Normans were descendants of Vikings who raided northern France during the 9th and 10th centuries. Towards the early 10th century, these Vikings had started settling in Normandy and married into the local Frank populations. This gave birth to the unique Norman culture which lent Normandy its name.
The Normans were marked by a culture which brought together aspects of both Vikings and local Frankish-Christian culture. From the 10th century onwards, Normans ranged out from Normandy to other parts of Europe as well which catalysed further evolution of the Norman people.
The Vikings began ranging out from northern Europe to regions of northern France and British Isles in the 8th century. By the end of the 9th century, Viking foraging along regions of northern France was a regular activity and had led to the establishment of permanent Viking settlements in the region.
The French King Charles finally forged an agreement with the Viking leader Rollo whereby he was allowed to settle in a region of northern France in return for his protection against any further Viking raids. These Viking settlers eventually married into the local Frankish and Gallic population, giving birth to a unique Norman culture.
Normans first settled in Normandy. From Normandy, they spread over different parts of Europe including southern Italy, Sicily, the Byzantine Empire, England, Scotland and Ireland among other places. They served as mercenaries in different places and forged their own dominions at others.
As a result, the culture of the Norman people was a curious mixture of elements taken from a variety of cultures and mixed with other Viking-Frankish ancestry. A notable example of this can be seen in the extant architecture built by the Normans.
Normans embellished different constructional elements when erecting their buildings. In England and Italy, Normans made use of a Romanesque style of architecture which they had evolved earlier in Normandy. This type of architecture included motte-and-bailey castles as well as stone castles which helped the Normans invade different regions through successful castellation.
The richest example of Norman architecture can be found in Sicily where the Normans mixed elements of Arab, Lombard and Byzantine cultures in constructing unique buildings many of which stand to this day. Norman architecture in Sicily gave birth to the style which was later termed Norman-Arab architecture.
Even after Normans had settled in Normandy, they continued to be a warlike people who bred horses and served as mercenaries in different parts of Europe. Warfare was a central part of the Norman society. Consequently, Normans devised new and unique methods of both offensive and defensive warfare. The propensity of the Normans to use cavalry as a vital part of a battle became an enduring legacy of medieval European battlefields.
The chivalry of the Norman cavalry was also instrumental in giving birth to the knightly culture in Europe. Normans also spread the use of castles to different parts of Europe, excelling in the art especially in England. In medieval Europe, Normans were known for their military prowess as well as their religious fervour. Although they came of pagan ancestors, they converted to Catholic faith once in Normandy and later became key exponents of Christianity in different parts of Europe.