Did the Vikings and monks get along?

The Vikings are coming!

The first recorded Viking raid on Ireland was in AD795. This raid, on the monastery at Rathlin Island off the Antrim coast, was just the beginning of many years of Viking attacks on Christian communities across Ireland.

But why were the monasteries and churches such prime targets for the Vikings?

The Vikings, who were not Christian at this time, had no problem with raiding and attacking Church property. They quickly realised that abbeys and churches were a rich source of treasures and valuable artefacts that could be either traded or brought back home to Scandinavia.

They were also quite easy places to raid as the unarmed monks didn’t put up much of a fight when faced with fierce Viking warriors brandishing axes and spears.

Book of Kells
Brother Connor tells all about his traumatic ordeal at the hands of the Vikings.

The Annals of Ulster

The Annals of Ulster is one of a number of books that collectively make up the Irish Annals. These books recorded chronologically the major events that happened in Ireland from the time of Saint Patrick until the Middle Ages.

Unlike the rest of the population who generally couldn’t read or write, it was left to highly educated monks to record the events of the time. Written in a mixture of Irish and Latin, the Annals of Ulster documented the increasingly frequent attacks on monasteries and churches by the Vikings.

The Irish Christian communities were not strangers to attacks and raids from local gangs. However, it has been suggested that the monks wrote more about the Viking raids because the Scandinavians were 'heathens' and not Christian.

Annals of Ulster

Find out more about the Viking raids on Irish Christian communities.