Celebrating Irish-Norse Relations in the Viking Age

To celebrate Ireland and Norway’s shared Viking heritage, a one-day free symposium titled Our Friends from the North? Irish and Norse in the Viking Age will take place in the Wood Quay Venue, on Thursday, 4th October from 10 am – 5pm.  The symposium will explore historical, archaeological and literary connections between the two countries and will focus in particular on the legend of *St Sunniva, Patron Saint of Bergen. An exhibition titled Treasures from the Grave: exploring Irish Norse connections through artefacts in the University Museum of Bergen will also be launched at the symposium.

The exhibition will provide an introduction to the archaeology of western Norway in the Viking Age and highlight the connections with Ireland. Nine information panels will cover topics such as the Viking Age in Norway, home life in western Norway, furnished female burials containing Irish artefacts, the contents of a chieftain’s burial, towns and trade, the influence of Christianity and conversion, shared Viking art styles and the legend of St Sunniva.

To coincide with the symposium, a lecture by Norwegian scholar Jan Erik Rekdal on the legend of St Sunniva and the Christianisation of Norway will also take place in the Mansion House, Dawson Street on Friday, 5th October at 1 pm.

This exciting series of events, which is a collaboration between Dublin City Council, the National University of Ireland, the University of Bergen, and the Norwegian Embassy in Ireland, is being held as part of the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 and the Dublin Festival of History, supported by Creative Ireland.

Christ Church Cathedral will also hold an ecumenical service at Evensong with Bjørgvin Bishop Halvor Nordhaug in celebration of St Sunniva, Patron Saint of Bergen and commemorating the 950 year anniversary of the establishment of a bishopric in western Norway in 1068. The music will be a mixture of Irish traditional, Norwegian folk songs and traditional choral pieces. The renowned Norwegian singer Unni Løvlid will perform at the service.

Commenting on the series of events, the Norwegian Ambassador to Ireland, Else Berit Eikeland said “The Vikings in Ireland came mainly from the area now known as Norway. The Viking settlements in Ireland had a huge influence on their Norwegian homeland, and I hope that the new cooperation between Norwegian and Irish scholars will lead to new knowledge and interest about the interaction between our two countries in the Viking age.”

Also commenting on the events, the Chief Executive of Dublin City Council, Owen Keegan said “Vikings have a universal appeal and the theme is a welcome new addition to Dublin’s Festival of History Programme in 2018.”

Dr Maurice Manning, Chancellor of NUI said “The National University of Ireland is delighted to participate in this wonderful series of events which brings together scholars working in Viking studies from Ireland and Norway, and through the Dublin Festival of History to make their work accessible to the public.”

Associate Professor Alf Tore Hommedal University Museum of Bergen said “The University of Bergen is looking forward to the forthcoming cooperation on research and dissemination of our common Irish-Norse history. A good basis for this will be the symposium in Dublin on the 4th and 5th October and the conference in Bergen 17th and 18th October.”

The academic co-ordinators of the Dublin symposium, Dr Emer Purcell, NUI, and Dr Ruth Johnson, Dublin City Archaeologist, and Irish scholars Dr Edel Breathnach, John Sheehan and Dr Alex O’Hara will present papers at Bergen’s medieval conference, I Vesterled – Westward bound on the 17th and 18th of October in the University in Bergen. They will present research in new and different contexts through an exchange of papers which aims to raise awareness and knowledge of our Norse connections.