15. Viking Congress 2005 – Cork, Ireland


18th - 27th August.


Viking Age Ireland, The Development of Urbanism, Scandinavia and the Continent, Weapons, Warfare and society.


Her Excellency Mary McAleese, Uachtarán na hÉireann.

Organising Committee:

Donnchadh Ó Corráin, Department of History, University College Cork

John Sheehan, Department of Archaeology, University College Cork

Patrick F. Wallace, National Museum of Ireland.


Student Assistants:

Emer Purcell, Department of History

GriffinMurray, Department of Archaeology

National Representatives:

Denmark: Else Roesdahl, Niels Lund.

England: Judith Jesch, James-Graham Campbell.

Iceland: Guðmundur Ólafsson, Svavar Sigmundsson.

Ireland: John Sheehan, Patrick Wallace.

Norway: Dagfinn Skre, Sigrid Kaland.

Scotland: Doreen Waugh, Christopher C. Morris.

Sweden: Anne-Sofie Gräslund, Helmer Gustavson.

Delegates of the Congress:

Members and Associates



Jan Bill, Gillian Fellows-Jensen, Claus Feveile, Pernille Hermann, Poul Holm (accompanied by Dorthe Uldall and Kristoffer Holm), Michael Lerche Nielsen, Niels Lund, Anne Pedersen, Else Roesdahl, Jens Peter Schjødt, Søren Michael Sindbæk.



Lesley Abrams, Michael Barnes, Mark Blackburn, Paul Buckland, Jayne Carroll, James Graham-Campbell, Richard Hall, Judith Jesch, David Parsons, Julian Richards, Leslie Webster, Gareth Williams.


Faroe Islands

Steffen Stummann Hansen



Jette Arneborg



Anton Holt, Guðmundur Ólafsson, Vésteinn Ólason (accompanied by Unnur Alexandra Jónsdóttir), Svavar Sigmundsson (accompanied by Thorgerdur Arnadóttir), þórgunnur Snædal, Gísli Sigurðsson, Guðrún Sveinbjarnardóttir, Orri Vésteinsson.



Kristin Bornholdt Collins (accompanied by Guy J.D. Collins and Lyra Bornholdt Collins), Howard Clarke, Michael Connolly, Colmán Etchingham (accompanied by Cathy Swift), Andy Halpin, Stephen H. Harrison, Maurice Hurley, Jørgen H. Jørgensen, Eamonn P. Kelly, Anne-Christine Larsen, Thomas Martin, Finbar McCormick, Máire Ní Mhaonaigh, Tomás Ó Carragáin, Donnchadh Ó Corráin, Barra Ó Donnabháin, Raghnall Ó Floinn, Dáire O’Rourke, John Sheehan, Maeve Sikora, Linzi Simpson, William J. Smyth, Patrick F. Wallace, Niamh Whitfield.



Sverre Bagge, Signe Horn Fuglesang, Jan Ragnar Hagland, Sigrid Kaland, James E. Knirk (accompanied by Kari Egeland), Else Mundal, Berit Sellevold, Dagfinn Skre, Anne Stalsberg, Sæbjørg Walaker Nordeide, Ingvild Øye.



James Barrett, Colleen Batey, Clare Downham (accompanied by David Dumville), Kevin Edwards, Ian Fisher, David Griffiths, Arne Kruse, Raymond Lamb, Olwyn Owen, Caroline Paterson, Doreen Waugh, Alex Woolf.



Stefan Brink, Anne-Sofie Gräslund, Helmer Gustavson, Thomas Lindkvist, Rune Palm, Neil Price, Daniel Sävborg, Olof Sundqvist, Claus von Carnap-Bornheim.



Nancy Edwards, John Hines, Alan Lane.



Student Delegates

Andres Dobat (Denmark), Hildur Gestsdóttir (Iceland), Gunhild Hovik Hansen (Wales), Shannon Lewis-Simpson (England), John Maas (Ireland), Mogens Skaaning Høegsberg (Denmark), Griffin Murray (Ireland), Ole-Magne Nøttveit (Norway), Emer Purcell (Ireland), Jonas Wellendorf (Norway).


St.Flannan’s Cathedral at Killaloe, Beal Boru, King John’s Castle, Limerick, St Mary’s Cathedral, Woodstown longphort, Waterford Treasures exhibition.


The Heritage Council, Arts Faculty Conference Fund, UCC, Beamish and Crawford Ltd, Department of Archaeology, UCC, Department of History, UCC, Four Courts Press, Limerick City Council, Midleton Distillery, National Museum of Ireland, Shannon Heritage, Waterford City Council, Wordwell Ltd.


Congress Diary: 

Delegates arrived at University College Cork on Wednesday, 17 August 2005. Formal proceedings began next morning with a welcome by the College President, Professor Gerard Wrixon. This was followed by a busy day of lectures on the main Congress theme, Viking-Age Ireland. Before dinner that evening many delegates enjoyed a walking tour of UCC’s campus. Later they attended a reception in the Staff Common Room, hosted by the Department of Archaeology and the Department of History. Here an important new work on the earliest Viking activity in the south-west, Underworld: Death and Burial in Cloghermore Cave, Co. Kerry, by Michael Connolly and Frank Coyne, was launched.


Friday morning was devoted to papers on the second theme of the Congress, the Development of Urbanism. Following lunch, the members of Congress looked in at the poster sessions prepared by the student delegates. That evening they attended a reception where they were joined by many members of Munster’s archaeological and historical societies. After the reception,  Donnchadh Ó Corráin gave a public lecture on ‘Irish and Vikings in the North Atlantic’. A vote of thanks was proposed by James Graham-Campbell.


Saturday was entirely devoted to a coach excursion to Limerick and Clare, conducted by Patrick F. Wallace. The first stop was Killaloe, a pre-Norman borough and early capital of the Dál Cais kings. Here, too, Magnus Barelegs spent a winter as the guest of Muirchertach Ó Briain, king of Munster. The delegates visited St Flannan’s Cathedral and examined its rune-inscribed stone and twelfth-century high cross. They also visited nearby Béal Boru, a fortress commanding the passage up and down the river Shannon, the Viking highway to the Irish midlands. Following lunch in the Medieval Inn, Limerick, there was a tour of the thirteenth-century King John’s Castle in the heart of the medieval city. This included a visit to its in situ remains of Viking-Age houses. A mayoral reception for the Congress delegates was hosted in the castle by the Right Worshipful Councillor Dermot Scully. This was followed by a visit to the nearby St Mary’s Cathedral, hosted by the Very Reverend the Dean of Limerick, Dr Maurice Sirr.On the return journey to Cork the delegates enjoyed a splendid dinner in Springfort Hall and a post-prandial stroll in its tranquil gardens.


On Sunday the Congress returned to its main theme and devoted the full day to Viking-Age Ireland. Following dinner that evening, the delegates bravely undertook a walking tour of Viking and Medieval Cork (or, as it turned out, part of it) in pouring rain. This was led by Maurice Hurley, City Archaeologist, and included visits to St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral and South Main Street, the latter being the core of Viking Cork. The tour was followed by a much needed and generous reception hosted by Beamish & Crawford in their historic brewery. A memorable vote of thanks to our hosts was proposed by Jørgen H. Jørgensen.


On Monday the delegates spent the day on a coach excursion to Waterford, organised by Eamonn McEneaney and Dáire O’Rourke. This began with a visit to the newly-discovered and very important Viking site at Woodstown, on the banks of the River Suir, above Waterford. Following lunch, delegates took part in a seminar on the Woodstown site, chaired by Patrick F. Wallace. This included short presentations by Dáire O’Rourke and Maurice Hurley. Afterwards there was a tour of the Waterford Treasures exhibition, led by Orla Scully, and a reception hosted by Waterford City Council in Reginald’s Tower, the oldest civic urban structure in Ireland, the precursor of which may have been Dundory, a tenth-century Viking fortification. On the return journey to Cork delegates dined well at Aherne’s Seafood Restaurant and the Coach House Restaurant, at Youghal. The Vikings had a settlement at Youghal in the ninth century, as the delegates were reminded.


On Tuesday the Congress addressed a third theme, Scandinavia and the Continent. Following afternoon tea, the congress photograph (see plate) was taken in the President’s Garden at University College Cork, and the day’s formal academic proceedings ended. There followed the meeting of the Congress Council. This was chaired by Donnchadh Ó Corráin, and it was unanimously agreed that the next Congress, that of 2009, should be held in Iceland. That evening the XVth Viking Congress Banquet, with a ‘Viking’ menu, took place at Hayfield Manor Hotel, beside the University. It was a memorable occasion, made poignant by the members’ recollections of those distinguished scholars who had died since the notable Congress of 2001 on the Faroe Islands.


Wednesday, 24 August, the final day of the main Congress, was devoted to papers on the last theme of the Congress, Weapons and Warfare. Some delegates departed that evening, others prepared for the post-Congress tours.


The first post-Congress tour, a coach trip to county Tipperary, took place next morning. Led by Tomás Ó Carragáin, it began with an extended visit to one of Ireland’s best-known monuments, the Rock of Cashel. This was the royal centre of the kingdom of Munster before it became its ecclesiastical capital and seat of its archbishop. Its kings played a notable role in the Viking wars. The delegates inspected several important monuments, including the round tower and the twelfth-century high cross. They visited Cormac’s Chapel, a very early example of Irish Romanesque which has a sarcophagus ornamented in the Urnes style. During lunch in nearby Brú Boru, delegates were treated to a performance of traditional Irish song and dance. In the afternoon a trip was made to the Glen of Aherlow where the ecclesiastical sites of Toureen Peakaun, raided by the Vikings in 830, and Berrihert’s Kyle, named after Berechert, the Anglo-Saxon saint, were visited.


Next day, Friday, delegates rose well before dawn to set out in darkness by coach to the westernmost part of county Kerry, the Iveragh peninsula. Dawn had broken over the mountains of Kerry when they reached Killarney, the heartland of the kingdom of the Eoganacht of Loch Léin who had fought, with some success, against their Viking attackers in the early ninth century. The coach travelled west along the valley of the Laune, the Vikings’ access route to Eoganacht of Loch Léin, and then along the north shore of the Iveragh peninsula, where one overlooks Dingle Bay, the site of much ninth-century Viking activity. Refreshed by plentiful mugs of tea and  thick slices of porter cake at O’Keeffe’s Bar on the pier at Portmagee, they boarded the three half-deckers for the twelve-kilometre Atlantic journey to Skellig Michael. The sea was rough (as it should be) and the sea legs (and indeed much else besides) of many notable Viking scholars were put to the test. None failed. The skill of the boatmen and the derring-do of the delegates (especially at the landing-stage) prevailed. Led by John Sheehan, they climbed the steep steps to the summit and spent hours in bright sunshine inspecting Ireland’s most dramatically situated early medieval monastery and its marine environment. This unique site, which contains the best-preserved oratories and beehive huts in Ireland, was raided by the Vikings several times. Just before leaving, the delegates toasted in Irish whiskey the memory of Abbot Étgal who died as a prisoner of the Vikings in the course of a raid on Skellig in 824. It was eirenically agreed that he had died by misadventure, namely, because of cultural misunderstanding.


Congress delegates rest at Skellig Michael after a steep klimb to the monastery.


The final day of the post-Congress tour, in glorious weather, was led by DonnchadhÓ Corráin. It began with a leisurely boat cruise down the River Lee to Cork Harbour, where there are several sites of Scandinavian origin as well as some Norse place-names, notably Foaty and Dunkettle. The delegates disembarked at Cóbh, the old transatlantic liner port and took lunch in a restaurant overlooking the harbour. Then they transferred to a coach to visit important sites in east Cork and west Waterford. They went first to Ardmore, a rich monastic site with a panoramic view of the ocean. It has ogham stones, a very well-preserved round tower, and important Romanesque frieze. The tour then turned inland and followed the heavily wooded valley of the Blackwater northwards to the great medieval ecclesiastical sites of Molana and Lismore. Molana is famous as a riverside monastery that had a distinguished school of early-medieval canon law. Lismore was the greatest and richest ecclesiastical centre in the east of the kingdom of Munster, and notable for its learning. Both were raided several times by the Vikings. The tour returned to Cork city inland through the lush farmlands of Waterford and Cork. Following dinner at University College Cork that evening, the delegates retired for final farewell drinks at the Kingsley Hotel. Haec olim meminisse juvabit.





We acknowledge, with thanks, the generous support given the Congress by the Heritage Council, its principal sponsor, and by the following: Beamish and Crawford Ltd; Four Courts Press; Limerick City Council; Midleton Distillery Ltd; National Museum of Ireland; Shannon Heritage Ltd;UCC Arts Faculty Conference Fund; UCC Department of Archaeology; UCC Department of History; Waterford City Council; and Wordwell Ltd.


Finally, it gives the Organising Committee great pleasure to acknowledge the unfailing enthusiasm, energy and courtesy of its assistants: Emer Purcell, Department of History, and Griffin Murray, Department of Archaeology.



Congress Proceedings: