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The Normans are a bunch of Vikings that settled in northern France, and within a century they were christians speaking French. By 1066 they had become very experienced at fighting wars between themselves, a skill that came in useful, but they also produced magnificent cathedrals across Normandy and later, England.

So where did this come from? Did the rich Normandy lands attract experts from across Europe? If so, why didn't they also go to rich Anglo-Saxon England?

Was it just a fashion that happened to catch on there?

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We are a bit low on tags for anything not WWII related - and I don't have the rep. Can somebody add 'norman' cathedral building etc –  none Dec 10 '11 at 16:29
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I added 'norman'. Dunno if 'cathedral' needs to be a tag. :) –  Felix Goldberg Dec 19 '12 at 17:44

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As "Vikings," the Normans were good SHIP builders. Once they reached land, it wasn't much of a stretch for them to transfer their skills to building churches and other buildings.

The Normans adopted a style of architecture that is known as "Romanesque." It was originated by the Romans, but later imitated by many west Europeans, chief among them the Normans. This style made use of rounded arches and was milder than the "Gothic" style, with pointed arches, that had been brought to Europe by the Goths and Visigoths at the beginning of the Dark Ages. As to why the Normans were such good imitators,

The Normans were described by others (in modern terms) as hungry, ambitious people.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Normans

Hence, they showed a greater desire to learn (and imitate) than their European peers. It appears to have been part of the restless "personality" that caused them to leave Scandinavia in search of more hospitable climates. Once they found them, they became "more royalist than the king," that is more "European" than the other western Europeans.

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So while everyone else saw them as blood-thirsty trouble makers - they thought of themselves as the up and coming civilisation ! –  none Dec 11 '11 at 2:49
    
@MartinBeckett: Not everyone saw the Normans as "blood-thirsty trouble makers". French history looks at the whole episode with some glee... ^_~ Let the Great French-English war continue in this flame war... Or something. –  Sardathrion Dec 12 '11 at 16:38
    
@Sardathrion - I'm from Yorkshire, we kicked Harald Hardrada's entire viking army before a bunch of southerners let a few Frenchmen walk allover them ;-) –  none Dec 12 '11 at 16:45
    
@MartinBeckett: The battle of Stamford Bridge to be exact. The king and his army marched south and had to fight another invading army. This time they lost. The bridge is still there, on the outskirts of York (Jorvik once Eboracum). Nice place, I drive on it to a friend's house... –  Sardathrion Dec 12 '11 at 16:58
    
@Sardathrion - only the commanders and housecarls probably went south, the rest of the army was picked up locally. So it was a very different force that met at Hastings. ps There is also no reason to think they would (or could have) walked rather than taken a boat. –  none Dec 12 '11 at 18:18

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