Medieval Mondays: The Vikings are Coming! The Vikings are Coming!


Ever heard someone say that someone else’s action is “cutting off their nose to spite their face.” I had heard this saying floating around for years before I understood what it meant and, even more interestingly, where it comes from.

This idiom refers to someone who overreacts in response to a situation, often in a self-destructive way. Mole hills become mountains and that sort of thing…

Nuns 1

The phrase originated in the convents of Europe during the time of Viking expansion and invasion. When convents would receive word that Viking ships had been spotted or landed on their coasts, nuns would take to cutting their own noses off. Due to the fearsome reputation of these invaders, nuns attempted to protect their chastity by making themselves as unattractive as possible. One recorded instance of this happening was at Coldingham convent in 867 AD. The Mother Superior gathered her nuns together, and they all disfigured themselves in this manner. When the Vikings finally arrived, they were so disturbed by what they discovered that it is believed they burned the entire convent to the ground.

Nuns 2

So, I guess, it didn’t quite work out the ways the nuns had planned…


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