Christians, Vikings, Brian Boru (300-1100)
At the time St. Patrick was born (circa 385 A.D.), Britain was under Roman rule, and Goths and barbarians laid siege to the Roman Empire. St. Patrick himself was seized by Irish raiders and brought to Ireland as slave to a sheep rancher. Under the leadership of St. Patrick, the Roman Catholic Church wasted no time converting a majority of Ireland’s residents to Christianity.
With geographical expansion and the continued success of Ireland’s greatest export, Christianity, Ireland attracted wealth and new citizens. The island, with its new reputation as a repository for priceless religious relics and lavish gold ornaments, also attracted the attention of plunderers and looters.
In 795, the Vikings succumbed to the lure of easy riches and mounted ongoing invasions along the coasts of Ireland. Despite the destructiveness of their forays across the island—raiding villages, looting monasteries, burning buildings, murdering townspeople—the Vikings also had many positive effects on the development of Ireland. In 840, they founded Dublin, and they also established towns at Waterford, Wexford, Cork, and Limerick. They introduced coinage and money to the island, not to mention the beginnings of a shipbuilding industry. Norse kingdoms dotted the Irish coastline until 1014, when high king Brian Boru defeated the Vikings at the Battle of Clontarf.
Article Series: A Brief History of Ireland
Part 1 Beginnings (Prehistory to 300 A.D.)
Part 2 Christians, Vikings and Brian Boru (300-1100)
Part 3 The Bloody British (1100-1700)
Part 4 Punishment and Starvation (1700-1850)
Part 5 Strides Toward Independence (1850-1940)
Part 6 The Irish Republic and the Troubles Up North (1940 to present)