June 8th, 793 was the official opening of the Viking era. Founded by the Irish monk St. Aidan the Lindisfarne priory sat on the isolated “Holy Island” off the coast of Northumbria. Out of nowhere Norsemen pounced on the undefended Christian community. What followed was a brief and brutal raid which caused consternation amongst the Christian communities of the English mainland.
For the Norsemen it was a bonanza. They returned with holds overflowing with silver and gold, fine cloth and a fat crop of well fed slaves. Overnight the economy of Scandinavia shifted from subsistence farming to rapine and pillage.
In the margins of a manuscript in St Gall in Switzerland a short poem was found, written in Gaelic by an Irish monk. You get a sense of the awful terror he must have felt when the weather was fair for sailing.
Bitter is the wind tonight
tossing the seas to spume
no anxiety need I suffer
when only crazy Norsemen go a-viking.