adding that I recall attending a seminar on medieval Scandinavian wooden churches and similar buildings many years ago here in Oxford. The point was made that surviving Norwegian stave churches are of great beauty and elaborate decoration, yet of one destroyed all that remains are post holes and possibly a few stone footings. The reconstruction of the ‘God House’ does attempt to bring that point into play.

The LiveScience article has a series of links to other reports they have carried about life in the Viking era including one from 2016 on Viking Outposts Possibly Found in Canada

There is also a report on an excavation of Scandinavian burials in Turkey near Constantinople. These were presumably Rus, of predominantly Swedish origin, who traded along the Volga and across the Black Sea. The description from The Times can be seen at Vikings were ‘weaklings’, Turkish excavation reveals

The type of expensive goods they traded from the near and Far East can be seen in the contents of the reliquary chests of King Cnut II, The Holy, of Denmark and his brother Benedikt at Odense cathedral. Expensive silks with the bones have been dated to the time of the King and his brother’s murder in a revolt over his imposition of tithes in 1086. His planned invasion of England from the previous year died as a project with him, but it is thought that it was concern about the threat he posed which led King William I to commission the Domesday survey of his realm at the Gloucester assembly meeting at Christmas 1085.

The examination of the silks, which once more serve as a reminder that this was a society that had high status and luxurious appurtenances, is described and illustrated in an article from Ancient Origins at Viking King Buried With a Pillow and Fine Silk, New Study Confirms

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