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Vikings in Paris: attacks and looting

The Viking Age took place  between 789 and 1100 , a period in which there were numerous attacks in various parts of the world. Europe is a territory that has been hit by these Viking attacks and Paris, the French capital, is an example of such battles. If you are interested in learning more about the Viking attacks in Paris , keep reading what we are about to tell you.


845: Ragnar Lodbrok leads the Vikings to Paris

The first thing to keep in mind is that Paris was not yet the capital of France . At that time, the Frankish king did not have a fixed residence. In fact, he moved from one point to another according to administrative needs or the circumstances of the moment. For this reason, the government and officials went where the king went.

The Vikings had already attacked the Frankish territory before, but it was March 28 845 when  Ragnar Lodbrok , the protagonist of the  Vikings series , decided to enter Paris via the Seine with 120 ships. The king tempted Charles II the Bald tried to stop the attack without success before it caused serious consequences. The Vikings defeated local forces and took 111 prisoners. These prisoners were hanged on the shore, in full view of the Frankish soldiers.

The forces of the Vikings had proved superior, but Charles II the Bald  paid a tribute in silver and gold that would have amounted to 7,000 pounds or 2,570 kilograms  in exchange for their withdrawal. The Norwegian accepted the deal, but they camped nearby, waiting for a better time to attack the city.

Around this time, an epidemic struck the Viking group . Although it was eventually overcome, the disease caused numerous deaths for Ragnar Lodbrok. The caudillo was forced to retreat, thus ending the first Viking incursion into Paris.

viking attack paris

The siege of Paris, gathered on the Ile de la Cité, required ingenuity on the part of the Vikings.

885: Rollo carries out a Viking siege of Paris

Decades after this great raid, the situation in France took a bad turn. King Louis III was dead and the Frankish empire was disunited . This political instability was perfect for a new Viking visit to Paris.

By 882, the Norwegians had already attacked Rouen. Paris now had more modern bridges and fortifications , but that did not prevent the Vikings, with Rollo and Siegfried leading the group, from arriving on the Seine in November 885. There were 700 ships.

If the situation regarding the throne was chaotic, the defense of the Parisian city was no less chaotic. Ugo the Abbot, who until then had been in charge of the protection of Paris, fell ill and died months later. Gozlin, Bishop Gozlin of St-Denis, and Eudes, the Earl of Paris, took over. The former would have died during the siege of the plague, so it was Eudes who was finally in charge of defending the city.

Vikings: the creator of the series plays the mystery with the appearance of Rollo

We must emphasize that  the main focus of Rollo’s expedition was not Paris , but Burgundy. However, to reach this rich territory the Scandinavians had to get rid of the fortifications of the bridges of Paris to go up the Seine with their Viking ships . Faced with this inconvenience, the attack on the city began.

Siege tactics to overcome fortifications

The Vikings decided to besiege Paris, setting up a camp at the Abbey of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois. Among other tactics, Rollo’s men even built a siege tower to try and take those who stood at the head of the bridges. Attacks occurred constantly, but the Parisians continued to resist. Abbo, a monk who witnessed the siege, relates that Bishop Gozlin himself launched into combat, returning the Vikings to their initial positions.

In winter, the siege was still stalled and the Vikings are believed to have staged another major attack in February. However, even then they did not manage to take the towers. They also attempted to attack the Petit-Pont with  burning ships , but sank before they had time to reach their target.

However, in February 886 there was a stroke of luck for the Vikings: a flood of the Seine engulfed the Petit-Pont. Not only that, but a plague outbreak in Paris killed Gozlin and many other citizens.

The unfortunate intervention of Carlos III 

Count Eudes, faced with such fatalities, asked King Charles for help. The monarch sent an army commanded by Henry of Saxony, one of his main men. But this one died under strange circumstances and his troops fled losing their leader. It was already summer when Rollo and his Vikings launched another major attack on Paris, which was again repulsed.

In October 886, almost a year after the start of the Viking siege of Paris, Emperor Charles arrived with a large army. Instead of fighting the Nordics, the French monarch signed a pact with them: he  paid them a tribute of 700 pounds of silver and allowed them to continue on to Burgundy.

The Vikings accepted such generous treatment and resumed their journey to Burgundy. When they finished ravaging this region, they returned to Paris to attack it again . The Parisians reacted by defending their city until the invaders left.

The heroic defense of Eudes spread throughout the kingdom and the count achieved great fame. On the contrary, a great aversion to the emperor Carlos III el Gordo grew among the people  , branded as a coward and incompetent. Indeed, Carlos would have been deposed from the throne in 887 and his empire would have been disintegrated into various kingdoms. Eudes was proclaimed king of western France.

More Viking attacks in Paris

Although we highlighted these two attacks, they were by no means the only ones. There were many other Viking attacks in Paris . One of these occurred in 856, when the Norwegians took Clermont. The third capture of the city occurred in 861.

On the other hand, it is necessary to talk about the Normans , conquerors of Scandinavia, and mostly Danish Vikings, who settled in northeastern France. They received what was later known as the Duchy of Normandy from the King of France , to whom they had sworn allegiance. Later, in the 11th century, the Normans, together with the French and Bretons, invaded England.

The Viking alphabet

The Viking era   spans a long period of time, so there are many important historical events and battles around it. In this text we wanted to focus on the  Viking attacks in Paris . Undoubtedly, Paris is more than the French Revolution or Napoleon’s events. His past with the Vikings is an exciting part of the story not to be missed.

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