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The term Norman is used in different meanings. On the one hand, it is used in German as a generic term for all Scandinavians of the Middle Ages . On the other hand, the word denotes the inhabitants of the Duchy of Normandy , whose original ethnic composition has not yet been fully clarified, and in particular their chief families of Scandinavian descent and their descendants in southern Italy, England and elsewhere. Over time, however, the second term has established itself as the usual one.


The German word Normanne comes from Latin sources in which the equivalents nortmanni , northmanni and nordmanni can be found. It has its origins in Scandinavian , where norðmaðr ( Pl. Norðmenn ) refers to people who live in or come from Nordic countries ( norðrlönd ) without the specific geographical assignment being available. Sometimes the word specifically refers to "Norwegian" as a synonym for noregsmaðr . Nordmannus ( Sg. To nordmanni ) is also synonymous with dacus " Dacian " is used.


The Normans in the narrower sense are descendants of the Vikings who were admitted to the Frankish Empire in 911 , who accepted Christianity and quickly acculturated. They named the area Normandy after their origin . The second identification of the Normans with the inhabitants of Scandinavia from the end of the 8th to the 11th century, which only exists in German, comes from the terminology of the Carolingian authors who called the Vikings who invaded in the 9th century "Nordmannen". In historical research as well as in French and English, however, a distinction is made between Normans and Vikings.


The sources are poor. While the 9th century is relatively well covered by the Annals of St. Bertin and the Annales Vedastini and the period after 919 by the work of Flodoard von Reims , there is little for the further decades of the 10th century. There is Dudo from Saint-Quentin's “De moribus et actis primorum Normanniæ ducum”, written between 1015 and 1026, a text with many errors and inaccuracies. So Dudo is the leader of the Normans in the 10th century as dukes, although this title was used until 1006, and he speaks anachronistic of Normandy as a territorial unit that currently blinds did not exist. In contrast, Flodoard describes the leader as "Princeps Normannorum". Flodoard has also described the processes. He is considered the more reliable chronicler. Another source is the history of the duces Normannorum des Guilelmus Gemeticensis (also Wilhelm von Jumièges , Wilhelmus Calculus). He lived in the 11th century. He drew from Dudo's works and from the traditions of the Jumièges monastery.

Historical context

Norman territories in the 12th century
Bronze lion statue around 1100, Italo-Norman , now in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art

Incursions and settlements

It is not certain which Scandinavians it was. At first you had to deal with predatory Vikings who plagued the northern French coasts. They came mainly from Denmark, but also from Norway. This Viking prehistory can be summarized as follows:

84100 Assault on Rouen
84200 Attack on Quentovic Harbor Square
84300 Establishment of a permanent Viking settlement of the Loire-Normans on the island of Noirmoutier
84400 Attack on Toulouse and the Spanish coast
84500 Attack on Paris
85100 Establishment of a base on the Seine island Oissel in front of Rouen
85600 Attack on Paris
86500 Raid on Orléans and Le Mans
86600 Assault on Melun
87900 Attack on Flanders, fixed base in Asselt , from there raids into the Rhine area and the Weser area
88300 Assault on Duisburg
88500 Attack on Paris
89600 Incursion into the Seine area , Meuse , Loire to Burgundy
90300 Incursion across the Loire estuary

According to Snorri , a pirate named Hrolf ( Gange-Hrolf ) is said to have been on a raid in Norway after King Harald Fairhair had issued a ban on raids within his country. This led to Hrolf's banishment.

"Göngu-Hrólfur för síðan vestur um hafí Suðureyjar og þaðan fór hann vestur í Valland og herjaði þar og gepiðist jarlsríki mikið og byggðiþar mjög Norðmönnum og ermand þar síð. Af Hrólfs ætt eru komnir jarlar í Norðmandí. Sonur Göngu-Hrólfs var Vilhjálmur, faðir Ríkarðar, föður annars Ríkarðar, föður löngumspaða, föður Vilhjálms bastarðar Englakonungs. Frá honum eru síðan komnir Englakonungar allir. "

“Gang-Hrolf then drove to the West Sea to the Hebrides, from there to France. There he armied, conquered a powerful Jarl empire and settled many Normans there. Therefore this country is called "Normandy". The Jarle of Normandy come from Hrolf's family. Gang-Hrolf's son was Wilhelm, Richard's father. His son was Richard the Second, the father of Robert Longsword, his son Wilhelm the Bastard, the King of England. All English kings come from him. "

- Snorri Sturluson, Heimskringla, Saga Konungs Haralds hárfagra chap. 25, translation by Felix Niedner.

This representation is the well-known roller blind . However, whether Snorri was right with this equation is increasingly doubted, because the continental sources consider Rollo to be a Dane.

In 911 the Vikings suffered a major defeat in the Battle of Chartres . The predatory drive was already slacking off. The great losses of warriors could no longer be replenished because the pirate way of life in the home countries with the strengthening of the royal central power no longer found support - as Harald Fairhair's approach shows - and his own offspring also increasingly failed to materialize. So it happened that the Vikings gradually became tired of war and looked for settlement areas.

“Satis præliati sumus, Francosque debellavimus; consequens videtur nobis ut requiescamus, fructibusque terræ patienter fruamur "

“We fought enough and defeated the Franks. Now we prefer to retire and enjoy the fruits of the land in peace. "

- Dudonis Decani S. Quintini Viromand: De gestis Normanniæ ducum libri tres. Liber II. Rollo.


Charles III was the last Roman emperor from the Carolingian dynasty , who also ruled over the West Franconian Empire. He was followed by the powerful Count Odo of Paris , ruler of Neustria , the landscape between the Scheldt and Loire, who, with Paris and many rich abbeys, had a relatively stable power base in western France. After him came King Charles III. , the “simple-minded” (898–923). But the latter no longer had the power that the Carolingians had earlier, and only had a small area of ​​power north of Paris with Laon as its center . Power was split between the greats of the country, who claimed national defense for themselves. The most powerful competitor for power was Robert , Odo's younger brother. A compromise was reached between king and count, which made it possible to develop a common strategy against the raids of the Vikings. That ultimately led to a 911 victory in Chartres . A part of the Vikings withdrew, another part started negotiations under Rollo with King Karl and Count Robert of Paris, who has now become Odos' successor. The Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte came about . According to Dudo of St. Quentin , Rollo is said to have received the area from the Epte to the Atlantic. In any case, he reports that Berengar and Alain, princes of Brittany , took the oath of allegiance to Rollo . This does not coincide with the other sources. Flodoard , a contemporary of the events, writes that they had shade the city Rouen and some to belong districts given. It is assumed that it was initially the area of ​​the present-day departments of Seine-Maritime , Eure , Calvados , Manche and parts of Orne . Wilhelm Langschwert received further areas as fiefs from King Rudolf of Burgundy in 924, the Bessin , the Hiémois and Maine . In 933, Cotentin and Avranchin were added. However, these leanings are poorly documented in terms of sources, because Dudo and Flodoard only give imprecise information about these areas.

It is not clear from the sources what legal status Rollo had in the West Franconian Empire. Dudo names seven legal acts:

  • The coming hand gesture
  • The engagement rollout with the king's daughter
  • Transfer of land
  • The kiss on the feet
  • The sworn guarantee of the king and the great
  • One year later the baptism in Rouen
  • The marriage of Rollos with the king's daughter Gisla.

The interlocking of the hands, called “the walk” in feudal law, was to be understood by the readers of Dudo as a rite of leanings. But the engagement and the subsequent wedding raise questions. Because the king did not have a marriageable daughter named Gisla. He got married for the first time in 907. According to the Norman warriors, she should not have been a premarital daughter. Even the kiss on the feet should not be historical, because it was not part of the lean-back ritual, it was not at all custom at that time. Dudo calls Rollo “dux”, although this title has not yet been granted to the Dukes of Normandy in 911. The waiting period of one year is to be understood in the sense of the catechumenate : The preparation for baptism through instruction in Christian doctrine, prayers and the creed. Rollos legal status is exaggerated by Dudo: as dux of Normandy he had committed himself to royal service, but only as far as the other duces, e.g. B. Robert of Neustria. He was equal to the king. He was also a patricius with inheritance title over the whole of Normandy. He is also legally obliged to Robert von Neustrien , who was his godfather. How his legal status was actually defined in the Frankish Empire cannot be determined from Dudo's report.

Incursions in the Mediterranean

In the southern Italian areas they ruled from around 1030. Individual groups of Normans extended their forays into the Mediterranean at the beginning of the 11th century and established themselves in the area around Naples , at Aversa and Capua . Eventually they gained control over almost all of southern Italy and Sicily , which they conquered from the Saracens .

Settlement in the British Isles

In 1066, the Norman Duke William conquered England after the Battle of Hastings . Edgar Ætheling , one of Wilhelm's competitors for the English throne, finally fled to Scotland. King Malcolm III married Margaret, Edgar's sister, in opposition to William, who had already questioned the southern borders of Scotland. In 1072 William raided Scotland and rode as far as Abernethy, where he met his fleet. Malcolm submitted to Wilhelm and paid homage to him, giving him his son Duncan as a hostage. Since then there have been repeated arguments about whether the Scottish crown owed obedience to the King of England.

Normans arrived in Scotland, built castles and founded noble families, the future kings such as Robert I. presented. They also formed some Scottish clans . Alexander I , the older brother of King David I , married Sybilla of Normandy. David I introduced Norman culture to the Scots and spent time at the court of King Henry I , who himself married Edith of Scotland , David's sister. In order to remove the kingdom from the rule of his half-brother, Máel Coluim mac Alaxandair, David had to give land to many people. The process continued under the successors of David, most notably under William I. The Normans' feudal system was established to varying degrees in large parts of Scotland. Scottish families like the Bruce , Ramsay, Fraser, Ogilvie, Montgomery, Sinclair, Pollock, Douglas or Gordon and also the later House of Stuart can all be traced back to Norman roots.


The 11th century saw important developments in the history of classical music in Normandy. The Fécamp and Saint-Évroult abbeys were centers of music production and education. At Fécamp , a system of notation through letters was developed and taught under the Italian abbots Wilhelm von Dijon and Johannes von Fécamp . Under the German abbot Isembard, La Trinité-du-Mont became a center of musical composition.

The tradition of singing developed at Saint-Évroult and the abbey's choir became famous in Normandy . Under the Norman abbot Robert de Grantmesnil, several abbots of Saint-Évroult fled to southern Italy. There they were supported by Robert Guiscard and founded a Latin monastery near Sant'Eufemia . There they continued the tradition of singing.

Norman architecture established itself in the areas they conquered. In England and Italy they spread a unique style with their typical northern French castles. In Italy, the Normans incorporated elements from Islamic, Lombard and Byzantine architecture.

See also


  • Annales fuldenses - yearbooks of Fulda . Darmstadt 1975 (Latin, German).
  • “Yearbooks of St. Bertin”. In: Sources on the Carolingian Empire History Part II. Exercise by Reinhold Rau. Darmstadt 1972, pp. 11-287 (Latin, German).
  • Gregory of Tours: Ten Books of Stories . Darmstadt 1977 (Latin, German).
  • RAB Mynors: The Panegyrici Latini. Oxford 1964.
  • Ermoldi Nigelli Carmina. In: Poetae Latini medii aevi 2: Poetae Latini aevi Carolini (II). Published by Ernst Dümmler . Berlin 1884, pp. 1–93 ( Monumenta Germaniae Historica , digitized version )
  • Snorri Sturluson: Heimskringla . Thule Old Norse Poetry and Prose Vol. 14. Darmstadt 1965.


  • Peer Sveaas Andersen, Holger Arbmann: Normanner. In: Kulturhistorisk leksikon for nordisk middelalder. Vol. 12 Copenhagen 1967, Col. 338-342.
  • Richard Allen Brown: The Normans. Munich and Zurich. 1988 ( review ).
  • Torsten Capelle: Art and cultural history of the Vikings (basic features, vol. 63).
  • K. von Eickels: Normandy - historical. In: Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde. Vol. 21. de Gruyter, Berlin / Boston 2002, ISBN 3-11-017272-0 , pp. 353-355.
  • Guilelmus Gemeticensis: Gesta Normannorum ducum . Jean Marx (ed.). Rouen 1914 (text-critical edition)
  • Hans Hattenhauer: The acceptance of the Normans in the West Franconian Empire - Saint Clair-sur-Epte AD 911. Hamburg 1990, ISBN 3-525-86245-8 .
  • Ian Heath et al .: Vikings and Normans. Siegler, St. Augustin 2003, ISBN 3-87748-630-4 .
  • Hubert Houben : The Normans. Beck, Munich 2012, ISBN 978-3-406-63727-8 .
  • J. Insley: Rollo. In: Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde. Vol. 25, de Gruyter 2003, ISBN 3-11-017733-1 , pp. 197-202.
  • Andreas Mohr: Knowing about others. To represent foreign peoples in the Frankish sources of the Carolingian period (studies and texts on the Middle Ages and early modern times, vol. 7) . Berlin et al. 2005 (fundamental to the representation of the Normans in Franconian sources as well as to the cultural contacts of the early medieval Normans to Christian mainland Europe).
  • Francois Neveux: La Normandie des duces aux rois Xe-XIIe siècle. Rennes 1998.
  • Georg Phillips, Friedrich Bülau, Alphonse Huillard-Bréholles: History of the Normans up to 1066, general history of England from Wilhelm I to Heinrich II. 1066–1189, legal sources . Berlin 1826.
  • Alheydis Plassmann : The Normans. Conquer - rule - integrate. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-17-018945-4 (review)
  • Trevor Rowley: The Normans. Magnus, Essen 2002, ISBN 3-88400-017-9 .
  • Peter H. Sawyer: The Age of the Vikings. London et al. 1962.
  • K. Schnith: Normans. In: Lexicon of the Middle Ages. Vol. 6, Artemis, 1993, ISBN 3-7608-8906-9 , Col. 1249-1251.
  • Rudolf Simek : The Vikings. 5th edition. Beck, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-406-41881-5 .
  • Rudolf Simek: The history of the Normans. From Viking chiefs to kings of Sicily. Reclam, Ditzingen 2018, ISBN 978-3-15-011174-1 .
  • M. Springer: Normans - historical meaning of the word. In: Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde. Vol. 21, de Gruyter 2002, ISBN 3-11-017272-0 , pp. 361-365.
  • D. Strauch, I. Skibsted Klaesøe: Normans - Frankish Empire and Normandy. In: Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde. Vol. 21, de Gruyter 2002, ISBN 3-11-017272-0 , pp. 365-383.

Web links

Wiktionary: Normanne  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  1. Andersen / Arbmann Sp. 338.
  2. Springer p. 361.
  3. Schnith Sp. 1249 and Andersen / Arbmann Sp. 338.
  4. For the Scandinavian derivation Johan Fritzner: Ordbog over Det gamle norske Sprog "2nd edition. Vol. 2. Oslo 1954. Col. 831 f. For the early use of the word nordmannus synonymous with dacus , he refers to a gloss on Horace after one Munich parchment manuscript from the beginning of the 12th century, communicated by A. Holder in Bartsch Germania XVIII, 75.
  5. a b c d Hubert Houben: The Normans . CH Beck, Munich 2012, ISBN 978-3-406-63727-8 , p. 7 .
  6. ^ Benjamin Scheller: Vikings and Normans. In: Michael Borgolte (Ed.) Migrations in the Middle Ages. A manual . Berlin 2014, ISBN 978-3-05-006474-1 , pp. 209-217, 209.
  7. Snorri Sturluson: Heimskringla. Vol. 1, Reykjavík 1991, ISBN 9979-3-0310-7 ; Translation: Snorri's Book of Kings (Heimskringla). Translation by Felix Niedner. Eugen Diederichs Verlag 1965. Chap. 24, p. 113.
  8. ^ Jacques Paul Migne : Patrologia Latina 141 . Column 648/649. Translation by Hans Hattenhauer p. 10.
  9. Phillips / Bülau / Huillard-Bréholles p. 33.
  10. Hattenhauer p. 13.
  11. Strauch / Klaesø p. 366.
  12. Hattenhauer p. 17.
  13. Hattenhauer, p. 20.
  14. Hattenhauer p. 22.