The Normans is term that derives from "Norsemen", Normans were originally the descendants of the Vikings who arrived on continental Europe during the Viking Age. During the 10th century, Vikings raids gave way to permanent Viking settlements in what was later the Duchy of Normandy.
Over time, these settlements evolved unique cultural blend of their own and came to be identified as Normans. Normans invaded England in the 11th century and permanently became a part of the English landscape, mingling with the previous Anglo-Saxon settlers of Britain.
The Normans led by William the conqueror invaded and defeated the English in the Battle of Hastings in 1066, King William of France took over and introduced the Feudal system Read more about the Hastings 1066 >>
The Normans were very talented designers who were particularly skilled in Stonework, Architecture and Metalwork, and they were prolific builders of Medieval Castles throughout Europe. Read more about the Norman Art >>
Norman Warfare was performed by skilled and battle hardened soldiers, The Normans developed their own unique style of warfare and borrowed the best Warfare Tactics from other great Warriors Read more about the Norman Warfare >>
The region of Normandy along the frontiers of medieval France was among the earliest continental regions raided by the Vikings. The raids began in the 10th century and over time, Viking settlements began cropping up in the area. Finally, an agreement came about between King Charles III of West Francia (part of Carolingian Empire) and Viking leader Rollo. According to the treaty, Charles offered Rollo and his people the area of Normandy in return for their protection against any further Viking attacks from outside. Rollo agree and the Vikings settled down, first in Upper Normandy during the early part of the 10th century.
The Normans in Normandy
After their settlement in the regions of Normandy, the Vikings under Rollo and their later descendants intermingled with the local Frankish population. In time, this resulted in a unique blend of culture which mixed elements of Old Norse mythology with Frankish Catholicism. The Normans also developed a unique language of their own and adopted the feudal system that was coming into being in various parts of the Carolingian Empire. By 11th century, Normandy was distinctly the land of the Normans. However, Norman knights continued serving mostly as mercenaries and didn’t attain a lot of affluence until the Norman conquest of England.
The Norman Conquest of England
The Danish Vikings had conquered portions of England in the 9th century and although they eventually lost hold of the country, their presence allowed Normans to wield some influence in the region. Later in the 11th century while the Danes had been pushed off the Isles, William The Conqueror led a large Norman force to England and ascended to the throne after killing King Harold II at the fateful Battle of Hastings. With this conquest, the Anglo-Saxon nobility in England was replaced by the Norman nobility. Initially, Norman rulers of England continued to bend the knee to the King of France but later, England became an independent entity and the new Norman nobility mingled with the local Anglo-Saxon population. The Normans in England soon expanded their realm to bring Ireland and Wales under their control.
Normans in the Byzantine Empire
The Norman role regarding the Byzantine Empire significantly varied over the course of centuries. They began pouring out of Normandy and into Italy when encouraged by the Lombards. By the mid-11th century, Normans were serving as mercenaries and military leaders in the service of the Byzantine Empire. They aided the Empire in the brief conquest of Sicily. Later, a group of Normans under Robert Guiscard drove Byzantines out of Italy and claimed the country’s throne, also winning Pope’s favor. In the second half of the 11th century, Guiscard and later his descendants launched multiple attacks on Byzantine Empire. Normans would later go on to conquer Sicily and rule it for some time on their own.
Norman Settlement in Ireland
After the Norman conquest of England in early 11th century, the Norman nobility became well established in the country. In the second half of the 11th century, Norman invaders turned their attention to Ireland which they invaded in 1169. They settled down in the eastern parts of Ireland and in time, became intermingled with the local Irish population. Normans built many medieval castles in Ireland and in time, became a permanent part of the country’s cultural landscape.
The images shows the sophisticated medieval shields and armour of the Norman Knights
Sicily under the Normans
In the latter half of the 11th century, the island of Sicily was under Muslim rule although it had a mostly Christian population. The campaign to reconquer Sicily from Arabs was launched by the Normans in 1061 and by 1071, the last Muslim strongholds on the island had capitulated. Norman ruler Robert Guiscard then established the County of Sicily and appointed his brother Roger at its head. Sicily remained under Norman rule until 1130 and the reign was noted for the peaceful approach of Normans towards Jewish and Muslim minorities on the island.
The Normans significantly impacted medieval architecture in England, Ireland and Italy. In England and Ireland, Normans built the earliest post-Roman fortified castles and keeps. This led to the trend of establishing large and fortified castles in medieval England. A similar trend took place in Ireland. The Normans also introduced the notion of building keeps in Italy and England, something which impacted the later military developments of both regions. The architectural style of the Normans incorporate multiple influences including elements of architecture from Islamic and Byzantine architecture as well as building techniques of the Lombard.
The Norman art distinctly borrowed features from other cultures. Among the most notable influences on Norman art were those of the Islamic world, the Byzantine Empire and the Franks. Examples of extant Norman art are mostly architectural structures in England. In Italy, some artefacts dating back to the Norman times remain including a Byzantine crown and an Arab cloak, both used by the rulers in Palermo.
The Normans Summary
Normans were descendants of Vikings who settled down in the region of Normandy during the 10th century. The King of West Francia, Charles III, offered them settlements in return for their service in protecting the kingdom’s borders. Over time, Vikings mingled with the local Frankish population and created their unique Norman culture. By 11th century, Normans were travelling from Normandy to other regions. They conquered England in early 11th century, Ireland in the late 11th century and permanently became entrenched in these regions. They also became the ruling dynasty in Italy and left a lasting impact on the culture of both continental Europe and British Isles.