Why did Vikings steal from Christians?

Monasteries were known targets of Viking raids. Matthew Ponesse helps us understand why.

Just think of it. Those poor Christian monks minding their own business dedicating themselves to God living lives of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and then boom! Vikings start showing up to terrorize and steal from them, and then do it again and again and again. Why? What on earth could have brought this catastrophe upon those defenseless religious communities?

In this episode, we sit down with Dr. Matthew Ponesse of Ohio Dominican University, an expert in 8th and 9th-century Frankish monasticism — you know, the kind created and supported by that medieval super King and Emperor Charlemagne — to get a sense of what they had that Vikings wanted so badly.

He talks to us about what it meant to become a monk, the role and place of monasteries in the Carolingian and Viking worlds, and why he’s been able to spend his entire academic career ignoring Vikings even though they hammered the Frankish Empire repeatedly throughout the 9th century.

We also chat about the importance of book production and education in monasteries as well. Check out this video clip from the Getty Museum in Los Angeles to learn just how time and resource-intensive it was to make a medieval book.

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