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Viking Pilgrimage to the Holy Landfram fram cristmenn crossmenn konungsmenn-----Viking pilgrimage--the phrase seems a contradiction For three centuries from circa AD 750-1050 the political and economic life of the Northern world was dominated by Scandinavian military activity and trade but it was as Vikings that the Norsemen became known to the peoples of the Christian world who depicted them as reavers and slayers of unparalleled ferocity The piratical phase of Viking activity however was relatively short-lived and was followed by a more restrained colonization phase When the Scandinavians first began to settle in the West in the latter part of the ninth century they came into sustained contact with Christianity and its clergy and it became inevitable that the barbarian Northmen with their primitive beliefs in outmoded gods and with their lack of writing and literacy would be greatly influenced by the higher Christian civilization which they now encountered at such close quarters Not surprisingly the conversion of the Viking peoples and their integration into the Western European Christian community has influenced decisively the historiography of the Northern world Previously defined in terms of what they were Scandinavians of the eleventh and twelfth centuries were implicitly defined in terms of what they were not--sea-borne adventurers and predatory warriors of the type familiar in old heroic tradition The creation of such a marked dichotomy between Christian and Viking however has tended to place undue emphasis on the forces of change often at the expense of native cultural traditions which persisted through the Viking age and well into the Christian era Indeed it was the pagan traditions of the Northmen which ensured that the transition to Christianity would be a relatively simple and painless process After all the new religion was a royal one and its literature notably the Old Testament described a world very much like their own in which the success of kings as they led their armies in search of glory and gain depended
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