Scandinavian Myth on Viking-period Stone Sculpture in England

Scandinavian Myth on Viking-period Stone Sculpture in England

By Richard N. Bailey

Paper given at the 11th International Saga Conference (2000)

Introduction: Some 20 years ago I tried to assemble together illustrations of Norse mythology on Viking-age sculpture in England. In so doing I drew heavily on the work of a series of nineteenth-century scholars. Some, like Bishop G. F. Browne and Professor George Stephens, were national, indeed international, figures but the essential pioneering investigations were often the unsung achievement of local antiquarians like the Cumbrian doctor, Charles Parker and the Aspatria vicar, W. S. Calverley.

That 1980 publication was followed by two papers to the 6th International Saga Conference in which the carvings were used to examine – and reject – the case for an insular Northumbrian locale for the shaping of Norse mythology. Much of the same material was subsequently invoked by Ohlgren in an article in Mediaevastik which was concerned with conversion methodologies. Since then, however, these sculptures have not attracted any further detailed attention; it is perhaps therefore time to re-visit some of the issues involved, particularly now that the survey work (if not full publication) of the British Academy’s Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture is so far advanced.

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