A Brief History Of The City Of Aalborg, Denmark During The Viking Era

Aalborg (alternative Danish spelling ‘Ålborg’) is nowadays Denmark’s fourth largest city by means of total population and area as well as a noteworthy university centre in Northern Europe. The city lies close by the Limfjorden (a 110 miles-long strait in North Jutland) and almost halfway between the North and Baltic seas, which gives it a temperate continental climate (as is the case of all of Denmark for that matter).

Panorama of part of Aalborg’s city centre, with the Budolfi church in the background. Image source: www.pixabay.com

The etymology of the city’s name can be broken down in Old Norse, the language of the Norsemen, as follows: ‘allr‘ meant ‘all’ and ‘burg(h)‘ (similar to the Anglo-Saxon ‘burh’) meant ‘stronghold’. During the early Middle Ages, the city of Aalborg was part of an important trading network between various emerging trading settlements in Scandinavia amongst, most notably, Ribe, Hedeby, Skiringssal in Norway, or Birka in Sweden.

Miniature model of a Viking Age drakkar on display at the local museum. Image source: www.commons.wikimedia.org

The city of Aalborg developed in an incipient phase from a small 9th century trading settlement established on its present-day eastern area during the Viking Age (known in Danish as ‘vikingtid’). To this day, the burial mounds situated at Lindholm Høje (the Lindholm Hills) in the northern part of the city (on Vendsyssel specifically, also close to Nørresundby) reflect a bivalent Bronze Age and Viking Age heritage dating back to at least a millennium.

View of one stone ship burial mound at Lindholm Høje. Image source: www.commons.wikimedia.org

The graves that are to be found on the site of Lindholm Høje are shaped in the form of stone ships, which was a common burial type found across most of Scandinavia throughout the Viking era. To this day, the artefacts unearthed from Lindholm Høje were transferred to the Lindholm Høje Museet, North Jutland’s historical centre.

Alternative detailed view of the burial mounds at Lindholm Høje. Image source: www.commons.wikimedia.org

Aalborg was firstly mentioned on some minted coins as ‘Alabu’ during the reign of King Cnut I of Denmark (Hardeknud), that is in the mid 11th century. In the works of the German chronicler Adam of Bremen, the city was called ‘Alaburg’ and was described as a pivotal haven for vessels sailing to early medieval Norway.

Alternative view of the miniature drakkar model at the local museum. Image source: www.commons.wikimedia.org

After the end of the Viking Age, Aalborg gradually enlarged itself and became one of the most thriving trading communities in High Medieval Denmark, enjoying commerce-related growth from entering in contact with the Hanseatic League.

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