Normans (Norman: Normaunds; French: Normands; Latin: Normanni)
were the people who, in the 10th and 11th centuries, gave their name
to Normandy, a region in France. They were descended from Norse
("Norman" comes from "Norseman")
Vikings (Old English
wicingas—"pirates") from Denmark,
Norway who, under
their leader Rollo, agreed to swear fealty to King Charles III of West
Francia. Through generations of mixing with the native Frankish and
Gallo-Roman populations, their descendants gradually became
assimilated into the Carolingian-based cultures of West Francia.
The distinct cultural and ethnic identity of the
initially in the first half of the 10th century, and it continued to
evolve over the succeeding centuries.
The Norman dynasty had a major political, cultural and military impact
on medieval Europe and the Near East. The
Normans were famed for
their martial spirit and eventually for their Catholic piety, becoming
exponents of the Catholic orthodoxy into which they assimilated.
They adopted the
Gallo-Romance language of the Frankish land they
settled, their dialect becoming known as Norman, Normaund or Norman
French, an important literary language. The Duchy of Normandy, which
they formed by treaty with the French crown, was a great fief of
medieval France, and under Richard I of
Normandy was forged into a
cohesive and formidable principality in feudal tenure.
Normans are noted both for their culture and contributions, such
as the Norman and Anglo-Norman contribution in
Spain to the Iberian
Reconquista from the early eleventh to the mid-thirteenth centuries.
 In the ninth century the
Norsemen captured Southern
Spain, Seville.  And their unique
Romanesque architecture and
musical traditions, and for their significant military accomplishments
and innovations. Norman adventurers founded the Kingdom of Sicily
under Roger II after conquering southern
Malta from the
Saracens and Byzantines, and an expedition on behalf of their duke,
William the Conqueror, led to the
Norman conquest of England
Norman conquest of England at the
Battle of Hastings
Battle of Hastings in 1066. Norman cultural and military influence
spread from these new European centres to the
Crusader states of the
Near East, where their prince Bohemond I founded the
Antioch in the Levant, to
Wales in Great Britain, to
Ireland, and to the coasts of north Africa and the Canary Islands.
The legacy of the
Normans persists today through the regional
languages and dialects of France, England, Spain, and Sicily, as well
as the various cultural, judicial and political arrangements they
introduced in their conquered territories.
2 Characteristics and traits
3 Settling of Normandy
4 Conquests and military offensives
4.7 On crusade
4.8 Anglo-Norman conquest of Cyprus
4.9 Canary Islands
5.1 Norman law
5.3 Visual arts
7 See also
10 Further reading
11 External links
The English name "Normans" comes from the French words
Normans/Normanz, plural of Normant, modern French normand, which
is itself borrowed from Old Low Franconian Nortmann "Northman" or
Old Norse Norðmaðr, Latinized variously as Nortmannus,
Normannus, or Nordmannus (recorded in Medieval Latin, 9th century) to
mean "Norseman, Viking".
Characteristics and traits
The 11th century Benedictine monk and historian, Goffredo Malaterra,
Specially marked by cunning, despising their own inheritance in the
hope of winning a greater, eager after both gain and dominion, given
to imitation of all kinds, holding a certain mean between lavishness
and greediness, that is, perhaps uniting, as they certainly did, these
two seemingly opposite qualities. Their chief men were specially
lavish through their desire of good report. They were, moreover, a
race skillful in flattery, given to the study of eloquence, so that
the very boys were orators, a race altogether unbridled unless held
firmly down by the yoke of justice. They were enduring of toil,
hunger, and cold whenever fortune laid it on them, given to hunting
and hawking, delighting in the pleasure of horses, and of all the
weapons and garb of war.
Settling of Normandy
See also: Duchy of Normandy, Rollo, William I Longsword, and Richard
10th–11th century History of the Normans, by Dudo of Saint-Quentin
Normandy between 911 and 1050. In blue the areas of intense
In the course of the 10th century, the initially destructive
incursions of Norse war bands into the rivers of
France evolved into
more permanent encampments that included local women and personal
property. The Duchy of Normandy, which began in 911 as a fiefdom,
was established by the treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-
Epte between King
Charles III of
West Francia and the famed
Viking ruler Rollo, and was
situated in the former Frankish kingdom of Neustria. The treaty
Rollo and his men the French lands between the river
the Atlantic coast in exchange for their protection against further
Viking incursions. As well as granting to protect the area of
Rollo had to swear not to invade further
Frankish lands himself, accept baptism and conversion to the Christian
faith and swear fealty to King Charles III. The area corresponded
to the northern part of present-day Upper
Normandy down to the river
Seine, but the Duchy would eventually extend west beyond the Seine.
The territory was roughly equivalent to the old province of Rouen, and
reproduced the Roman administrative structure of
Gallia Lugdunensis II
(part of the former Gallia Lugdunensis).
Before Rollo's arrival, its populations did not differ from
the Île-de-France, which were considered "Frankish". Earlier Viking
settlers had begun arriving in the 880s, but were divided between
colonies in the east (
Roumois and Pays de Caux) around the low Seine
valley and in the west in the Cotentin Peninsula, and were separated
by traditional pagii, where the population remained about the same
with almost no foreign settlers. Rollo's contingents who raided and
Normandy and parts of the Atlantic coast included
Danes, Norwegians, Norse–Gaels,
Orkney Vikings, possibly Swedes, and
Anglo-Danes from the English
Danelaw under Norse control.
The descendants of Rollo's
Vikings and their Frankish wives would
Norse religion and
Old Norse language with Catholicism
(Christianity) and the
Gallo-Romance language of the local people,
blending their maternal Frankish heritage with
Old Norse traditions
and customs to synthesize a unique "Norman" culture in the north of
Norman language was forged by the adoption of the
indigenous langue d'oïl branch of Romance by a Norse-speaking ruling
class, and it developed into the regional language that survives
Normans thereafter adopted the growing feudal doctrines of the
rest of France, and worked them into a functional hierarchical system
Normandy and in England. The new Norman rulers were
culturally and ethnically distinct from the old French aristocracy,
most of whom traced their lineage to
Franks of the Carolingian
dynasty. Most Norman knights remained poor and land-hungry, and by
Normandy had been exporting fighting horsemen for more than a
Normans of Italy,
France and England eventually
served as avid Crusaders under the
Italo-Norman prince Bohemund I and
the Anglo-Norman king Richard the Lion-Heart.
Conquests and military offensives
See also: Norman conquest of southern Italy, Emirate of Sicily,
Norman-Arab-Byzantine culture, Robert Guiscard, and Italo-Norman
The early Norman castle at Adrano
Opportunistic bands of
Normans successfully established a foothold in
southern Italy. Probably as the result of returning pilgrims' stories,
Normans entered southern
Italy as warriors in 1017 at the latest.
In 999, according to Amatus of Montecassino, Norman pilgrims returning
Jerusalem called in at the port of
Salerno when a
Normans fought so valiantly that Prince Guaimar III
begged them to stay, but they refused and instead offered to tell
others back home of the Prince's request.
William of Apulia
William of Apulia tells
that, in 1016, Norman pilgrims to the shrine of the Archangel Michael
at Monte Gargano were met by Melus of Bari, a Lombard nobleman and
rebel, who persuaded them to return with more warriors to help throw
off the Byzantine rule, which they did.
The two most prominent Norman families to arrive in the Mediterranean
were descendants of
Tancred of Hauteville
Tancred of Hauteville and the Drengot family. A
Normans with at least five brothers from the Drengot family
fought the Byzantines in
Apulia under the command of Melo di Bari.
Between 1016 and 1024, in a fragmented political context, the County
of Ariano was founded by another group of Norman knights headed by
Gilbert Buatère and hired by Melo di Bari. Defeated at Canne, Melo di
Bari escaped to Bamberg, Germany, where he died in 1022. The County,
which replaced the pre-existing chamberlainship, was considered to be
the first political body established by the
Normans in the South of
Italy. Then Rainulf Drengot, from the same family, received the
Aversa from Duke
Sergius IV of Naples
Sergius IV of Naples in 1030.
Hauteville family achieved princely rank by proclaiming Prince
Guaimar IV of
Salerno "Duke of
Apulia and Calabria". He promptly
awarded their elected leader, William Iron Arm, with the title of
count in his capital of Melfi. The
Drengot family thereafter attained
the principality of Capua, and Emperor Henry III legally ennobled the
Hauteville leader, Drogo, as "dux et magister Italiae comesque
Normannorum totius Apuliae et Calabriae" ("Duke and Master of Italy
and Count of the
Normans of all
Apulia and Calabria") in
From these bases, the
Normans eventually captured
Sicily and Malta
from the Saracens, under the leadership of the famous Robert Guiscard,
a Hauteville, and his younger brother Roger the Great Count. Roger's
son, Roger II of Sicily, was crowned king in 1130 (exactly one century
after Rainulf was "crowned" count) by Antipope Anacletus II. The
Kingdom of Sicily
Kingdom of Sicily lasted until 1194, when it was transferred to the
House of Hohenstaufen
House of Hohenstaufen through marriage. The
Normans left their
legacy in many castles, such as William Iron Arm's citadel at
Squillace, and cathedrals, such as Roger II's
Cappella Palatina at
Palermo, which dot the landscape and give a distinct architectural
flavor to accompany its unique history.
Normans combined the administrative machinery of
the Byzantines, Arabs, and
Lombards with their own conceptions of
feudal law and order to forge a unique government. Under this state,
there was great religious freedom, and alongside the Norman nobles
existed a meritocratic bureaucracy of Jews, Muslims and Christians,
both Catholic and Eastern Orthodox. The
Kingdom of Sicily
Kingdom of Sicily thus became
characterized by Norman, Byzantine, Greek, Arab, Lombard and "native"
Sicilian populations living in harmony, and its Norman rulers fostered
plans of establishing an empire that would have encompassed Fatimid
Egypt as well as the crusader states in the Levant. One of
the great geographical treatises of the Middle Ages, the "Tabula
Rogeriana", was written by the Andalusian al-Idrisi for King Roger II
of Sicily, and entitled "Kitab Rudjdjar" ("The Book of Roger").
See also: Byzantine-Norman wars,
Varangian Guard, and William Iron Arm
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Soon after the
Normans began to enter Italy, they entered the
Byzantine Empire and then Armenia, fighting against the Pechenegs, the
Bulgars, and especially the Seljuk Turks. Norman mercenaries were
first encouraged to come to the south by the
Lombards to act against
the Byzantines, but they soon fought in Byzantine service in Sicily.
They were prominent alongside
Varangian and Lombard contingents in the
Sicilian campaign of
George Maniaces in 1038–40. There is debate
Normans in Greek service actually were from Norman Italy,
and it now seems likely only a few came from there. It is also unknown
how many of the "Franks", as the Byzantines called them, were Normans
and not other Frenchmen.
Norman expansion by 1130
One of the first Norman mercenaries to serve as a Byzantine general
was Hervé in the 1050s. By then, however, there were already Norman
mercenaries serving as far away as Trebizond and Georgia. They were
Malatya and Edessa, under the Byzantine duke of Antioch,
Isaac Komnenos. In the 1060s,
Robert Crispin led the
Normans of Edessa
against the Turks.
Roussel de Bailleul
Roussel de Bailleul even tried to carve out an
independent state in
Asia Minor with support from the local
population, but he was stopped by the Byzantine general Alexius
Normans joined Turkish forces to aid in the destruction of the
Armenian vassal-states of
Sassoun and Taron in far eastern Anatolia.
Later, many took up service with the Armenian state further south in
Cilicia and the Taurus Mountains. A Norman named Oursel led a force of
"Franks" into the upper
Euphrates valley in northern Syria. From 1073
to 1074, 8,000 of the 20,000 troops of the Armenian general Philaretus
Brachamius were Normans—formerly of Oursel—led by Raimbaud. They
even lent their ethnicity to the name of their castle: Afranji,
meaning "Franks". The known trade between
Bari and Tarsus may be related to the presence of
Normans in those cities while
Bari were under Norman
rule in Italy.
Several families of Byzantine Greece were of Norman mercenary origin
during the period of the Comnenian Restoration, when Byzantine
emperors were seeking out western European warriors. The Raoulii were
descended from an
Italo-Norman named Raoul, the Petraliphae were
descended from a Pierre d'Aulps, and that group of Albanian clans
known as the Maniakates were descended from
Normans who served under
George Maniaces in the Sicilian expedition of 1038.
Robert Guiscard, another Norman adventurer previously elevated to the
dignity of count of
Apulia as the result of his military successes,
ultimately drove the Byzantines out of southern Italy. Having obtained
the consent of
Pope Gregory VII
Pope Gregory VII and acting as his vassal, Robert
continued his campaign conquering the Balkan peninsula as a foothold
for western feudal lords and the Catholic Church. After allying
himself with Croatia and the Catholic cities of Dalmatia, in 1081 he
led an army of 30,000 men in 300 ships landing on the southern shores
of Albania, capturing Valona, Kanina, Jericho (Orikumi), and reaching
Butrint after numerous pillages. They joined the fleet that had
Corfu and attacked
Dyrrachium from land and sea,
devastating everything along the way. Under these harsh circumstances,
the locals accepted the call of Emperor
Alexius I Comnenus
Alexius I Comnenus to join
forces with the Byzantines against the Normans. The Albanian forces
could not take part in the ensuing battle because it had started
before their arrival. Immediately before the battle, the Venetian
fleet had secured a victory in the coast surrounding the city. Forced
to retreat, Alexius ceded the city of
Dyrrachium to the Count of the
Tent (or Byzantine provincial administrators) mobilizing from Arbanon
(i.e., ἐξ Ἀρβάνων ὁρμωμένω Κομισκόρτη;
the term Κομισκόρτη is short for κόμης της
κόρτης meaning "Count of the Tent"). The city's garrison
resisted until February 1082, when
Dyrrachium was betrayed to the
Normans by the Venetian and Amalfitan merchants who had settled there.
Normans were now free to penetrate into the hinterland; they took
Ioannina and some minor cities in southwestern Macedonia and Thessaly
before appearing at the gates of Thessalonica. Dissension among the
high ranks coerced the
Normans to retreat to Italy. They lost
Dyrrachium, Valona, and
Butrint in 1085, after the death of Robert.
A few years after the First Crusade, in 1107, the
Normans under the
command of Bohemond, Robert's son, landed in Valona and besieged
Dyrrachium using the most sophisticated military equipment of the
time, but to no avail. Meanwhile, they occupied Petrela, the citadel
of Mili at the banks of the river Deabolis, Gllavenica (Ballsh),
Kanina and Jericho. This time, the Albanians sided with the Normans,
dissatisfied by the heavy taxes the Byzantines had imposed upon them.
With their help, the
Normans secured the
Arbanon passes and opened
their way to Dibra. The lack of supplies, disease and Byzantine
resistance forced Bohemond to retreat from his campaign and sign a
peace treaty with the Byzantines in the city of Deabolis.
The further decline of Byzantine state-of-affairs paved the road to a
third attack in 1185, when a large Norman army invaded Dyrrachium,
owing to the betrayal of high Byzantine officials. Some time later,
Dyrrachium—one of the most important naval bases of the
Adriatic—fell again to Byzantine hands.
See also: Norman conquest of England, William the Conqueror, Domesday
Book, and Anglo-Normans
House of Normandy
William the Conqueror
William the Conqueror invades England
Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy
Richard, "Duke of Bernay"
Cecilia, Abbess of Holy Trinity
Adela, Countess of Blois
Robert, 1st Earl of Gloucester
Eustace IV, Count of Boulogne
William I, Count of Boulogne
Marie I, Countess of Boulogne
Monarchy of the United Kingdom
Normans were in contact with England from an early date. Not only
were their original
Viking brethren still ravaging the English coasts,
they occupied most of the important ports opposite England across the
English Channel. This relationship eventually produced closer ties of
blood through the marriage of Emma, sister of Duke Richard II of
Normandy, and King Ethelred II of England. Because of this, Ethelred
Normandy in 1013, when he was forced from his kingdom by Sweyn
Forkbeard. His stay in
Normandy (until 1016) influenced him and his
sons by Emma, who stayed in
Normandy after Cnut the Great's conquest
of the isle.
Edward the Confessor
Edward the Confessor finally returned from his father's refuge in
1041, at the invitation of his half-brother Harthacnut, he brought
with him a Norman-educated mind. He also brought many Norman
counsellors and fighters, some of whom established an English cavalry
force. This concept never really took root, but it is a typical
example of Edward's attitude. He appointed Robert of Jumièges
archbishop of Canterbury and made
Ralph the Timid earl of Hereford. He
invited his brother-in-law
Eustace II, Count of Boulogne
Eustace II, Count of Boulogne to his court
in 1051, an event that resulted in the greatest of early conflicts
between Saxon and Norman and ultimately resulted in the exile of Earl
Godwin of Wessex.
Siege of a motte-and-bailey castle from the Bayeux Tapestry
On 14 October 1066,
William the Conqueror
William the Conqueror gained a decisive victory at
the Battle of Hastings, which led to the conquest of England three
years later; this can be seen on the
Bayeux tapestry (a linen,
embroidered cloth). The invading
Normans and their descendants
Anglo-Saxons as the ruling class of England. The nobility
of England were part of a single Norman culture and many had lands on
both sides of the channel. Early Norman kings of England, as Dukes of
Normandy, owed homage to the King of
France for their land on the
continent. They considered England to be their most important holding
(it brought with it the title of King—an important status symbol).
Normans merged with the natives, combining languages
and traditions, so much so that
Marjorie Chibnall says "writers still
Normans and English; but the terms no longer meant the
same as in the immediate aftermath of 1066." In the course of the
Hundred Years' War, the Norman aristocracy often identified themselves
as English. The Anglo-
Norman language became distinct from the Latin
language, something that was the subject of some humour by Geoffrey
Chaucer. The Anglo-
Norman language was eventually absorbed into the
Anglo-Saxon language of their subjects (see Old English) and
influenced it, helping (along with the
Norse language of the earlier
Anglo-Norse settlers and the
Latin used by the church) in the
development of Middle English. It in turn evolved into Modern English.
See also: Norman invasion of Ireland, Norman Ireland, and
Norman keep in Trim, County Meath
Normans had a profound effect on Irish culture and history after
their invasion at
Bannow Bay in 1169. Initially, the Normans
maintained a distinct culture and ethnicity. Yet, with time, they came
to be subsumed into Irish culture to the point that it has been said
that they became "more Irish than the Irish themselves". The Normans
settled mostly in an area in the east of Ireland, later known as the
Pale, and also built many fine castles and settlements, including Trim
Castle and Dublin Castle. Both cultures intermixed, borrowing from
each other's language, culture and outlook. Norman descendants today
can be recognised by their surnames. Names such as French, (De) Roche,
Devereux, D'Arcy, Treacy and Lacy are particularly common in the
southeast of Ireland, especially in the southern part of County
Wexford, where the first Norman settlements were established. Other
Norman names, such as Furlong, predominate there. Another common
Norman-Irish name was Morell (Murrell), derived from the French Norman
name Morel. Names beginning with Fitz (from the Norman for son)
indicate Norman ancestry. These included Fitzgerald, FitzGibbons
(Gibbons) dynasty, Fitzmaurice. Families bearing such surnames as
Barry (de Barra) and De Búrca (Burke) are also of Norman extraction.
Scotland in the High
Middle Ages and Scoto-Norman
One of the claimants of the English throne opposing William the
Conqueror, Edgar Atheling, eventually fled to Scotland. King Malcolm
Scotland married Edgar's sister Margaret, and came into
opposition to William who had already disputed Scotland's southern
borders. William invaded
Scotland in 1072, riding as far as Abernethy
where he met up with his fleet of ships. Malcolm submitted, paid
homage to William and surrendered his son Duncan as a hostage,
beginning a series of arguments as to whether the Scottish Crown owed
allegiance to the King of England.
Normans went into Scotland, building castles and founding noble
families that would provide some future kings, such as Robert the
Bruce, as well as founding a considerable number of the Scottish
King David I of Scotland, whose elder brother Alexander I had
married Sybilla of Normandy, was instrumental in introducing Normans
and Norman culture to Scotland, part of the process some scholars call
the "Davidian Revolution". Having spent time at the court of Henry I
of England (married to David's sister Maud of Scotland), and needing
them to wrestle the kingdom from his half-brother Máel Coluim mac
Alaxandair, David had to reward many with lands. The process was
continued under David's successors, most intensely of all under
William the Lion. The Norman-derived feudal system was applied in
varying degrees to most of Scotland. Scottish families of the names
Bruce, Gray, Ramsay, Fraser, Ogilvie, Montgomery, Sinclair, Pollock,
Burnard, Douglas and Gordon to name but a few, and including the later
royal House of Stewart, can all be traced back to Norman ancestry.
See also: Norman invasion of
Wales and Cambro-Norman
Chepstow Castle in Wales, built by
William fitzOsbern in 1067
Even before the Norman Conquest of England, the
Normans had come into
contact with Wales.
Edward the Confessor
Edward the Confessor had set up the aforementioned
Ralph as earl of Hereford and charged him with defending the Marches
and warring with the Welsh. In these original ventures, the Normans
failed to make any headway into Wales.
Subsequent to the Conquest, however, the Marches came completely under
the dominance of William's most trusted Norman barons, including
Bernard de Neufmarché, Roger of Montgomery in
Shropshire and Hugh
Lupus in Cheshire. These
Normans began a long period of slow conquest
during which almost all of
Wales was at some point subject to Norman
interference. Norman words, such as baron (barwn), first entered Welsh
at that time.
Principality of Antioch, Bohemund I of Antioch, and Richard
The legendary religious zeal of the
Normans was exercised in religious
wars long before the
First Crusade carved out a Norman principality in
Antioch. They were major foreign participants in the
Iberia. In 1018, Roger de Tosny travelled to the
Iberian Peninsula to
carve out a state for himself from
Moorish lands, but failed. In 1064,
during the War of Barbastro,
William of Montreuil led the papal army
and took a huge booty.
In 1096, Crusaders passing by the siege of
Amalfi were joined by
Bohemond of Taranto and his nephew Tancred with an army of
Italo-Normans. Bohemond was the de facto leader of the
its passage through Asia Minor. After the successful Siege of Antioch
in 1097, Bohemond began carving out an independent principality around
that city. Tancred was instrumental in the conquest of
he worked for the expansion of the Crusader kingdom in Transjordan and
the region of Galilee.
Anglo-Norman conquest of Cyprus
Kingdom of Cyprus
Kingdom of Cyprus and
Cyprus in the Middle Ages
Illuminated manuscript showing king Richard the Lion-hearted
Guy de Lusignan
Guy de Lusignan to take Cyprus
The conquest of
Cyprus by the Anglo-Norman forces of the Third Crusade
opened a new chapter in the history of the island, which would be
under Western European domination for the following 380 years.
Although not part of a planned operation, the conquest had much more
permanent results than initially expected.
In April 1191, Richard the Lion-hearted left
Messina with a large
fleet in order to reach Acre. But a storm dispersed the fleet.
After some searching, it was discovered that the boat carrying his
sister and his fiancée Berengaria was anchored on the south coast of
Cyprus, together with the wrecks of several other ships, including the
treasure ship. Survivors of the wrecks had been taken prisoner by the
island's despot Isaac Komnenos. On 1 May 1191, Richard's fleet
arrived in the port of
Limassol on Cyprus. He ordered Isaac to
release the prisoners and the treasure. Isaac refused, so Richard
landed his troops and took Limassol.
Castle of Limassol, near which Richard's wedding with Berengaria of
Navarre is said to have taken place
Various princes of the Holy Land arrived in
Limassol at the same time,
in particular Guy de Lusignan. All declared their support for Richard
provided that he support Guy against his rival Conrad of
Montferrat. The local barons abandoned Isaac, who considered
making peace with Richard, joining him on the crusade, and offering
his daughter in marriage to the person named by Richard. But Isaac
changed his mind and tried to escape. Richard then proceeded to
conquer the whole island, his troops being led by Guy de Lusignan.
Isaac surrendered and was confined with silver chains, because Richard
had promised that he would not place him in irons. By 1 June, Richard
had conquered the whole island. His exploit was well publicized and
contributed to his reputation; he also derived significant financial
gains from the conquest of the island. Richard left for Acre on 5
June, with his allies. Before his departure, he named two of his
Richard de Camville and Robert de Thornham, as
governors of Cyprus.
While in Limassol,
Richard the Lion-Heart
Richard the Lion-Heart married Berengaria of
Navarre, first-born daughter of King Sancho VI of Navarre. The wedding
was held on 12 May 1191 at the Chapel of St. George and it was
attended by Richard's sister Joan, whom he had brought from Sicily.
The marriage was celebrated with great pomp and splendor. Among other
grand ceremonies was a double coronation: Richard caused himself to be
crowned King of Cyprus, and Berengaria Queen of England and Queen of
Cyprus as well.
Norman expeditionary ship depicted in the chronicle Le Canarien (1490)
The rapid Anglo-Norman conquest proved more important than it seemed.
The island occupied a key strategic position on the maritime lanes to
the Holy Land, whose occupation by the Christians could not continue
without support from the sea. Shortly after the conquest, Cyprus
was sold to the
Knights Templar and it was subsequently acquired, in
Guy de Lusignan
Guy de Lusignan and became a stable feudal kingdom. It
was only in 1489 that the Venetians acquired full control of the
island, which remained a Christian stronghold until the fall of
Famagusta in 1571.
See also: Conquest of the Canary Islands
Between 1402 and 1405, the expedition led by the Norman noble Jean de
Bethencourt and the
Gadifer de la Salle
Gadifer de la Salle conquered the
Canarian islands of Lanzarote,
El Hierro off the
Atlantic coast of Africa. Their troops were gathered in Normandy,
Gascony and were later reinforced by Castilian colonists.
Bethencourt took the title of King of the Canary Islands, as vassal to
Henry III of Castile. In 1418, Jean's nephew Maciot de Bethencourt
sold the rights to the islands to Enrique Pérez de Guzmán, 2nd Count
Norman law and Clameur de haro
The customary law of
Normandy was developed between the 10th and 13th
centuries and survives today through the legal systems of Jersey and
Guernsey in the Channel Islands. Norman customary law was transcribed
in two customaries in
Latin by two judges for use by them and their
colleagues: These are the Très ancien coutumier (Very ancient
customary), authored between 1200 and 1245; and the Grand coutumier de
Normandie (Great customary of Normandy, originally Summa de legibus
Normanniae in curia laïcali), authored between 1235 and 1245.
Main article: Norman architecture
A quintessential Norman keep: the White Tower in London
Norman architecture typically stands out as a new stage in the
architectural history of the regions they subdued. They spread a
unique Romanesque idiom to England,
Italy and Ireland, and the
encastellation of these regions with keeps in their north French style
fundamentally altered the military landscape. Their style was
characterised by rounded arches, particularly over windows and
doorways, and massive proportions.
In England, the period of
Norman architecture immediately succeeds
that of the Anglo-Saxon and precedes the Early Gothic. In southern
Normans incorporated elements of Islamic, Lombard, and
Byzantine building techniques into their own, initiating a unique
style known as Norman-Arab architecture within the Kingdom of
In the visual arts, the
Normans did not have the rich and distinctive
traditions of the cultures they conquered. However, in the early 11th
century the dukes began a programme of church reform, encouraging the
Cluniac reform of monasteries and patronising intellectual pursuits,
especially the proliferation of scriptoria and the reconstitution of a
compilation of lost illuminated manuscripts. The church was utilised
by the dukes as a unifying force for their disparate duchy. The chief
monasteries taking part in this "renaissance" of Norman art and
scholarship were Mont-Saint-Michel, Fécamp, Jumièges, Bec,
Saint-Ouen, Saint-Evroul, and Saint-Wandrille. These centres were in
contact with the so-called "
Winchester school", which channeled a pure
Carolingian artistic tradition to Normandy. In the final decade of the
11th and first of the 12th century,
Normandy experienced a golden age
of illustrated manuscripts, but it was brief and the major scriptoria
Normandy ceased to function after the midpoint of the century.
A bronze lion sculpture attributed to an
Italo-Norman artist. Now in
the Metropolitan Museum of Art
French Wars of Religion
French Wars of Religion in the 16th century and the French
Revolution in the 18th successively destroyed much of what existed in
the way of the architectural and artistic remnant of this Norman
creativity. The former, with their violence, caused the wanton
destruction of many Norman edifices; the latter, with its assault on
religion, caused the purposeful destruction of religious objects of
any type, and its destabilisation of society resulted in rampant
By far the most famous work of Norman art is the Bayeux Tapestry,
which is not a tapestry but a work of embroidery. It was commissioned
by Odo, the
Bishop of Bayeux
Bishop of Bayeux and first Earl of Kent, employing natives
Kent who were learned in the Nordic traditions imported in the
previous half century by the Danish Vikings.
In Britain, Norman art primarily survives as stonework or metalwork,
such as capitals and baptismal fonts. In southern Italy, however,
Norman artwork survives plentifully in forms strongly influenced by
its Greek, Lombard, and Arab forebears. Of the royal regalia preserved
in Palermo, the crown is Byzantine in style and the coronation cloak
is of Arab craftsmanship with Arabic inscriptions. Many churches
preserve sculptured fonts, capitals, and more importantly mosaics,
which were common in Norman
Italy and drew heavily on the Greek
Salerno was a centre of ivorywork in the 11th
century and this continued under Norman domination. The intercourse
between French Crusaders traveling to the Holy Land who brought with
them French artefacts with which to gift the churches at which they
stopped in southern
Italy amongst their Norman cousins. For this
reason many south Italian churches preserve works from France
alongside their native pieces.
An illuminated manuscript from
King David on
the lyre (or harp) in the middle of the back of the initial 'B'
Normandy was the site of several important developments in the history
of classical music in the 11th century.
Fécamp Abbey and Saint-Evroul
Abbey were centres of musical production and education. At Fécamp,
under two Italian abbots,
William of Volpiano
William of Volpiano and John of Ravenna, the
system of denoting notes by letters was developed and taught. It is
still the most common form of pitch representation in English- and
German-speaking countries today. Also at Fécamp, the staff, around
which neumes were oriented, was first developed and taught in the 11th
century. Under the German abbot Isembard,
La Trinité-du-Mont became a
centre of musical composition.
At Saint Evroul, a tradition of singing had developed and the choir
achieved fame in Normandy. Under the Norman abbot Robert de
Grantmesnil, several monks of
Saint-Evroul fled to southern Italy,
where they were patronised by
Robert Guiscard and established a Latin
monastery at Sant'Eufemia. There they continued the tradition of
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Italo-Norman garrisons in northern Africa in the
^ a b Dauzat, Dubois & Mitterand 1971, p. 497.
^ Whitelock, Dorothy. Sweet's Anglo-Saxon Reader,
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^ Chibnall 1999, p. 2: "In
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^ Lars Brownworth, Episode I:
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^ Gunn 1975.
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^ a b Neveux, François (2008), The Normans, Curtis, Howard transl,
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^ Chibnall, Marjorie (2008). The Normans. Wiley-Blackwell.
^ (in Italian) The European Center for Norman Studies
^ Dupont, Jerry (2001). The Common Law Abroad: Constitutional and
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^ Encyclopædia Britannica. "Roger II —King of Sicily".
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^ Lewis, p.148
^ Anna Comnena. The Alexiad, 4.8; Vranousi 1962, pp. 5–26.
^ The Normans, Marjorie Chibnall
^ Chibnall, Marjorie (2000). The Normans. Oxford: Blackwell
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^ Flori 1999, p. 131.
^ a b c Flori 1999, p. 132.
^ Flori 1999, p. 133–34.
^ Flori 1999, p. 134.
^ Flori 1999, pp. 134–36.
^ a b c Flori 1999, p. 138.
^ a b Flori 1999, p. 137.
^ This article incorporates text from a publication now in
the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Béthencourt,
Jean de". Encyclopædia Britannica. 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University
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