Military Review

Scandinavian knighthood 1050-1350

Peaceful to me smerdy
In the peaceful field are lovely.

King Sigurd Magnusson (that is, the son of Magnus), nicknamed the Crusader, ruled Norway from 1103 to 1130. He is credited with the authorship of this visa *. "The Poetry of the Skalds" / Translation by S. V. Petrov, comments and applications by M. I. Steblin-Kamensky. L., 1979.

Horn of the Wolf
Burned both eyes
Becoming on the throne.
It was a considerable battle.
Durny struck defiantly
Holes prince Agdir.
Brave ruler of the Greeks
I was not happy about this shame.

Tyodolv son of Arnor - Icelandic skald. Drapa ** about Harald the Severe, written around 1065. Obviously, this visa tells about the events that took place in the spring of 1042 in Byzantium. Then the emperor Michael was blinded by the rebels, and Harald apparently took part in this uprising as the leader of the Varangian squad. "The wolf's wolf's horn" is kenning *** denoting a warrior, i.e., Harald is meant here. The phrase "Agdir prince" also refers to Harald (since Agdir is a region in Norway from where he was born. "The Poetry of the Skalds" / Translated by S. V. Petrov, comments and attachments to M. I. Steblin-Kamensky. L., 1979.

Rumor sped: the kings of the land
They feared my audacity;
Their proud squads
Fled northern swords.

A.S.Pushkin. "Ruslan and Ludmila"

Knights and chivalry of three centuries. The readers of “VO” have already noticed that our “journey” through distant knightly times goes from west to east and from south to north. We have just been to Hungary, then to Poland, but it’s obvious that Scandinavia is “higher on the map” and that’s where we go today. For those who (well? , either beat them in battles, or were beaten by them themselves. I would also like to remind you that not every batman could be a knight, but every knight in our time span was simply obliged to be a batman and fight in a rather heavy protective weapon with a spear and a sword. Again, not all knights belonged to the nobility, but they all had to have a sufficiently known ancestors, as well as the corresponding armor and weapon. For example, there is a record from 1066 of the year, made in the abbey of Saint-per-de-Chartres, that there is a village not far from it, where there is a church, three plowmen land with assistants, twelve peasants, a mill and ... five free knights! That is, it is obvious that in those years chivalry was not yet associated with its dominant position in society, and did not have time to gather arrogance. Not without reason, two British historians such as Christopher Gravette and David Nicole, write that at that time being a knight "meant to be a person who" exercises a lot with a weapon in the saddle and on foot, and from whom they ask a lot. " Speaking of the saddle ... A knight was unthinkable without a horse - "cheval" - "sheval", which word actually gave rise to the knights themselves - "chevaliers", and knighthood as such - "chemalerie." And since the cost of war horses, as well as horse servants and equipment was very high, it was very difficult to collect such funds for anyone who decided to join the knighthood as a military caste.

The famous "Norwegian Carpet" or "Baldishol Carpet" is one of the oldest knotted carpets in the world (XII century) with the image of the Norwegian warriors of this time (National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo).

Medieval States and the lands of Northern Europe

And now, after this preamble (and as many as three epigraphs devoted both to samples of scaldic poetry and the words of the immortal AS Pushkin), let's see which countries we will visit today and see that these are different territories, similar, however, both military and cultural: Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, the Shetland Islands, the Orkney Islands, the Hebrides and the North Atlantic lands, possibly temporarily settled (or colonized) by the Norwegian peoples. These are the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland and, possibly, the ephemeral settlements of the Scandinavians in the territory of modern Canada. So, for a start, what was there by the middle of the XI century?

Scandinavian knighthood 1050-1350

Reconstruction of Angus McBride, made on the basis of images on the "Carpet from Baldishol."

What happened after the Vikings ...

And the following was there: by the middle of the 11th century, the great period of Viking expansion had ended, and quite traditional feudal states appeared in Scandinavia. The first of these was Denmark, which became, at least outwardly, Christian at the end of the tenth century under Knut the Great (1014 - 1035) and which temporarily dominated in Norway, in the south of Sweden, and in England. However, Norway soon regained its independence, although Danish rule in its southern regions and in southern Sweden continued until the 17th century. Moreover, Norway until the beginning of the XII century retained some control over the Faroe Islands, the northern and western Scottish islands, and the Isle of Man, and later the Faroe Islands, the Shetland Islands and the Orkney Islands remained in the hands of the Norwegians until the XV century.

In Sweden, the state also emerged by the XI century, and Finland fell under the power of the Swedes by the middle of the XIII century. Later, the entire Northern World, including the Icelandic state, which was independent from the beginning of the 10th century, was united under one crown as a result of the Kalmar Union of 1397. Scandinavian settlements were located in southwestern Greenland, beginning at the end of the tenth century, until they disappeared at the end of XIV, a little more than a hundred years before this island was “discovered” again by Gaspar Corte-Real in 1500. At present, it is widely believed that the Scandinavians also reached North America and created settlements there, but the extent of their contacts with the New World is today the subject of numerous scientific disputes.

Without riders and bows - nowhere!

From XI to XIV, Scandinavia itself underwent the same profound changes in military affairs. The warriors of the so-called “second century Vikings” (the end of the 10th - the beginning of the 11th centuries) were in contact with many other military cultures, ranging from the Eurasian steppes, Byzantium and the Islamic world to the cultures of the “Stone Age” in North America. However, they had all this time been dominated by infantry on the battlefield, using spears, swords and axes with a long handle. This “inertia of thinking” continued until the first half of the XII century, although in the same Denmark, changes in military affairs were already apparent in the XI century. The reason - again was associated with a natural geographic factor. After all, it was through Denmark that the Anglo-Saxon refugees migrated, who migrated to Scandinavia from the horrors of Charlemagne. But even then, already in the "Viking Age", it was a kind of "transit point" through which it was easiest for the settlers from the mainland to get both to England and to the lands of Scandinavia. An ever-increasing number of warriors on the continent required horsemen, and horsemen — horses! Interestingly, plate armor is spreading in Sweden. Even the Livonian Chronicle tells us that the Russian troops had a lot of archers. That is, all together, albeit indirectly, indicates the contact of the Swedes with Eastern Europe, including perhaps not only the Slavs, but also the Poles. Longbow was in turn an important weapon in Scandinavia, especially in Norway, although it was certain that both composite and reinforced wooden bows of oriental origin were known there. They simply could not have been there, because they could easily have brought their “varangas” from Byzantium. Bow, as a weapon, remained popular among Sami and Finns for many centuries.

"Danish crossroads"

By the middle of the XII century, Sweden was already completely drawn into the mainstream of European military culture. Denmark was also turned into a fairly typical European feudal state and also began expansion in the Baltic in the middle of the 12th century. The Danish armies now included many horsemen, and by the 13th century a large number of crossbowmen also appeared in them. Crossbows spread throughout Scandinavia. Moreover, the crossbow, as a weapon, is constantly found in the poem Kalevala, the national epic of Finland.

A pair of stirrups, the end of X - the beginning of the XI century. Scandinavia, possibly Denmark. This pair of stirrups is decorated with gilded bronze and silver overlays and was originally placed, probably, in the grave of a rich viking warrior. Although they are perhaps best known today as sailors, the Vikings also rode horses. As in all Germanic cultures, horses were of great importance in their society and religion. Equestrian equipment, such as stirrups, can be found in the Viking burials, next to weapons and other items that the warriors wanted to bring with them to the afterlife, or near the sacrificial horses that sometimes accompanied the richest in burials. (Metropolitan Museum, New York)

Norwegian crusade

The so-called “Norwegian crusade” is also known - the crusade of the Norwegian king Sigurd I, undertaken by him in the 1107 — 1110. Then 5000 people went with him on 60 ships. And although it was formally carried out for religious purposes, the Norwegians, during their voyage, robbed everyone who had just tuck at hand, including Christians (for the cause, of course!) And collected huge booty.

Map in Old Norse. The red line is Sigurd’s road to Jerusalem, the green line is his way back to Norway.

In the Holy Land, they visited Jerusalem, participated in the taking of Sidon, and King Baldwin I bestowed on Sigurd a very valuable relic for Christians - the chips from the Holy Cross of the Lord. It is interesting that, having reached Byzantium, Sigurd and his warriors, although not all, as many remained to serve in Constantinople, traveled on horseback, and it took the whole trip across Europe for three years!

Sigurd sails to the Holy Land. Harbenbeg Codex 1300 - 1399 Norway. (The National Library of Denmark and the Library of the University of Copenhagen)

Nature, trade and all the same simple bow!

Now we turn to the outskirts of the “Northern World” and see what happened in such areas as Finland, Lapland and among the neighboring Finno-Ugric peoples who are now northern Russia. Again, due to natural geographic reasons, these territories lagged behind Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Severe climatic factors also played a role: therefore, for example, the very same simple bow of the simplest design continued to be used in subarctic areas, such as Lapland, all the time, since it was obviously less sensitive to low temperatures. The Finns remained a tribal society without a military elite, and had much in common with Balts in the south. Like many tribes that lived in the forests in the east, their main weapon in the war was spears, and their swords replaced knives. The Karelians were partly nomadic people and had more in common with the Sami, although the coastal Finns were already sufficiently “Europeanized” in the 13th and 14th centuries. Sami themselves clearly depended on the trade in all metal objects, including weapons.

Very rare find: “Sword of Swantaki” (National Museum of Finland, Helsinki)

The same sword in the exposition of the National Museum of Finland in Helsinki.

The neighboring Finno-Ugric peoples of the northern Urals region, it seems, also relied on the iron trade, part of which came from the far south through the Volga Bulgars. However, the most southern Finno-Ugric tribes were more developed even in the XI century, when they already had small towns in which archaeologists recently found interesting weapons and evidence of the spread of Christianity among them.

Barrette for cloak X - the beginning of the XI century. Scandinavia or Baltic countries. (Metropolitan Museum, New York)

How and what is the best to beat skrelingov?

On even more extensive western suburbs of the Scandinavian world lived skrelingi, or "screamers." This name was given by the Norwegian settlers to all the natives of Greenland and North America. In fact, these indigenous peoples differed quite strongly among themselves. They were Eskimo hunters, American Indians from the sub-arctic region in upper Quebec and Labrador, and forest tribes of Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and New England. The obscure and much later written documents of the Scandinavian countries indicate that these skrelingi, like the Finno-Ugric peoples, preferred iron objects, including weapons, as objects of exchange. Meanwhile, there was an appropriate, but apparently not very effective, official ban on the trade in iron weapons with the indigenous peoples of all these lands.

Battle of Visby, 27 July 1361 of the year. Scandinavian knights are fighting with the latniki.

With regard to the conclusion, then, judging by the findings of effigy, and excavations on the battlefield at Visby, the armament of the Swedish, Norwegian and Danish soldiers was generally identical to those of Central Europe. The knights were concerned above all. Although perhaps their gear was less subject to the influence of fashion!

This is evidenced by this miniature from the Norwegian manuscript, which depicts the fighting horsemen in knightly arms. Harbenbeg Codex 1300 - 1399 Norway. (The National Library of Denmark and the Library of the University of Copenhagen)

* Visa is a genre of skald poetry.
** Drapa is a song of praise.
*** Kenning is a type of metaphor characteristic of skald poetry.

Использованная литература:
1. Lindholm D., Nicolle D. The Scandinavian Baltic Crusades 1100-1500. UK L .: Osprey (Man-at-Arms series №436), 2007.
2. Gorelik MV Warriors of Eurasia. From the VIII century BC to the XVII century AD. Stockport: Montvert Publications, 1995.
3. Gravett C. Norman Knight 950 - 1204 AD. L .: Osprey (Warrior series # 1), 1993.
4. Edge D., Paddock JM Arms and armor of the medieval knight. An illustrated history of Weaponry in Middle ages. Avenel, New Jersey, 1996.
5. Nicolle, D. Arms and Armor of the Crusading Era, 1050 - 1350. UK L .: Greenhill Books. Vol.1.

To be continued ...
Articles from this series:
Knighthood of medieval Hungary
Knighthood of the medieval Balkans
Knights and chivalry of three centuries. Knights of Outremer
Knights and chivalry of three centuries. Knights of the South of Italy and Sicily 1050-1350.
Knights and chivalry of three centuries. Part of 11. Knights of Italy 1050-1350.
Knights and chivalry of three centuries. Part of 10. Knights of the Kingdom of Arelat
Knights and chivalry of three centuries. Part of 9. Germanic effigii
Knights and chivalry of three centuries. Part of 8. Knights of the Holy Roman Empire
Knights and chivalry of three centuries. Part of 7. Knights of Spain: Leon, Castile and Portugal
Knights and chivalry of three centuries. Knights of Spain: Aragon, Navarre and Catalonia (part 6)
Knights and chivalry of three centuries. CH 5. Knights of France. Central and southern areas
Knights and chivalry of three centuries. Knights of Ireland (part 4)
Knights and chivalry of three centuries. Knights of Scotland (part 3)
Knights and chivalry of three centuries. Knighthood and knights of England and Wales. Part of 2
Knights and chivalry of three centuries. Knighthood and knights of northern France. Part of 1
Polish chivalry. From Boleslav the Brave to Vladislav Jagiellon

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  1. Brutan
    Brutan 20 June 2019 18: 39
    “A knight or a warrior, a former exile,
    The brave and noble one
    He went to the patron of a noble family
    It was for both of them to please

    So that he would give the knight peace and quiet
    So that everything for life is at hand.
    Knights faithfully served as a cartridge
    His fame and honor were strengthened by this ...

    ... the knights converged there at the tournament,
    The horses under them are the best in the world.
    A thread of silver embroidered blankets,
    Percival has il even Gavion.

    It is unlikely that they would have looked better.
    Three white lilies, bowing their necks, -
    King's flags - and a golden lion.
    Jumping under the flags in front of the crowd

    Noble men. The knights were
    Those that served faithfully.
    Saw it all, heard the sounds
    Flutes, thunder drums and knocks.

    There was a lot of noise and screaming around
    Dust from horses that shied wildly.
    Who fell from a horse, who fell under a horse,
    In the crush, every second was hurt.

    Enough in the bochord played enough then
    After sat at the table gentlemen.
    Everything was decorous, beautiful, dignified,
    Everyone was fed up, pleased with the feast.

    Honey, beer drank, cherry infusion.
    White, red wine by the river
    Proud knights flowed into glasses
    It was drunk a lot at the wedding ... "

    "Chronicle of Eric." 1330s
  2. Kote Pan Kokhanka
    Kote Pan Kokhanka 20 June 2019 18: 47
    Chic illustrations! Thank!!!
  3. Trilobite Master
    Trilobite Master 20 June 2019 19: 53
    If we talk about the knight as an equestrian warrior, then it is in the Scandinavian countries that the knight class seems to have formed last.
    In the Viking Age, the Scandinavians, of course, also used horses, but only to quickly move around the territories that were being robbed (or were about to be robbed), but they practiced fighting solely on foot.
    However, even in later periods I somehow did not come across information about the massive use of heavy cavalry (and cavalry in general) in the military affairs of the Scandinavians. The Russians, for example, fought with the Danes at Rakovor (1268), they also repeatedly clashed with the Swedes for the Finnish and Karelian lands, the Norwegians often participated in these conflicts on the side of the Swedes, but the descriptions of these conflicts do not mention the use of cavalry by the Scandinavians. Germans - yes, as much as necessary, knight-dogs and all that, Russians - all the time, starting from the XI century. (already near Listven in 1024, Mstislav crushed the Scandinavian mercenaries of Yaroslav, probably with the help of horse squads), but about all sorts of Svens, Knuds, Magnus, in short, about "Danes and various other Swedes" you cannot say the same.
    Correct me if I'm wrong.
    There were battles with the participation of the Scandinavians, about which it would be reliably known that they would massively use their own cavalry?
  4. Undecim
    Undecim 20 June 2019 20: 35
    The famous "Norwegian Carpet" or "Baldishol Carpet" is one of the oldest knotted carpets in the world (XII century) with the image of the Norwegian warriors of this time (National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo).
    I will clarify a little. This is not a knotted carpet. This is a fragment of the "Twelve Months" tapestry, from which only two are left - April and May.
  5. Operator
    Operator 20 June 2019 20: 44
    The Karelians were partly nomadic people and had more in common with the Sami

    The Karelians had nothing to do with the Saami:
    - the first lived in the south near the Karelian Isthmus, the second in the north of the Kola and Scandinavian Peninsulas;
    - the first were sedentary and civilized (houses and arable land), the second were nomadic and wild (tents and deer);
    - the first are carriers of N1c1, the second are N2.
  6. kalibr
    20 June 2019 21: 49
    It may well be ... We must see.
  7. kalibr
    20 June 2019 21: 51
    Quote: Trilobite Master
    Correct me if I'm wrong.

    No, you are right ...
  8. Edward Vashchenko
    Edward Vashchenko 20 June 2019 21: 57
    Vyacheslav Olegovich,
    According to the Scandinavians, it seems to me, on the basis of the indicated literature, there are many rough edges.
    About Charlemagne and the Anglo-Saxon migration - probably "ochepyatka"? Most likely a speech about William the Conqueror?
    “Kalevala” is the same dubious source “about crossbows”, due to the specifics of its “writing” in the nineteenth century, also about the southern tribes of the Finno-Ugric peoples, who were absolutely in the zone of influence of the Russian principalities, hence We do not have such data from the chronicles as Karelians as northern nomads, and this is the main source for this period.
    This, by the way.
    In general, I liked the article!
  9. Undecim
    Undecim 20 June 2019 22: 01

    Swedish knights on the wall paintings from the church in Sedra Roda in Sweden, 1323
    The church was one of the oldest surviving wooden churches. Burned out in 2001.
    1. Undecim
      Undecim 20 June 2019 22: 12

      The famous wooden carved door of the church in Valþjófsstaður (I don’t translate) in the National Museum of Iceland. It depicts a version of the legend of the lion knight, in which the knight kills the dragon, freeing the lion, which becomes his faithful companion. 1200 year.