11 Centuries of Limerick | No. 1 The Vikings

Perhaps there is a little Viking in all of us! To celebrate Limerick’s 11 centuries of existence.

Keywords: Hunt Museum, Limerick, Vikings, Medieval, River Shannon,

Sian McInerneySian McInerney

5 mins to read

16 August, 2022

Neck-ring | Metal,silver | 10th to 11th century AD | The Hunt Collection | PD

This year Limerick is celebrating 11 busy centuries of existence. There was likely already some settlement of people in Limerick before the arrival of the Vikings circa.922. The river Shannon, called after Sionnna the Celtic goddess and possessor of wisdom, was already an ideal location for a settlement of traders. However, the particular topography and geographical location of Limerick would no doubt have appealed to the first Vikings settlers. The location of Limerick, between the Shannon and the Abbey rivers, its proximity to the wide Shannon estuary and the inland waterways would have made it an appealing location for intrepid colonisers!


Although the exact location of the first settlement is not known, the topography of King’s Island surrounded by the two rivers would have been the perfect fortified setting. It is hard to imagine now that there were once Viking long boats dominating the river Shannon, but from here the Shannon estuary and its islands (e.g. Scattery Island) and further up the river were settlements and monasteries that provided the perfect opportunity to pillage and conquer. This Viking settlement would go on to be called Limerick. Limerick had a commanding and strategic position. The river is tidal and provided easy access to the wealth of treasures that were now accessible further inland.  


The Vikings were a Norse-speaking group of people who had a huge influence on much of Europe. They created settlements in newly conquered states. In Ireland, they attacked the Early Christian monasteries whose religious treasures were of enormous value. Early Christian Ireland was a time of exquisite artwork, metalwork as well as gold and jewels. Many of these were held in monasteries and treasured by the monks. Viking settlers looted monasteries and other settlements to pilfer such treasures which were then brought back to Denmark/Sweden. A good deal of these treasures were melted down. Evidence of such practice was discovered in excavations in Dublin.

The trading routes that were established by the Vikings, especially those used for the trade of   coins and precious metals proved important in the development of much of Europe. The Vikings were also skilled craftspeople being particularly proficient in silversmithing. The following Silver necklace or torc is thought to be of Viking origin. It shows the intricate work involved to produce such a piece.


Neck-ring/Metal, silver/10th to 11th century AD/The Hunt Collection/PD

Neck-ring/Metal, silver/10th to 11th century AD/The Hunt Collection/PD

Neck-ring/Metal, silver/10th to 11th century AD/The Hunt Collection/PD

Neck-ring/Metal, silver/10th to 11th century AD/The Hunt Collection/PD

The second item is a sword. Without swords and other weapons, it is unlikely that the Vikings would have been as successful in their colonisation of new lands. Their most common weapons were the sword, the axe and the spear. The sword was the most prestigious item. It was the most expensive to create because of the quantity of iron used in its manufacture. Swords were often decorated and sometimes given names. Although we do not know the name of this sword – or if it had a name – it is believed to be of the Viking era.

Sword/Metal, Iron/9th or 10th century AD (possibly)/The Hunt Collection/PD

Sword/Metal, Iron/9th or 10th century AD (possibly)/The Hunt Collection/PD

Many of the Viking settlements developed into Ireland’s main settlements such as Waterford, Dublin and Limerick. Historians believe that the Limerick Vikings were subjugated to those in Dublin for at least a hundred years. Despite this, their biggest threat was from what was to come in the following century… 

This threat turned out to be the Normans – and the Normans really made their mark on Limerick…  


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