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The Vikings of Northumbria set to invade Open Treasure on 11 June 2019

10 June 2019

On 11 June 2019, 10am, Durham Cathedral’s multi award-winning museum experience, Open Treasure, will experience a Norse invasion, as the history of North East England is traced back to The Vikings in Northumbria.

This new temporary exhibition will run until 28 September 2019, and bring to life the dawn of the Viking age in England. The spotlight will be on the plundering raiders of the North Sea, who carried out the unexpected and devastating raids on Lindisfarne in 793 AD, leaving the Community of St Cuthbert searching for a safe home for their beloved saint.

Shaun McAlister, exhibitions assistant at Durham Cathedral, said: ‘Through trade, raids and conquest the Vikings would help to shape the political and cultural landscapes of Northumbria and the British Isles.  Without their attacks and the fear they inspired, the Community of St. Cuthbert would never have left Lindisfarne and Durham Cathedral would never have been built. The exhibition takes visitors through the remarkable 200-year story of the Vikings in the North East, with visitors leaving armed with a greater understanding of their role in the region.’

The Vikings were famous for their ship building skills, meaning their enemies were rarely able to get the upper hand during battles.  A highlight of the exhibition will be the 1.5-metre long model Viking warship, based on both the Norwegian Gokstad ship and its 1893 full-scale replica, the Viking. The original, dating back to 890, was designed to be both sailed and rowed by the Vikings as they set out on their pillaging voyages. It featured 16 oars on either side and held a crew of at least 34 men who sat on chests holding items to trade. The model, made by Mr. R. Paterson of Lasswade, Scotland, features the additional chilling detail of a fearsome beast’s head, a sight which was known to send shivers of fear through the kingdom of Northumbria.

Also on display are some of the most precious treasures from Durham Cathedral library’s collections, including a facsimile of the Lindisfarne Gospel. The original work, originally bound in leather and covered in gold and jewels, was a gem the monks of Lindisfarne were keen to guard and protect, given the Vikings thirst for portable wealth.

An original 8th century Northumbrian gospel book, which is thought to have survived the first journey from Lindisfarne nearly 1,150 years ago, is another remarkable article on display. The book tells the story of the fierce warriors of the North as raiders and plunderers to traders, settlers and later empire-builders. It is the work of four scribes, and features fascinating liturgical notes, which indicate that one of its intended uses was for use during the ordination of Bishops.

The Viking theme continues into the Community Gallery, where a selection of Viking clay masks and woven panels are on display. Children from East Durham primary schools crafted the items through a joint project by the cathedral’s education team and Wendy Stoker from MADE in England.

Visitors to the new Vikings in Northumbria exhibition, will still be able to enjoy the full Open Treasure experience, taking in the breath-taking Anglo-Saxon Treasures of St Cuthbert, which remain on permanent display in the Great Kitchen. The treasures include the wooden coffin that was used to carry the body of St Cuthbert to Durham by the monks of Lindisfarne.

Open Treasure is open Monday to Saturday, 10am – 5pm (last entry 4pm) and Sundays, 12.30pm – 5pm (last entry 4pm). Tickets are priced from £2.50-£7.50, with under 5s free and family tickets £17.50. National Arts Pass holders receive a 50% discount. Tickets are available from the Visitor Desk (0191 3387178) or online in advance at https://www.durhamcathedral.co.uk/opentreasure