Following Viking traces in Dublin
  • Ireland /
  • Dublin

An itinerary that rediscovers the Viking history of Dublin

Curious rests
Heritage place of interest.
Glass panel inside the supermarket; visible are the remains of the Viking settlement.
The most iconic image of the Battle of Clontarf, oil on canvas painting by Hugh Frazer, 1826
An eighteenth-century illustration of Brian Bóruma mac Cennétig

Of extreme strangeness and curiosity, we walk about 10 minutes from Steine of Long Stone to 71 Augier Street inside a supermarket. Inside the shop, one can see a glass floor covering a house and remnants of Viking civilisation. Very original preservation and reuse for very different purposes.

Right in the centre of the floor are the medieval remains of St Peter’s Church. Recent studies date the structure between 1028 and 1155 CE, in which case it would be contemporary with Christ Church Cathedral, built within the walled city of Dublin around 1030.

In addition, another pane of glass shows the remains of what is identified as a civilian building or warehouse. This area was, in fact, a Viking suburb where people used to live and carry out daily activities.

The Vikings worshipped many deities (part of the so-called Norse Mythology, already practised by hundreds of ancient Germanic peoples), and the three main ones were Odin, Thor and Freyr. They had a human form and possessed various qualities that the Vikings admired, including character flaws. The adventures and problems of such gods were the basis for multiple myths and legends, which illustrated how a Viking should or should not behave.

The Vikings believed in life after death and thought they could take their possessions into the afterlife. Excavations in west Dublin have revealed skeletons of men buried with swords, shields and knives belonging to them, while women were buried with objects such as brooches and jewellery. The graves are not very deep, so they may originally have been covered by mounds of earth, like the one that existed in Hoggen Green, near Trinity College, until 1646. In fact, the name Hoggen is derived from “hagur”, the Old Norse word for ‘mound’.


The Vikings used different modes of burial. Some influential or wealthy people were buried in a ship with their possessions, such as horses, furniture and even servants. Sometimes the boat with the deceased’s body was set on fire before being covered with a mound of earth. Burials of this size are found in Scandinavia, but some smaller versions have been found in the islands of Scotland and on the Isle of Man.


At the height of Viking expansion, Ireland was a mixture of local Gaelic and Viking cultures. 

However, this Scandinavian rush and invasion soon caused concern and discord. The Vikings’ massive conquest of the island did not go unnoticed by the local population, which consisted of tribes and clans descended from the Celts.

In 1014, Brian Boru, an Irish king of Munster, one of the four provinces of Ireland (more precisely, the southwest of the island), reacted to the Viking expansion. Brian Bórumha mac Cennétig (known by the English name of Brian Boru and the Irish name of Brian Boraime) was the supreme ruler of Ireland, holding the title of High King of Ireland from 1002 to 1014. Those who had or claimed to have lordship over the island owned this royal designation in Gaelic Ireland. The title was attributed to historical kings and was later sometimes assigned to legendary figures.

King Brian Boru attacked the Vikings at the bloody Battle of Clontarf, today a suburb northeast of Dublin. The battle was won, but the king, his family, and 4,000 of his men lost their lives.

The Norse alliance troops were defeated, and from that moment, there was a sharp reduction in Viking control over the island, where they no longer raided and limited themselves to fishing and trading.

After this clash, Ireland again became a land divided into many separate small kingdoms.

The Battle of Clontarf, remembered in both the Irish and Viking sagas, is celebrated in Ireland as a shaping event in the national consciousness. King Brian is still recognised as that triumphant hero liberating the motherland from foreign invaders.


1. The origins in Dublinia

2. Wood Quay

3. The Steine

4. Curious rests

5. Christ Church Cathedral