What If The Vikings Will Return To Normandy?

What if the Vikings could make a historical comeback to Normandy, north-western France? The question was posed by a French language magazine entitled ‘France Pittoresque‘ via ‘Ouest France’. This is an English translation of the article which was originally published in French here, on Thursday, March 26, 2015.

A museum about the Vikings, the idea ‘floats’ in the Norman air. A study has been launched on the desirability of such a project in order to give a new asset for the regional tourism in Normandy.


Brief historical reminder: Normandy was born in 911 with the signing of the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte. A text signed between the Carolingian king, Charles the Simple, and a Viking chief.


‘Rollon received land between the Epte, the Bresle, the Avre and perhaps Dives, which roughly comprised the county of Rouen. It engaged in exchange for baptism, and from that point forth to defend the Seine against the incursions of other Vikings. Thus was Normandy born,’ writes Roger Jouet in ‘Onze siècles de Normandie et de Normands’ (i.e. ‘Eleven centuries of Normandy and of Normans’) (Orep Editions). A birth of strong Nordic roots.


The Viking identity is obviously part of Normandy’s cultural heritage, but not necessarily a ‘weapon’ in the touristic strike force of the region. Where are the Vikings in Normandy? A Drakkar on the logo of the Lower Normandy Regional Council; in the name of the hockey club in Caen — ‘The Drakkars’ — or on the lawn of the Stade Malherbe, with its mascot, a debonair Viking. These roots are also to be found in the academic domain, with the Northern Studies department or the Franco-Norwegian Office at Caen, and in the cultural sector with the Festival of Boreal Lights. But not a great museum that could evoke this part of Norman history.

Artistic depiction of a Viking Age longship, commonly referred to as 'drakkar'. Image source: www.france-pittoresque.com

Artistic depiction of a crew of Vikings on a longship, commonly referred to as ‘drakkar’. Image source: www.france-pittoresque.com

Hence the project was created on behalf of the Regional Council of Haute-Normandie . ‘The idea is pretty simple,’ says its president, Nicolas Mayer-Rossignol. ‘Everywhere in France, when you say Vikings, one quickly thinks of Normandy. It seemed interesting for us to think about the creation of a museum on this particular theme. It’s like Impressionism. It is obvious that it can be a beautiful project for Normandy.’


Close by the water


First step, a call for tenders for a ‘scoping study on the construction of a cultural and touristic equipment on the Viking theme’. The specialised agencies had until March 12 (i.e. March 12, 2015) to respond. Which site should be created in order to implement this project? What scientific content? What are the targeted audiences? So many questions to ask in the beginning of this new Norman adventure. ‘I have recently visited the museum in Roskilde, Denmark (i.e. the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde). An interesting example, with the museum halls and outdoor walks on water,’ Nicolas Mayer-Rossignol recounts. ‘It is clear that if a museum will be created in Normandy, it must be placed in the proximity of water in order to develop the whole dimensions of the Drakkars.’


Even if the project is still being discussed, it has already raised some concerns about a certain reunification in Basse-Normandie. Eric Eydoux, the co-founder of the Franco-Norwegian Office and of the Boreal Lights festival, as well as former deputy mayor for culture in Caen, was surprised that neither the town of Caen nor the Regional Council of Lower Normandy ‘was not informed’.


Nicolas Mayer-Rossignol reassures him: ‘From the beginning, Laurent Beauvais (i.e. the President of the Regional Council of Lower Normandy) was associated with the idea. It is part of the steering committee with other elected Normans. A scientific board will also involve all experts on the matter from Lower Normandy. I have already met, for example, Jean-Marie Lévesque, the Director of the Museum of Normandy in Caen.’ Former invaders, the Vikings will not be the ones who will divide the new larger Normandy.

Documentation sources and external links:

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3 Responses to What If The Vikings Will Return To Normandy?

  1. Lesley Lewis says:

    Excellent idea: a Viking museum! My mother’s family were Norsemen from Normandy.

  2. Keith Redfearn says:

    Researching the origins of my family name “Redfearn”, I came upon many instances of it’s origins in England. But, one fellow commented that it actually originated in France and Normandy? Anyone have any info regarding this.

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