RARE Viking artefacts have gone on display as part of an exhibition telling the story of the Norse invasion of the North-East.

The Vikings in Northumbria opens at Durham Cathedral, putting the spotlight on the plundering raiders who crossed the North Sea to carry out unexpected and devastating raids on Lindisfarne in 793 AD.

The invasions, at the cradle of English Christianity, left the Community of St Cuthbert searching for a safe home for their beloved saint.

His remains still lie in the Norman cathedral, where visitors can see the new display as part of the multi award-winning museum experience, Open Treasure.

Shaun McAlister, exhibitions assistant at Durham Cathedral, said: “Through trade, raids and conquest the Vikings would help to shape the political and cultural landscapes of Northumbria and the British Isles.

“Without their attacks and the fear they inspired, the Community of St. Cuthbert would never have left Lindisfarne and Durham Cathedral would never have been built.”

The Vikings were famous for their ship building skills, and a highlight of the exhibition is the 1.5-metre long model warship, based on both the Norwegian Gokstad ship and its 1893 full-scale replica, the Viking.

The original, dating back to 890, was designed to be both sailed and rowed by the Vikings as they set out on their pillaging voyages.

It featured 16 oars on either side and held a crew of at least 34 men who sat on chests holding items to trade.

The model, made by Mr. R. Paterson of Lasswade, Scotland, features the additional chilling detail of a fearsome beast’s head, a sight which was known to send shivers of fear through the kingdom of Northumbria.

Also on display are some of the most precious treasures from Durham Cathedral library’s collections, including a facsimile of the Lindisfarne Gospel.

The original work, bound in leather and covered in gold and jewels, was a gem the monks of Lindisfarne were keen to guard and protect, given the Vikings thirst for portable wealth.

An original 8th century Northumbrian gospel book, which is thought to have survived the first journey from Lindisfarne nearly 1,150 years ago, is another remarkable article on display.

The book tells the story of the fierce warriors of the North as raiders and plunderers to traders, settlers and later empire-builders.

It is the work of four scribes, and features fascinating liturgical notes, which indicate that one of its intended uses was for use during the ordination of Bishops.

Mr McAlister said: “The exhibition takes visitors through the remarkable 200-year story of the Vikings in the North-East, with visitors leaving armed with a greater understanding of their role in the region.”

Vikings in Northumbria, a temporary display, runs until September 28, and visitors will also be able to the see the wooden coffin that was used to carry the body of St Cuthbert to Durham by the monks of Lindisfarne as part of the full Open Treasure experience, which is on permanent display in the Great Kitchen.