Between c. 780–814 the British Isles were beset by raids, targeted by bands of Vikings, who radiated out from Denmark and Norway. Their raids began with coastal settlements in Wessex, Mercia, Northumbria and the Gaelic Irish kingdoms. According to Anglo-Saxon histories, the first ‘Northmen’ landed at Portland, Wessex, c. 789, in fast and efficient long ships, and ‘sought out the lands of the English race’. This raid was probably opportunistic, unlike the later raid on Lindisfarne monastery in 793. In a carefully orchestrated attack, Viking raiders plundered the Lindisfarne church of St Cuthbert, ‘a place more sacred than any in Britain’, and slaughtered its occupants. This sent shock waves throughout Christian Europe, with many of the devout believing that the Viking raids prefigured Doomsday. The Vikings did not restrict their raiding to Britain; they started raiding the west coast of France in the 790s and in 814, they plundered a monastery 50 miles (80 km) west of Nantes, while travelling southwards towards the Bay of Biscay.
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