The Faroes


These 18 small Islands in the Atlantic were colonized by Vikings and their descendants have lived there ever since. Everywhere the Vikings settled all free men met annually to discuss matters of importance to them. In the Faroe the Lagting (Parliament) met for the first time in AD 970. Except for the time between 1816-1852 it has met annually ever since. In the Faroe Islands, today’s Lagting (Parliament) is a direct descendant of the Viking institution and has kept its original name – Lagting.  When the Vikings gathered for their annual sessions they simultaneously held a market where they bought goods they needed and sold those they had produced during the winter. At the annual Lagting the Vikings also organized competitions and games.

The first Vikings in the faroes

Written by students at the Faroese College of Education in Torshavn

In 825 an Irish monk called Dicuil wrote in a book:

“There are many other islands in the ocean north of Britain which can be reached from the northern islands of Britain in a direct voyage of two days and nights with sails filled in a continuously favorable wind.”

He goes on to tell us that to these small islands came what he calls the Northman pirates. We who live in the Nordic countries call them the Vikings. We know that most of the Vikings who settled in the Faeroes came from Norway.

What we do not know is how? Did they sail direct from Norway, or did they first come to Britain and from there sail on to the Faros, as Dicuil says ? If you look at  map, you will see that it is not far to sail from Shetland to the Faeroes, so perhaps Dicuil is right. On the other hand, the Vikings had very good ships so they could also have sailed from Norway directly. Another thing we do not know is when the Norwegians first got the idea of sailing out into the unknown ocean. And why did they do it? In the Faeroese saga written in Iceland we are told that it was because the Norwegian King Harald would not let them live in freedom. But one should remember that the Vikings did not spend all their time sailing round the world plundering. They were also farmers, so perhaps they were just looking for new land to farm.

In Iceland they like to tell a story about the first people who came to the Faeroes:

The Vikings were on their way from Norway to Iceland. Half-way they decided to leave those who were seasick on some uninhabited islands so they became the first Faeroese.

This story is completely untrue of course !

Archaeologists have found many things from the Viking Age, so we do know something about how people lived in the Faeroes. Farmhouses and graves have been found. We even know what the children played with: small wooden horses and boats. A chessboard has also been found, so we can imagine that the grown ups spent some of their spare time playing chess. Some of the sagas written in Iceland also tell about the Faeroes. Here we are told that the first man who came to the Faeroes was called Grimur Kamban. We do not hear much about him in the saga. Two other men play the main role – Trondur who was a heathen, and Sigmundur who was a Christian.

Torshavn is the capital of the Faeroe Islands with about 15.000 inhabitants, which is a third of the population. The name Torshavn refers to the Viking god Tor.

Excavation in Kvivik

In Kvivik, a little village in the Faeroe Islands, there is a place called Toft  which is the Faeroese word for an old foundation of a house. It has always had this name, but nobody knew why. In 1942 someone wanted to build a house at this place. But as they were working and digging they found two old ruins which dated back to the Vikings. The two houses were situated next to a stream and facing the sea. This was an ideal site, because there was a lot of fish and water from the stream and it was easy to come and go by boat. If you ever come to Kvivik you can see how the two houses are constructed. One is for people to live in, and the other for the animals. The wall that are built of stone with grass sods between them are very thick, about 1,5 metres. Many things have been found here while excavating. Articles that show a lot about life at that time e.g. spindles, fishing gear, cod-liver oil lamps and children’s’ toys such as horses and boats. there have also been found women’s ornaments such as pearls.

One of the things our ancestors seem to have been very fond of is nuts, but noone knows how they got their hands on them, it’s clear that they have been travelling abroad.

The most remarkable item found was a shoe, a lady’s shoe, of a kind which has also been found in Paris. So the Faeroese Vikings, too, have been fashion minded people in the Viking age