York is famous for its Vikings but what attracted the Norse raiders to the city in the first place? All will be revealed at York Minster this half term as part of the 2013 Jorvik Viking Festival.

“The Vikings were known for raping and pillaging, but the story in York has more recently been one of settlers and traders. Our recent archaeological finds, including a ninth century coin in mint condition, gives us a deeper understanding of what attracted them to the city,” comments event manager, Stephanie O’Gorman.

“This discovery by archaeologists working under York Minster shows that York had significant wealth before the Vikings arrived – when previously, it was thought that the city was in decline following the fifth century fall of the Roman empire. We don’t know if they came to steal, or if they were simply attracted by the money which made the Saxon residents in the area around the Anglo-Saxon Minster worthy trade partners.”

More on the recent archaeological discoveries will be revealed during a family-friendly talk by Ian Milsted of York Archaeological Trust. Ian directed excavations below York Minster in 2012, the results of which have been revealed in the last few days. Ian’s “Minster of Mystery” presentation will take place on Friday 22 February at 3pm, and will offer not only unique insights into the Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Scandinavian discoveries that were made in a three metre square dig below York Minster, but also provide the first chance for members of the public to see the ‘sceatta’ coin, and a pair of 11thcentury Anglo-Scandinavian feet, which were buried underneath York Minster, but became separated from the rest of the body by the Norman foundations of the current cathedral.

York Minster will also celebrate its Viking roots with dramatic historic re-enactments, expert demonstrations and family activities. On Wednesday 20 February, at 7.30pm, the sounds of Scandinavia will ring around York Minster in “Heimkoma – A Viking Homecoming”. Specially commissioned for the 2013 Festival, visitors will be invited to join King Svein and his son, the famous Canute, to celebrate their Heimkoma (Homecoming) in this beautiful and richly historic venue.

The Viking performers of Jorvik seek to impress the new king with music, song and Norse poetry by atmospheric candlelight, with contributions from The 24 Choir, soloist Hannah Witcomb and Jorvik Vikings. From Wednesday 20 to Friday 22 February, there will also be a host of Viking-themed family activities within the Children’s Chapel at York Minster, from 10am-3pm each day. Young visitors will be able to make shields and enjoy stories of old Jorvik.

“One fascinating Viking fact that many people do not realise is that the Chapter of York, which remains the guardian of York Minster, was given the land on which York Minster and its precincts stand by a Viking nobleman called Ulf, who owned a significant estate around York,” adds director of marketing, Nicola Bexon.

“As a symbolic deed of trust, he presented the Chapter with a large and ornate ivory horn, the Horn of Ulf, which is still held today in York Minster’s archives, and which will go on permanent display later this year when the new Undercroft exhibitions open to the public.” Tickets for all the events are available from the York Minster website or from the Box Office.

For more information, visit www.yorkminster.org or call the Box Office on 0844 939 0015. York Minster’s Viking-themed events mark the start of a packed year of performances and family activities. Following hot on the heels of the Viking Festival will be the Festival of Passions, a season of choral concerts by some of York’s most talented musicians. The new Festival of Passions launches on 9 March 2013 and culminates in the St John Passion on 23 March performed in German, accompanied by period instruments and featuring the Minster Choir. More details are available online at www.yorkminster.org

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