Normans were the people who gave their name to
Normandy, a region in northern France.
descended from Viking
conquerors of the
territory and the native population of mostly Frankish
stock. Their identity emerged initially in the first half of the
tenth century, and gradually evolved over succeeding centuries
until they disappeared as an ethnic group in the early thirteenth
century. The name "Normans" derives from "Northmen
" or "Norsemen
after the Vikings from Scandinavia
founded Normandy (Northmannia
in its original Latin
They played a major political, military, and cultural role in
medieval Europe and even the Near East. They were famed for their
martial spirit and Christian
. They quickly adopted the Romance language
of the land they
settled in, their dialect becoming known as Norman
, an important literary language. The
Duchy of Normandy
, which they
formed by treaty with the French crown, was one of the great large
of medieval France. The Normans are famed
both for their culture, such as their unique Romanesque architecture
, and their
musical traditions, as well as for the military accomplishments and
innovations. Norman adventurers established a kingdom in Sicily and southern Italy
by conquest, and a Norman expedition on behalf of their duke led to
the Norman Conquest of
. Norman influence spread from these new
centres to the Crusader States in
the Near East, to Scotland and Wales in Great Britain, and to Ireland.
In Russian historiography, the term "Norman" is often used for the
, as for example in the term
In French historiography too, the term is often applied to the
various Viking groups that raided France in the ninth century
before settling down to found Normandy.
In a famous passage, Geoffrey
characterised the Normans thus:
Specially marked by cunning, despising their own
inheritance in the hope of winning a greater, eager after both gain
and dominion, given to imitation of all kinds, holding a certain
mean between lavishness and greediness, that is, perhaps uniting,
as they certainly did, these two seemingly opposite qualities.
Their chief men were specially lavish through their desire of good
report. They were, moreover, a race skillful in flattery, given to
the study of eloquence, so that the very boys were orators, a race
altogether unbridled unless held firmly down by the yoke of
justice. They were enduring of toil, hunger, and cold whenever
fortune laid it on them, given to hunting and hawking, delighting
in the pleasure of horses, and of all the weapons and garb of war."
Their quick adaptability expressed itself in the shrewd Norman
willingness to take on local men of talent, to marry the high-born
local women; confidently illiterate Norman masters used the
literate clerks of the church for their own purposes.
Geographically, Normandy was approximately
the same region as the old church province of Rouen and what was
called Brittania Nova as well as western Flanders.
It had no natural frontiers and was previously merely an
administrative unit. Historically, its population was mostly
. It included Viking settlers, who
had begun arriving in the 880s, divided between a small colony in
Upper (or eastern) Normandy and a larger one in Lower (or western)
Normandy. The Viking contingents who raided, and
ultimately settled, Normandy included Danes, Hiberno-Norse, Orkney Vikings, as well as Anglo-Danes from the English Danelaw, under
course of the 10th century, the initial destructive incursions of
Norse war bands into the rivers of France evolved into
permanent encampments that included women and chattel.
culture was driven underground by the Christian faith and Gallo-Romance language
of the local
people. The small groups of Vikings that settled there adopted the
language and culture of the French majority. After a generation or
two, the Normans were generally indistinguishable from their French
In Normandy, they adopted the growing feudal
doctrines of the rest of northern France, and worked them, both in
Normandy and in England, into a functional hierarchical system. The
Norman warrior class was new and different from the old French aristocracy
, many of whom could trace
their families back to Carolingian
times, while the Normans could seldom cite ancestors before the
beginning of the 11th century. Most knights remained poor and
land-hungry; by 1066, Normandy had been exporting fighting horsemen
for more than a generation. Knighthood
before the time of the Crusades
little social status, and simply indicated a professional warrior
wealthy enough to own a war horse. Many Normans of France and
Britain would eventually serve as avid Crusaders.
The Norman language
was forged by
the adoption of the indigenous oïl
by a Norse
ruling class, and developed into the regional language
Opportunistic bands of Normans successfully established a foothold
far to the south of Normandy. Probably the result of returning
pilgrims' stories, the Normans entered the Mezzogiorno
as warriors in 1017, at the latest.
according to Amatus of
Montecassino, pilgrims returning from Jerusalem called in at the port of Salerno, when a
Saracen attack occurred.
fought so valiantly that Prince
begged them to stay, but they refused and instead
offered to tell others back home of the prince's request.
William of Apulia tells that, in 1016,
pilgrims to the shrine of the Archangel Michael at Monte Gargano were met by Melus of
Bari, a Lombard freedom-fighter, who
persuaded them to return with more warriors to help throw off the
Byzantine rule, which they
most prominent families to arrive in the Mediterranean were
descendants of Tancred of
Hauteville and the Drengots, of whom
Rainulf Drengot received the county
of Aversa, the first
Norman toehold in the south, from Duke Sergius IV of Naples in 1030.
rank by proclaiming Prince Guaimar
IV of Salerno
"Duke of Apulia and Calabria". He promptly awarded
their elected leader, William Iron
Arm, with the title of count with his capital of Melfi.
the Drengots had attained unto the principality of Capua
, and the
Emperor Henry III
ennobled the Hauteville leader, Drogo
, as dux et magister Italiae
comesque Normannorum totius Apuliae et Calabriae
these bases, the Normans eventually captured Sicily and Malta from the
Saracens, under the famous Robert
Guiscard, a Hauteville, and his young brother Roger the Great Count.
, was crowned king in
1130 (exactly one century after Rainulf was "crowned" count) by
Pope Anacletus II
. The kingdom of Sicily
lasted until 1194, when
it fell to the Hohenstaufens
Normans left their mark however in the many castles, such as the
Iron Arm's fortress at Squillace, and cathedrals, such as Roger II's at Cefalù, which dot the landscape and give a wholly distinct
architectural flavour to accompany its unique history.
Institutionally, the Normans combined the administrative machinery
of the Byzantines, Arabs, and Lombards with their own conceptions
of feudal law and order to forge a unique government. Under this
state, there was great religious freedom, and alongside the Norman
nobles existed a meritocratic bureaucracy of Jews, Muslims, and
Christians, both Catholic and Orthodox.
after the Normans first began to enter Italy, they entered the
Byzantine Empire, and then Armenia against the Pechenegs,
Bulgars, and especially Seljuk Turks.
The Norman mercenaries
first encouraged to come to the south by the Lombards to act
against the Byzantines soon fought in Byzantine service in Sicily.
They were prominent alongside Varangian
and Lombard contingents in the Sicilian campaign of George Maniaces
of 1038-40. There is debate
whether the Normans in Greek service were mostly or at all from
Norman Italy, and it now seems likely only a few came from there.
It is also unknown how many of the "Franks", as the Byzantines
called them, were Normans and not other Frenchmen.
One of the first Norman mercenaries to serve as a Byzantine general
in the 1050s.
however, there were already Norman mercenaries serving as far away
as Trebizond and Georgia. They were based at Malatya and Edessa, under the Byzantine duke of Antioch, Isaac
In the 1060s, Robert
led the Normans of Edessa against the Turks.
Roussel de Bailleul even tried to carve
out an independent state in Asia Minor with support from the local population, but he was
stopped by the Byzantine general Alexius Komnenos.
Normans joined Turkish forces to aid in the destruction of the
Armenians vassal-states of Sassoun and Taron in far eastern
Anatolia. Later, many took up service with the
Armenian states further south in Cilicia and
Mountains. A Norman named Oursel
led a force of "Franks" into the upper Euphrates valley in northern Syria.
to 1074, 8,000 of the 20,000 troops of the Armenian general Philaretus
Brachamius were Normans — formerly of Oursel — led by Raimbaud.
They even lent their ethnicity to
the name of their castle: Afranji, meaning "Franks." The known trade
between Amalfi and Antioch and
between Bari and Tarsus may be related to the presence of Italo-Normans in
those cities while Amalfi and Bari were under Norman rule in
Several families of Byzantine Greece were of Norman mercenary
origin during the period of the Comnenian Restoration
, when Byzantine
emperors were seeking out western European warriors. The Raoulii were
descended from an Italo-Norman named Raoul, the Petraliphae were
descended from a Pierre d'Aulps, and that group of Albanian clans known as the Maniakates were descended from
Normans who served under George
Maniaces in the Sicilian expedition of 1038.
The Normans were in contact with England from an early date.
were their original Viking brethren still ravaging the English
coasts, they occupied most of the important ports opposite England
across the Channel.
This relationship eventually produced
closer ties of blood through the marriage of Emma
, sister of Duke Richard II of Normandy
, and King
Ethelred II of England
Because of this, Ethelred fled to Normandy in 1013, when he was
forced from his kingdom by Sweyn
. His stay in Normandy (until 1016) influenced him and
his sons by Emma, who stayed in Normandy after Canute the Great
's conquest of the
When finally Edward the
returned from his father's refuge in 1041, at the
invitation of his half-brother Harthacanute
, he brought with him a
Norman-educated mind. He also brought many Norman counsellors and
fighters, some of whom established an English cavalry force. This
concept never really took root, but it is a typical example of the
attitudes of Edward. He appointed Robert of Jumièges archbishop of Canterbury
Ralph the Timid earl of Hereford
. He invited his
brother-in-law Eustace II of
to his court in 1051, an event which resulted in the
greatest of early conflicts between Saxon and Norman and ultimately
resulted in the exile of Earl Godwin of
Duke William II of Normandy
The invading Normans and their descendants
replaced the Anglo-Saxons
as the ruling
class of England. The nobility of England were part of a single
French-speaking culture and many had lands on both sides of the
channel. Early Norman kings of England were, as Dukes of Normandy,
vassals to the King of France. They may not have necessarily
considered England to be their most important holding (although it
brought the title of King - an important status symbol).
King Richard I (the Lionheart) is often
thought to epitomise a medieval English King, but he only spoke
French and spent more time in Aquitaine or on Crusade than in England.
Eventually, the Normans merged with the natives, combining
languages and traditions. In the course of the Hundred Years war
, the Norman aristocracy
often identified themselves as English. The Anglo-Norman language
from the French language
that was the subject of some humour by Geoffrey Chaucer
. The Anglo-Norman
language was eventually absorbed into the English language of their subjects (see
Old English language) and
influenced it, helping (along with the Norse language of the earlier Anglo-Norse settlers and the Latin
used by the church) the development of Middle English which would gain much
vocabulary of French origin.
before the Norman Conquest of England, the Normans had come into
contact with Wales.
Edward the Confessor had set up the aforementioned Ralph as earl of
Hereford and charged him with defending the Marches and warring
with the Welsh. In these original ventures, the Normans failed to
make any headway into Wales.
Subsequent to the Conquest, however, the
Marches came completely under the dominance of William's most
trusted Norman barons, including Bernard de Neufmarché, Roger of
Montgomery in Shropshire and Hugh
Lupus in Cheshire.
These Normans began a long period of slow
conquest during which almost all of Wales was at some point subject
to Norman interference. Norman words, such as baron
), first entered Welsh
at that time.
The legendary religious zeal of the Normans was exercised in
religious wars long before the First
carved out a Norman principality in Antioch
major foreign participants in the Reconquista in Iberia.
In 1018, Roger
travelled to the Iberian Peninsula to carve out a state
for himself from Moorish
lands, but failed.
In 1064, during the War of
, William of
led the papal army and took a huge booty.
Crusaders passing by the siege of Amalfi were joined
by Bohemond of Taranto and his
nephew Tancred with an
army of Italo-Normans. Bohemond was the de facto leader of
the Crusade during its passage through Asia Minor.
After the successful Siege of Antioch
in 1097, Bohemond began
carving out an independent principality around that city.
was instrumental in the conquest of Jerusalem and he worked for the expansion of the Crusader kingdom in Transjordan and the region of Galilee.
One of the claimants of the English throne opposing William the Conqueror
, Edgar Atheling
, eventually fled to Scotland.
King Malcolm III of Scotland
married Edgar's sister Margaret
, and came into
opposition to William who had already disputed Scotland's southern
borders. William invaded Scotland in 1072, riding as
far as the Abernethy where he met up with his fleet of ships.
Malcolm submitted, paid homage to William, and surrendered his son
as a hostage, beginning
a series of arguments as to whether the Scottish Crown owed
allegiance to the King of England.
Normans came into Scotland, building castles and founding noble
families who would provide some future kings such as Robert the Bruce
as well as founding
some of the Scottish clans
David I of Scotland
instrumental in introducing Normans and Norman culture to Scotland
, part of the process some
scholars call the "Davidian
". Having spent time at the court of Henry I of England
(married to David's
sister Maud of Scotland
needing them to wrestle the kingdom from his half-brother Máel Coluim mac Alaxandair
David had to reward many with lands. The process was continued
under David's successors, most intensely of all under William the Lion
. The Norman-derived
system was applied in varying degrees
to most of Scotland. Scottish clans of the name Ramsey, Fraser,
Hunter, Ogilvie, Lamont, Cameron, Douglas, Wallace, & Gordon to
name but a few can all be traced back to Norman ancestry.
The Normans had a profound effect on Irish culture and history
after their invasion at Bannow Bay
1169. Initially the Normans maintained a distinct culture and
ethnicity. Yet, with time, they came to be subsumed into Irish
culture to the point that it has been said that they became
Irish than the Irish themselves
." The Normans settled
mostly in an area in the east of Ireland, later known
as the Pale, and also built many fine
castles and settlements, including Trim Castle and Dublin
Both cultures intermixed, borrowing from
each other's language, culture and outlook. Norman descendants
today can be recognised by their surnames
such as French, (De) Roche, D'Arcy and Leacy are particularly
common in the southeast of Ireland, especially in the southern part
of County Wexford where the first Norman settlements were
Another common Norman-Irish name was Morell
(Murrell) derived from the French-Norman name Morel. Morell is also
the modern name for the Medieval Irish name of MacMurchada and
The Normans' architecture typically stands out as a new stage in
the architectural history of the regions which they subdued. They
spread a unique Romanesque
to England and Italy and the encastellation
of these regions with keeps
in their north French style fundamentally altered
the military landscape. Their style was characterised by rounded
(particularly over windows and doorways)
and massive proportions.
In Italy, the Normans incorporated elements of the native Islamic
, and Byzantine architecture
own, initiating a style known as Sicilian Romanesque
. In England, the
period of Norman architecture immediately succeeds that of the
the Early Gothic
In the visual arts, the Normans did not have the rich and
distinctive traditions of the cultures they conquered. However, in
the early eleventh century the dukes began a programme of church
reform, encouraging the Cluniac
of monasteries and patronising intellectual pursuits,
especially the proliferation of scriptoria
and the reconstitution of a
compilation of lost illuminated
. The church was utilised by the dukes as a unifying
force for their disparate duchy. The chief monasteries taking part in this
"renaissance" of Norman art and scholarship were Mont-Saint-Michel, Fécamp, Jumièges, Bec, Saint-Ouen, Saint-Evroul, and Saint-Wandrille. These centres were in contact with the
so-called "Winchester school", which channeled a pure Carolingian artistic tradition to
In the final decade of the eleventh and the first
of twelfth century, Normandy experienced a golden age of
illustrated manuscripts, but it was brief and the major scriptoria
of Normandy ceased to function after the midpoint of the
The Wars of Religion
sixteenth century and French
in the eighteenth successively destroyed much of
what existed in the way of the architectural and artistic remnant
of this Norman creativity. The first, by their violence, caused the
wanton destruction of many Norman edifices; and the second, by its
assault on religion, caused the purposeful destruction of religious
objects of any type and by its destabilisation of society resulted
in rampant pillaging.
By far the most famous work of Norman art is the Bayeux Tapestry
, which is not a tapestry
but a work of embroidery
. It was commissioned by Odo, the Bishop of
Bayeux and first Earl of Kent,
employing natives from Kent who were
learned in the Nordic traditions imported in the previous half
century by the Danish
In Britain, Norman art primarily survives as stonework
such as capitals
and baptismal fonts
. In southern Italy, however,
Norman artwork survives plentifully in forms strongly influenced by
its Greek, Lombard, and Arab forebears. Of the royal regalia
preserved in Palermo, the crown is Byzantine in style and the
coronation cloak is of Arab craftsmanship with Arabic
inscriptions. Many churches preserve
sculptured fonts, capitals, and more importantly mosaics, which
were common in Norman Italy and drew heavily on the Greek heritage.
Lombard Salerno was a centre of ivorywork
the eleventh century and this continued under Norman domination.
Finally should be noted the intercourse between French Crusaders
traveling to the Holy Land who brought with them French artefacts
with which to gift the churches at which they stopped in southern
Italy amongst their Norman cousins. For this reason many south
Italian churches preserve works from France alongside their native
Normandy was the site of several important developments in the
history of Western music
eleventh century. Fécamp Abbey and Saint-Evroul
Abbey were centres of musical production and education.
At Fécamp, under two Italian abbots, William of Volpiano
and John of Ravenna
, the system of denoting
notes by letters was developed and taught. It is still the most
common form of pitch representation in English- and German-speaking
countries today. Also at Fécamp, the staff
, around which neumes
were oriented, was first developed and taught
in the eleventh century. Under the German abbot Isembard, La
Trinité-du-Mont became a centre of musical
At Saint Evroul, a tradition of singing had developed and the choir
achieved fame in Normandy. Under the Norman abbot Robert de Grantmesnil, several monks
of Saint-Evroul fled to southern Italy, where they were patronised
by Robert Guiscard and established a Latin monastery at Sant'Eufemia.
There they continued the tradition of
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