Millennium of Battle of Clontarf 1014

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2014 saw Dublin City Council commemorate the Millennium of the Battle of Clontarf and the death of Brian Ború. As part of a national programme of events to commemorate this millennium, Dublin City Council hosted Ireland's largest ever living history battle re-enactment. The Battle of Clontarf Festival took place over the Easter Weekend, (Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 April, 2014) in St Anne’s Park, Raheny which saw over 60,000 people attend.

The highlight of the festival was the twice daily large-scale re-enactments of the battle of Clontarf which featured over 400 authentically armed and clad Viking warriors.

The festival also featured a Viking village containing static and interactive displays of Viking life including demonstrations of Viking Skills and Crafts such as weapons displays, storytelling,  Blacksmith, Leather working, Pole Lathe, Coin Striking, Silversmith, Hnefatafl (Viking Chess), Archery Display and Viking Long Boat, Falconry Displays, Mounted Viking Displays, “Have a go” interactive Sword and Archery Sessions for all ages. There was a children’s zone with lots of activities for the younger visitor to enjoy, including Viking themed children’s art and crafts and storytelling.

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History of The Battle of Clontarf

The Battle of Clontarf took place on Good Friday, 23rd April 1014. Brian Ború an Irish King, his Munstermen and Connaght clansmen were fighting against Mael Mórdá’s army from Leinster and his Viking allies recruited from around the Irish Sea.

The battle lasted all day but ended with the defeat of Mael Mórdá’s army and his Leinster and Viking allies. Although Brian Ború won the battle he was killed by a Viking Jarl named Brodir from the Isle of Man. The majority of leaders from both sides were killed on the battlefield but Sitric the Viking King of Dublin had not fought and he lived on and continued to rule Dublin.

After the battle the Vikings of Dublin continued to work, live and trade with the Irish but they were never as powerful again with power in Ireland shifting back into the hands of the Irish Kings. Interpretations of the significance of the battle have changed over time. An early view of the battle saw Brian Ború as a great Irish hero who saved Ireland from the Viking Invaders, other interpretations have seen the battle as a primarily Irish power struggle for control of the City of Dublin, new research by Professor Seán Duffy of Trinity College Dublin has argued that the defeat of Viking Dublin in the battle ultimately helped to avert a major new Viking offensive in Ireland (see Brian Ború and the Battle of Clontarf ).

Brian Ború National Programme of Festival & Events 2014

Dublin City Council was part of a collaborative group of Local Authorities, community and voluntary organisations, cultural institutions and tourism authorities who came together to produce a national programme of events to commemorate the Battle of Clontarf itself and also the life and legacy of Brian Ború in Irish heritage.  The counties involved, Clare, Tipperary, Dublin and Armagh have close associations with Brian Ború and the aim is to develop a Brian Ború heritage trail as a tourism product. The Brian Ború Trail links the participating towns including the twin town of Ballina/Killaloe as the seat of Brian Ború’s rule as High King of Ireland, Cashel where Brian was crowned High King of Ireland, Clontarf/Dublin site of Battle of Clontarf, and Armagh where Brian was buried.

Lord Mayor of Dublin Oisín Quinn joined Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan T.D. on the 22 January 2014 in the Trinity College’s Longroom, against the backdrop of the Brian Ború Harp, to announce a national programme of festivals and events.  The launch received extensive media coverage including a slot on RTÉ Radio 1’s Morning Ireland as well as coverage in The Irish Times and the Irish Independent.

Brian Boru launch image

From left to right: Cllr. Tom Acheson,  Deputy Cathaoirleach, South. Tipperary County Council; Minster of State Alan Kelly, T.D.; Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan T.D.;Lord Mayor of Dublin, Oisin Quinn; Mayor of Clare, Cllr. Joe Arkins; Mayor of North  Tipperary, Ger Darcy; Lord Inchiquin, Conor O'Brien (descendant of Brian Ború) at the Trinity College Launch on 22nd January 2014

Dublin City Council’s main Battle of Clontarf Commemorative events

Publication – Brian Ború and the Battle of Clontarf

Battle of Clontarf book imageDublin City Council funded a new publication Brian Ború and the Battle of Clontarf by Seán Duffy, Professor of Medieval History, Trinity College Dublin.

The book, published by Gill and Macmillan, is the culmination of 25 years of research and explores Brian Ború and Clontarf in the broader context of Irish history in the Viking Age and of Ireland’s relationship with the outside world in the Middle Ages.

The famous painting of the Battle of Clontarf by Hugh Frazer (featured on the cover of Professor Duffy’s new book) has returned to Ireland after 35 years by agreement between Clontarf Historical Society and its American owner. It went on display at The Casino, Marino for the millennium year.

Milwaukee Irish Fest

Milwaukee Irish Fest is North America’s largest, four-day celebration of Irish music heritage and culture. It attracts an annual audience in excess of 130,000. Brian Ború was a theme at the 2014 Festival, with a Brian Ború programme that included music, genealogy, literary, culinary elements as well as a number of performance pieces.  The initiative was jointly funded by the Festival and the participating authorities including Dublin County Council. Dublin was represented by Seán Duffy, Professor of Medieval History, Trinity College and Collette Gill, Clontarf Historical Society.

Clontarf 1014 – 2014 National Conference, Trinity College Dublin

In partnership with Dublin City Council the 16th Medieval Dublin Symposium was held in the Edmund Burke Theatre, Trinity College Dublin on 11th & 12th April. The conference brought together all of the leading experts in the field from Universities through Ireland (including Queen’s Belfast, Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, University College Cork, NUI Maynooth, and University of Limerick), Great Britain (including the Universities of Cambridge, St Andrews, and Liverpool), and further afield, including the Universities of Utrecht and Helsinki, as well as specialists from the National Museum of Ireland and elsewhere. The objective of the Clontarf 1014 –2014 conference was to establish the truth of what really happened at the Battle of Clontarf for a twenty-first century audience.

Battle of Clontarf Heritage Trail & National Brian Ború Trail

A highlight of events in Clontarf in 2014 was the launch of the Battle of Clontarf Heritage Trail by Jimmy Deenihan, Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht on 27 March 2014. The Heritage Trail was developed by the Clontarf Historical Society and the Raheny Heritage Society with the support of Dublin City Council.  The Heritage Trail marks the site of this important battle in European history. It also forms part of a national Brian Ború Heritage trail between Killaloe, Cashel, Clontarf and Armagh.