History

York – A Very Brief History

York boasts a proud and diverse history. The Roman Ninth Legion established the City in 71AD and it has played a prominent part in the history of Britain for centuries. Circa 210AD, York or Eboracum as the Romans named it, was granted the honour of becoming the capital of Britannia Inferior, a new province carved out within Roman Britain. Some 650 years after this date, the Vikings first attacked Anglo-Saxon York. Named Eoforwīc by its Anglo-Saxon inhabitants, The Great Heathen Army led by Halfdan and Ivar the Boneless launched their attack on November 1 866AD. This was All Saints Day, which was an important festival at the time in York, and when most of its leaders were most likely within the cathedral. Therefore, the surprise attack was effective and the Vikings took Eoforwīc and renamed it Jórvík.

The Viking Faith

At a time when life and death happened frequently, a person’s faith was paramount and the Vikings held strong beliefs in the abilities and powers of the gods. They also took great interest in the resting place of the deceased, and ensuring that the dead could enjoy this finality was of paramount importance. Vikings believed that the dead would eventually pass across to one of the many gods, for example warriors who fell in battle would either go to Valhalla (a majestic hall) with the Viking god Odin, or pass to Folkvang (a meadow or field) with Freya.

Valhalla

Valhalla, or Valhöll in old Norse, means the hall of the slain. It is a majestic hall located in Asgard and ruled over by Odin. In Valhalla, the dead join those who have already died in combat (known as Einherjar), in addition to various other legendary Germanic heroes and kings. Here, they help Odin as he prepares for the events of Ragnarök. Ragnarök in Norse Mythology is a series of future events, where the earth will endure a great battle of the gods and will be submersed by its oceans and seas. Following this, the earth will emerge anew and the surviving gods will return along with just two human survivors. From these two, future generations of humans will be born. Until Ragnarök, the Einherjar are free to drink and feast within the halls of Valhalla. Throughout time, Valhalla has inspired literature, popular culture and it continues to be regarded as an afterlife for honoured dead within Germanic and other Teutonic contexts.