The Frisians
until ca. 800






Frisia in the Age of the Vikings (810-1040)



The reaction of the East Frankish Kingdom on the Viking threat, even after it's restructuring in 887, was mainly defensive. This meant that Frisia with it's long coastline was left to take care of it's own defense.
In the late 9th century, Frisians were able to defeat Viking hosts. However, decades of Viking domination had resulted in a weakening of the structures of Frankish administration as well as church administration.
The Frisians, i.e. the representatives of Frisia's judges, have gained a redefinition of Frisia's status within the Kingdom; the Frisian free men were collectively conceded noble status; the Frisian's specific circumstances, having to establish coastal defences against pirates and the sea (DYKES) were taken into consideration when it came to the service (taxation) they owed the king. Frisian popular law, which had considerably changed since the days of Charlemagne's Lex Frisionum was recognized.
Frisia's church law equally was renegotiated. As the Frisians were willing to accept Catholic christianity for a second time - during the Viking years Frisian christianity, out of touch with the Catholic church administration, had degenerated and paganism had reemerged - the Frisians were able to assure a number of statutes which were in conflict with canonic law (church law), among these that in Frisia priests were allowed (and expected to) marry.

Constantly threatened by inundation, the Frisians at some time in the high middle ages have begun to connect three TERPS (artificial hills on top of which farmhouses and stables were built) by earthen walls called DYKES. The inclosed area, even in case of high tide, remained dry.
Soon, the Frisians systematically erected dykes, thus considerably altering the landscape. Dyke construction required the organization of manpower. The communal element in Frisia therefore was very strong. Privileges of individuals - except the clergy - were not accepted : he who does not dyke, has to yield, he who does not participate in the construction and maintenance of the dyke has to give up his farmstead.
Frisia, pastoral country (cattle, sheep, horses), too wet for the cultivation of grain, was a NON-FEUDAL TERRITORY, as there were no castles, no knights. The Frisians, although having been given noble status, did not live the lifestyle of feudal knights.
Frisia thus maintained a distinct character, it's distinct law, and, in certain regions, it's distinct language.

The region along the lower Rhine, UTRECHT and HOLLAND, developed differently. Utrecht became an urban center, dominated by the bishop. Holland emerged as a county, with St. Egmond abbey and Haarlem as it's centers.



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This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on November 12th 2004

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