Jonas Lau Markussen

Ringerike style

The Anatomy of Viking Art





The Anatomy of the Ringerike Style


c. 1000 – 1075






1. Slim and short tendrils.
2. Clusters of centrifugally projected tendrils.
3. Tendrils with a single lobe.
4. Lobes with alternating side-lobes.
5. Tightly scrolled tendril terminals.
6. Pellets intersecting ribbons.
7. Head in profile.
8. Almond-shaped eye.
9. Spirals representing hip joints.





Curvy outlines with occasional kinks and dents.





Taut curves only looping in one direction.


A. Pear-shaped loops.
B. Figure-of-eights loops.
C. Multi-loops.
D. Pretzel-knots.





  • Semi-tight interlace with some visible background.
  • Double contour occur.
  • Single-stranded ribbons.
  • Double-stranded ribbons occur.
  • Ribbons are broken into panels by intersection.






  • Single motifs (A, C).
  • Tauter compositions.
  • Axiality and symmetry occur (B, C, D).
  • Additive principles, i.e. clusters of tendrils (A, B, C).
  • Different elements has different value – i.e. stems vs tendrils (A, B, D).






  • Great Beast variations, typically a combination of a greater carnivore animal and one or more serpent intertwined in battle (A, C, D).
  • Mammals (A).
  • Serpents (A, B, C, D).
  • Birds (C).
  • Masks (Not displayed here but very similar to the Mammen style masks).
  • Vegetal ornaments (B).
  • Rosetta-like crosses (B).








Rise and Fall of the Great Norse Kingdom



The Conquest of England


King Æthelred the Unready paid the third Danegeld to Sweyn Forkbeard. But, due to rumours of an assassination attempt against him, Æthelred then slaughtered a large number of the Norse settlers, in what has since been known as the St. Brice’s Day massacre.


In retaliation, Sweyn raided England three consecutive times, before he and his son Cnut the Great eventually conquered England. Though it’s a very short-lived victory for Sweyn, who died a few weeks later.




Expansion and subjugation


After the death of Sweyn, his youngest son Harald II became king of Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
Cnut was announced King of England but was expelled to Denmark. He returned the following year with a fleet and conquered the power of England by defeating Æthelred’s son Edmund Ironside in the battle of Assandun.


A few years later, when his brother Harald II died, he gained the power of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. In addition to this, the Scottish King subdued to his reign, and he was now king of the largest Norse empire ever seen thus earning him the name Cnut the Great.


While Cnut was occupied in England, Olof Haraldson tried to seize power of the throne of Norway, but his attempt was futile, and he was ultimately killed in the battle of Stiklestad.




Division of the Kingdom


When Cnut eventually died his empire was divided into smaller kingdoms.


Magnus the Good, son of Olof Haraldson and thereby a legitimate heir to the Norwegian crown but exiled in Novgorod, was placed on the throne of Norway at 11 years of age.


Harold Harefoot, son of Cnut, inherited the throne of England, and Cnut’s other son Harthacnut became king of Denmark. Harthacnut eventually gained the power over England a few short years later when his brother Harold died. But it was not long before he too succumbed, thus ultimately ending the Norse rule of England for good.


After the death of Harthacnut, the rule of Denmark now fell under the Norwegian king Magnus the Good for a few years.




A Bloom of Foliate Ornaments





The characteristics of the Ringerike style is a direct and close continuation of the Mammen style, from which it can often be difficult to discern the differences.


The development of the style draws on further inspiration from Western European sources. The use of foliate motifs is intensified. The style displays intertwining tendrils inspired by Frankish conventions, alternating lobes and tendrils of British origin, and leaf-terminals inspired by acanthus leaves which were popular in both the Frankish and British regions.


But the style is still inherently Norse in nature. All external influences are modelled to fit Scandinavian tradition and convention, where the motif of the great beast introduced in the Mammen era, is now gaining further popularity and is seen in many variations not least on the many new runestones erected in this time.






With the gradual introduction of Christianity in Scandinavia, no equipment was laid in graves. Dating, therefore almost exclusively relies on metalworks found in hoards together with coins included but can be reasonably well established.






Before the Greater Jelling Stone, only a dozen stone sculptures in Scandinavia had been erected, except for the Gotland picture stones.


The power centre around the Jelling dynasty was probably the driving factor behind the development of the style, with its connections through the Church organisation the direct cultural influences must have had an impact as is also reflected in the style.


The rune stones now became quite popular inspired by the Jelling stone, and it is from this time we see the most erected rune stones in Scandinavia with Uppland, Sweden forming the innovative centre. The influence from English stone carvers is evident, and the craft may have been brought back to Scandinavia through the Norse settlements.


The Ringerike style is the only Viking Age style which is not named after an actual find location. Instead, it is actually named after the area of Ringerike, a little north of Oslo, from which the sandstone material comes from, by which many of the runestones are made of.




Weather Vanes


Some of the most magnificent examples in the style are the three weather vanes from Norway and Sweden. They were initially used as a metal standard or flag on the masthead or prow on ships but survived due to being adapted and used as weather vanes on churches and was ultimately still in use almost up until modern day.




Wooden Staffs


The wooden staffs found in Lund and Dublin deserves a special mention here too, because of their splendid animal head terminals reminiscent of the animal head posts of the Oseberg grave.






The style was widely spread throughout Scandinavia and all of the Norse settlements, not least in the British Isles, where it inspired many of the existing local styles, and even found great popularity in the Irish regions were it was heavily adopted and among others directly inspired a few manuscripts. It was even still in use in this region after it had faded and transitioned into the Urnes style in Scandinavia.









Ringerike – Examples







c. 1018 – 1035

Disc brooch
— the Årstad hoard

Årstad, Rogaland, Norway.


c. 1026 – 1030

Gilt silver arm ring with animal head terminal
– the Undrom hoard

Undrom, Ångermanland, Sweden.
Historiska Museet, Stockholm SHM 1318


c. 1048

Silver brooch
— the Espinge hoard

Espinge, Hurva, Skåne.
Historiska Museet, Stockholm SHM 6620:2


c. 1060 – 1079

The Bonderup crucifix

Bonderup, Zealand, Denmark.

Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen 14190


c. 1055

Gilt silver disc brooch
— the Gerete hoard

Gerete, Fardhem, Gotland, Sweden.
Historiska Museet, Stockholm


c. 1085

Gilt silver bird brooch
— the Gräsli hoard

Gräsli, Sør-Tröndelag, Norway.
Trondheim Museum







Animal head staff (I)

Dublin, Ireland.
National Museum of Ireland, Dublin E172:5587


Animal head staff (II)

Lund, Scania, Sweden.
Kulturen, Lund KM 59.126:795


The Alstad stone

Alstad, Oppland, Norway.
Universitetets Oldsaksamling, Oslo.


Bone needle

London, England.
The British Museum, London M&LA 1893, 6–18, 72


Bronze rim mount

Aarhus, Jutland, Denmark.
Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen C9487


The Dynna stone

Dynna, Oppland, Norway.


The Flatatunga planks

Flatatunga, Northwestern Region, Iceland.
Þjóðminjasafn Íslands, Reykjavík 15296 a-c


Gilt silver bronze plate

Winchester, England.
Winchester Cathedral Library


Gold filigree disc brooches
— the Hornelund hoard

Hornelund, Jutland, Denmark.
Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen C7144, C7145


The Gök stone (Gökstenen)

Härad, Södermanland, Sweden.


The Heggen vane

Heggen, Buskerud, Norway.
Universitetets Oldsakssamling, Oslo, C23602


Ivory head of a tau crozier

Veszprémvölgy, Hungary.


The Källunge vane

Källunge, Gotland, Sverige.


The Norra Åsarp stone

Norra Åsarp, Västergötland, Sweden.


The Gaulverjabær plank

Gaulverjabær, Southern Region, Iceland.
Þjóðminjasafn Íslands, Reykjavík 1974:217


The Ramsundsberget Sigurd-carvings

Jäder, Södermanland, Sweden.


Stone from Allehelgons kirke

Lund, Scania, Sweden.


Stone slab

City of London, England.


The Stora Ek stone

Stora Ek, Västergötland, Sverige.


The St Paul’s Churchyard stone

St Paul’s churchyard, London, England.
Museum of London, London 4075


The Söderala vane

Söderala, Hälsingland, Sweden.
Historiska Museet, Stockholm SHM 16023


The Tullstorp stone

Tullstorp, Scania, Sweden.


The Vang stone

Vang, Oppland, Norway.







Graham-Campbell, James, 2013. Viking Art.


Fuglesang, Signe Horn, 1980. Some Aspects of the Ringerike Style.


Fuglesang, Signe Horn, 1981. ‘Stylistic Groups in Late Viking and Early Romanesque Art.’ Acta ad Archaeologiam et Artium Historiam Pertinentia (Series altera in 8°) 79–125.










The Anatomy of Viking Art

The Anatomy of Viking Art

This article is part of a series on Viking Age art, which has been turned into a handy e-book (PDF).

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