An itinerary that rediscovers the Viking history of Dublin
(by William Murphy CC BY-SA 2.0 Flickr)
With a short walk of about 10 minutes, the path leads from Wood Quay to the intersection of Pearse Street and College Street. Here, it is possible to admire the Steine, a replica of a pillar carved and erected by the Vikings, possibly designed to prevent longships from running aground. Unfortunately, the reproduction does not have the original measurements, which were about 4 metres high.
During the first 40 years, Viking raids were carried out by small groups, but from 830 CE onwards, the fleets consisted of many ships and men and pushed further and further inland, taking advantage of the presence of navigable waters.
The Vikings shaped Ireland in its entirety. They left imprints of Scandinavian aesthetics in making jewellery, glass, and coins. In addition, they influenced naval engineering, navigation and the derivation of the names of many towns from the Scandinavian word ‘fjord’, such as Stranford, Wexford, and Waterford.
From 841CE, the Vikings settled permanently in Ireland, establishing an encampment in the Dublin area, thus staying in Ireland during the winter instead of crossing the sea again to return to Scandinavia. A little later, around the 10th century, the Vikings commemorated the site of their first landing with a monument known as the “The Steine” or “Long Stone”, four metres high, which survived until the 18th century.
Today this stone hand carved by the artist Clíodna Cussen in 1986 is a symbol of Viking conquest. It represents the Viking conqueror King Ivar of Dublin, sometimes referred to and connected to the legendary Ivar the Boneless, who founded the Uí Ímair dynasty, and whose descendants would go on to dominate the Irish Sea region for several centuries.
Thus, Dublin grew in importance, becoming a true ‘longphort’. This term is used to identify a Viking coastal settlement in Ireland. These encampments were fortified areas along rivers, usually in prehension of a tributary, to ensure two out of three sides protected access to the waters as safe sailing points for ships. Wooden barriers and ramparts protected these strategic docks, making them easily defensible and very close to the sea. Moreover, they were handy for coordinating raids on coastal locations in Ireland, where many religious sites (churches and monasteries) stood close to the sea. Such ports also facilitated the passage of goods from sea to the inland.
Today it is possible to admire such a memorial landmark that still stands in memory of the Viking settlement.