Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
In Search of Ancient Ireland
Cartographer's Journey
Fortress Ireland
Culture and Commerce
About the Film
Lesson Plans

Geographic Reference
Shannon River

The Shannon River provided an ideal entryway for the Vikings to launch their deadly attacks on Ireland.

Fortress Ireland
Page 1 Page 2
In spite of its physical separation from continental Europe, Ireland was not immune to Viking invasions.
In the 9th century, a second wave of Irish reached the continent -- they were scholars who were proficient in Latin and Greek and the philosophical scholarship lost to the rest of Europe. Johannes Scottus Eriugena, or John the Irishman, was one of the most outstanding of these scholastics. By the end of the 9th century, no European court considered itself civilized without the presence of Irish scholars who acted as advisors and teachers.

In spite of Ireland's political and social separation from the rest of Europe, the island was not immune to the Vikings sweeping across the seas in their long-ships. Viking plunderers first arrived in Ireland in the closing years of the 8th century and, although they founded the first Irish towns, they did not manage to take over the country in any meaningful way. Within Ireland, a new type of king emerged in the person of Brian Boru. He was from a small dynasty but he was ambitious and sought to establish a more European-type kingship. He almost succeeded, but on his death at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014, there was no order of succession to his high-kingship and the country was thrown into political turmoil.

Video Clip
Video Clip
Kings once built huge stone forts on Ireland.

Connection Speed
Ireland's position as an independent entity would come to an end. By the 12th century, powerful forces outside of Ireland were developing as Europe emerged from the Dark Ages. Gregorian reforms within the Christian church would bring about a stronger papacy interested in reining in independent churches like the Irish model. The Irish church was demonized. In a series of "reforming" synods, the old Irish monastery system was dismantled as continental orders arrived. At the same time, an internal political struggle within Ireland resulted in a deposed Irish regional king, Dermot MacMurrough, asking Henry II of England for help. The Anglo-Norman invasion that resulted from this would end the period of Irish political and Christian independence.

56k T1 Real Player