The end of the world show: See out the apocalypse in style at Jorvik Viking Festival

By Culture24 Reporter | 21 February 2014

Postpone your plans for Sunday. If Norse predictions of Ragnarok – a gruesome apocalypse – come true, organisers at the ongoing Jorvik Viking Festival say our existences will come to a grim end on the final day of the programme, when 300 warriors will mass at the Eye of York in a Battle Spectacular Finale.

A photo of a man in a Viking outfit and beard holding a flame and looking stern
A final feast of fireworks at York Viking Festival© JORVIK Viking Festival
“If the prediction does come true, we are determined to go out with a bang,” retorts Danielle Daglan, the Festival Director, promising a fitting finish to the world as we know it on Saturday.

“The eyes of the world’s media are set to be on York as our countdown comes to an end. The legend tells of the fall of the Norse gods and the birth of a new world.

“But, of course, if we wake up to the same old world on Sunday, we’ll have no regrets.”

A photo of a man in a Viking outfit and beard holding a flame and looking stern
Events take place across the weekend© JORVIK Viking Festival
That’s because these celebrations – billed as the most exuberant ever, partly because this is the 30th year of Viking festivals in the city – also mark Jolablot, an axe-downing feast in honour of the coming of spring and the rebirth of the world.

The festival week has already revealed a few secrets about York Minster, which has a surprise Scandinavian link to thank for the activities (featuring a trail with Monty the Monkey) it is currently hosting for families.

“The land on which York Minster now stands was gifted to the Chapter of York by the Viking Jarl Ulph in the 11th century,” explains Kate Whitworth, the Learning Manager at a Christian cathedral little-known for its worshipping invaders.

“The Viking lord marked the transfer of ownership by gifting an ornately carved elephant’s tusk – the Horn of Ulph – which is now 1,000 years old and on public display in our Revealing York Minster in the Undercroft attraction, beneath the Minster.

“In fact, York provided a unique melting pot for Norse and Christian beliefs, with old Scandinavian traditions gradually replaced by Christian ones during the 200 years of Viking settlement.

“They range from coins minted with St Peter’s name and Thor’s hammer to burial traditions which were uncovered during archaeological digs within the Minster walls.”

The notoriously fearsome festivities of the final day also include a strongman competition and pyrotechnics.

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