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Discover exclusively our collection of Viking shields

When we evoke Scandinavian warriors, we immediately think of Viking shields. Both a resistant combat weapon and a memorable decorative object, the Viking shield leaves no one indifferent.

Go to war with our Viking shields!

With the Viking shields we offer, you could truly go into battle and defend yourself. Our artisan truly strives to offer an object of incredible quality with excellent finishing. The ornaments are real breathtaking details.

The main strength of our wooden Viking shields is that they are entirely handmade. They are made with 15mm thick birch plywood. True to Viking culture, they incorporate the main symbols that Vikings had on their defense weapons: Fenrir's wolf, Thor's hammer, or Odin's raven.

Viking shields measure approximately 70cm in diameter with some having a central umbo made of metal. They come with a hanger attached to the back, which can be used as a wall decoration. But they can also be functional pieces during a Viking combat reenactment.

Our Viking shields will truly be an essential piece of your Viking collection.

The shield, a versatile weapon

If metal helmets were only worn by the wealthiest warriors, everyone owned a shield. Viking battlefields were often filled with these objects, lost by warriors fallen in combat.

To better understand Viking shields, let's take a brief look back at the history of the Scandinavians.

Vikings were a people from the Scandinavian countries of Northern Europe, who lived from the 8th to the 11th century. Formidable warriors, they left their mark on the European continent through raids, plunder, and colonies. Several historical texts mention that the Vikings were the first to discover the American continent via Greenland.

To achieve such a reputation in Europe, the Norse relied on strength. And on the battlefield, they quickly came to use shields as defensive weapons. In their time, bows and arrows already existed. Their direct opponents also possessed equally deadly weapons.

Not all Vikings had access to helmets or armor. Fighting in such conditions would have been impossible. The Viking combat shield is therefore the perfect defensive weapon, allowing protection from direct blows in close combat. It could first parry blades, or trap them in its composition. It could also protect against long-range attacks, such as arrows or spears. Throwing axes were also parried since, as a reminder, the Vikings were also in internal conflict for control of certain territories.

But the shield was not just for defense. Indeed, a violent blow from this object could knock out a man. A Viking warrior could thus extricate himself from very complicated situations with the help of his shield.

The composition of a shield

The defensive weapon accompanying the Vikings on their raids around their lands is a round shield, called rundskjold in Nordic language. Of Germanic type and circular in shape, it could also take other forms: oblong, tapered downwards, rectangular. But this was rarer, and mostly towards the end of the Viking Age (793 – 1066).

Sagas written at this time mention the "tail" or "end" of the shields. This suggests the water drop shape of the oblong shield, notably visible on the Bayeux Tapestry. However, no discovery evidence confirms these claims.

The wooden part of the shield, called the panel, measured between 70 and 90 cm in diameter. This dimension allowed for a perfect balance between coverage and vision of the enemy. The panel consisted of a single layer of 7 or 8 wooden planks fitted together. For the choice of tree, the Norse were served with the forests surrounding them. Fir, lime, pine, or willow were thus used for manufacturing.

The wooden planks were glued together, then additional support came from the umbo attachments. The central part consisted of a circular hole covered by an umbo made of steel, more or less hemispherical. They measured about 15 centimeters in diameter and were fastened with rivets, allowing hand protection.

So two main models existed: a posterior model, low-vaulted without a neck, and the more recent model, with a high dome and pronounced neck. Less common shapes were a crouching posture model and a secondary conical model.

Holding a Viking shield was done with the handle. It was long and often crossed the diameter of the shield. The two ends were tapered while the ends could be flattened into a spatula, then nailed directly to the panel, or be indirectly attached using rivets. This handle could also be covered in leather, as is the case on the shield of the Birka tomb, in Sweden.

A transport strap could also be attached inside the shield. It would have been made of leather and held on the edges of the object with rings. Thanks to it, the shield could be carried on the back. Its weight measured only 3 to 6 kg, making it particularly manageable and easy to transport.

Finally, the last part concerns the edge reinforcements. The shield's contour was a leather edging fixed by stitching, leather straps, or very fine iron nails.

But how did the Vikings manufacture such equipment?

The manufacturing secret

A Viking shield is very resistant. Composed mainly of wood, they took a number of blows during battle without flinching. So what magical formula did the Vikings apply to them?

On the back, the wooden planks were often reinforced by three planks arranged perpendicular to the middle and side. This allowed the entire structure to be more resistant to blows.

Viking shields were only 0.6 to 1 cm thick. The edges had leather reinforcements. And they didn't stop there. Researchers from the Society for Combat Archaeology revealed that one of the best-preserved shields was covered with lamb skin on the front and back.

This is the case of the shield, seen earlier, dating from the 10th or 11th century discovered in the city of Birka. It is covered with lamb skin and calf skin so that the wooden planks are sandwiched between the skins. Preserved at the Historical Museum of Stockholm, it is proof of the resistance secret of the shields built by the Norse.

This discovery of lamb skin showed that the Vikings did not only use cowhide and calf leather for their shields. These materials were nonetheless more resistant than lamb leather. The latter was more accessible, especially for warriors who did not necessarily have the means to build themselves a shield.

An English law dating back to 930, promulgated by King Æthelstan, required shield makers not to put any lamb skin on their products. Considering it less resistant, he probably did not want his men to possess a lower quality material, especially to defend against Viking raids. This confirms the presence of lamb among the animals used.

So the Vikings used animal skins with tannins to make leather. This increased its lifespan and also made it water-resistant, which could touch the shields during moments in the boats.

The shield wall

Viking warriors were mostly infantrymen. Their drakkars allowed them incredible mobility advantage over their enemies, thanks to the rivers. During battles, they were thus on foot. Horses were used to take a warrior to battle, or to move him away in case he was wounded.

The shield wall method was not invented by Scandinavian warriors and raiders. It was indeed the Roman legions who first used it to conquer almost the entire Western Europe. Germanic battles were the first contact of Northern tribes with this combat technique.

The Vikings then adopted it in turn, with the success we know. Shield walls thus involved warriors standing side by side. The base consisted of the rowers of the ships, numbering 40 to 60. This crew faced the sea together, which reinforced their cohesion when creating the wall called "shieldwall" in English. A shield line behind them reinforced the wall.

The arrangement meant that the shields overlapped: the left shield overlapping the right one. This prevented the shield from pivoting if an enemy struck the weak spot. Each warrior thus protected the one on his right.

They could also crouch, the second line then placing their shields over the base, to protect themselves from enemy arrows. The shield walls formed by the Vikings could be made up of hundreds of Vikings. This technique was very effective because it surprised opponents, and a single warrior could not break the line of the Norse.

When the shield wall could no longer hold against charges or if it was broken, individual close combat ensued.

If the Vikings could make shield walls in this way, it is because their equipment was sufficiently resistant to withstand blows from enemies.

The meaning of shields

Viking shields were not simply made of wood. They were decorated with special care, in yellow or black. Red and blue colors were quite popular, these colors are also featured notably in the series with Ragnar Lothbork's Viking shield and on a Roman sacrificial shield at Thorsberg. These layers of paint, when drying, formed a protective film with the leather, which protected it from seawater and rain.

One might think that it is ultimately only a defense and close combat protection weapon on the battlefield. But the Viking shield also allowed messages to be conveyed.

It allowed displaying one's identity, which made some Viking warriors very famous. His opponents recognized him by his shield. The shield also allowed indicating belonging to a group, in order to create a common identity.

Conveying messages using shields was common during battles. Norse sources indeed indicate that they were tools of communication. A peace shield, the "friðskjöldr", raised in the air, meant a request for a suspension of combat between warriors. A war shield, the "herskjöldr", represents a shield carried in a hostile context, such as war.

As Scandinavian raiders were particularly attached to their gods and mythology, some shield decorations allowed them to pay homage.

A shield tribute to Odin, in black and white, would thus be decorated with raven eyes, or a raven itself. In memory of Thor, the shield featured the hammer that made him legendary. The wolf of Fenrir, son of the god Loki and the giantess Angrboda, was also depicted.

Ull, son of Sif and adopted by Thor, had a shield that warriors used to protect themselves. It would have allowed him to navigate on water. Finally, there is the legend of Svalinn. It tells of a legendary shield that protected the Earth from the rays of the Sun. It would have been black, with a Celtic cross covering it.