Viking Kings Had Glass Windows Long Before Medieval Churches

Viking kings and nobles were among the first in history to put glass into the windows of their timber-framed longhouses, archaeologists have discovered.

Early glass windows are usually associated with medieval churches or European castles in later medieval times.

But now experts say some of the earliest finds date back 1,100 years to Viking halls in Scandinavia where nobles thought the light from them was magical.

A new study has revealed that glass fragments were found at six Viking-era excavation sites in Sweden, Denmark and Hedeby in northern Germany.

Photo shows Mads Dengso Jessen, Senior Researcher at the National Museum of Denmark, with a piece of window glass fragment from the Viking Age, undated. New research has revealed that the Vikings had windows with glass panes. (ohn Fhaer Engedal Nissen, The National Museum of Denmark/Newsflash)

Scientists had already unearthed 61 shards at the farms of Viking noblemen, pre-Christian temples and early urban environments.

But at the time they believed these had come from pillaged spoils of raids on more sophisticated settlements.

Now chemical analysis has revealed that the fragments were all made from local Near Eastern soda glass or Northern European potash glass.

Both can reportedly be dated to well before the 12th century, long before medieval churches and castles were constructed.

Conservator Torben Sode, who first noticed the amazing find, said in a statement obtained by Newsflash: “Several fragments of glass windows found on important Viking Age sites in South Scandinavia, made us wonder if it was just a mere coincidence that they were there.

“And it wasn’t, they can be dated to the Vikings Age and most likely must have been in use in that time period as well.”

Photo shows window glass found in Haithabu in Schleswig, undated. New research has revealed that the Vikings had windows with glass panes. (The National Museum of Denmark/Newsflash)
Photo shows window glass fragments found at Viking sites, undated. New research has revealed that the Vikings had windows with glass panes. (The National Museum of Denmark/Newsflash)

Senior Researcher at the National Museum of Denmark Mads Dengso Jessen explained that the Vikings were far more advanced than people normally believe.

Jessen said: “This is yet another shift away from the image of unsophisticated barbaric Vikings swinging their swords around.

“In fact, we are talking about a cultivated Viking elite with royal power that equalled that, for example, of Charlemagne, king of the Franks.

“This is something that is often omitted in the simplistic Hollywood portraits of Vikings.”

Experts believe Vikings picked up the skills for glassmaking further south in Europe through trade.

The Romans are widely acknowledged as the first to have begun using glass in windows in about 100 AD before the technology was lost with the fall of the Roman Empire.

Jessen explained: “We know that well-known Vikings, such as Harald Klak, visited the south, where the Vikings had a political network and close trade links.

Photo shows a map over Vikinge sites where window glass fragments have been found, undated. New research has revealed that the Vikings had windows with glass panes. (The National Museum of Denmark/Newsflash)

“So, of course, they were familiar with glass panes from the buildings of society’s upper echelons there.

“It is thus also very likely that the Vikings also had glazed windows – a fact now confirmed by recent research.”

Early Viking glass, said Jessen, was usually brown and green and kept only for noble halls.

Its purpose, he said, was not to be able to look outside, but to create decorative, colourful light in the hall.

Sode added: “It is also reasonable to assume that they regarded the presence of glass windows as something special and magical that could let sunlight in and illuminate the room while keeping out cold, wind, and rain.”

The discovery was published in the journal ‘Danish Journal of Archaeology’ on 27th July.


To find out more about the author, editor or agency that supplied this story – please click below.
Story By: Georgina JadikovskaSub-Editor: Joseph Golder, Agency:  Newsflash

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