Were fishing villages really completely at the mercy of these Vikings, or could they defend them selves? Did villagers have their own weapons? Could they expect any support from a Lord or Land Baron? Why did Vikings put so many buildings to the torch, or is that just Hollywood? Did villagers have any lookouts or advance warning to a Viking raid?

I know monasteries were also raided by Vikings, and the monks were actually tough fighters who fought back! What weapons were used by both sides? Were the monasteries made defensible, and is this reflected in their design?

  • 2
    Hi Starkers and welcome to History SE! Per the FAQ, I've removed the book request from your question. Aside from that, it's an interesting question! +1 and welcome to the site!
    – Luke_0
    Commented May 19, 2013 at 20:49
  • @Luke Right oh!
    – Starkers
    Commented May 19, 2013 at 20:55
  • Just for comparison: Barbary pirate attacks were a serious concern in Catalonia in the Modern Age. Populations reacted by building villages a few kilometers inland. Only about the XVIII century settlements would be build by the sea, which produced an interesting pattern of pairs of villages (one inland, the other upon sea) in some areas (notably Maresme).
    – Pere
    Commented Sep 23, 2019 at 10:56

1 Answer 1


Coastal villages were generally unprotected throughout the middle ages and monasteries had little or no protection. Whilst the Vikings were bad some of the time, they were more traders than raiders. 'Viking' is a verb, not a noun. To go "a-viking' meant digging shields out from the bottom of the boat and hanging a figurehead on the prow and taking what you wanted.

Far, far worse were the pirates,raiders, slavers of the late middle ages up to the 17th century. Please see the excellent BBC series British Slaves on the Barbary Coast

Where I was born in Devon, England the local coastal village church had a plaque remembering one dreadful Sunday when Barbary coast slaves attacked ,killed or enslaved all of the 180 people who lived there in 1358. Parts of the Western coast of Spain was partially deserted due to fear of attacks from North Africa and only started to recover at the end of the 19th Century. Barbary slave trade

As an example of a suffering monastery Lindisfarne is one of the better known. Graham-Campbell, James; David M. Wilson (2001). "Salt-water bandits" London: Frances Lincoln Ltd. ISBN 0-7112-1800-5. The Anglo Saxon chronicles are a useful resource with transliteration.

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    +1 agreed, Vikings got bad reputation because of paganism, and raids. They had more in their culture than vast barbarism and robbing the coastal villages. They lead various expedition from inner Asia to North America. The "good" christian European nations lead worse enslaving societies in colonial era than Vikings ever. Commented May 24, 2013 at 11:35

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