Early medieval England was a landscape of shifting identities and traditions, consisting of various kingdoms and communities changing with the influence of invaders, settlers and goods from across Europe. The video game Assassin’s Creed Valhalla presents a beguiling 9th century variation of this world, with virtual recreations of real, historic sites.
Its Anglo-Saxon and Viking narrative incorporates versions of the cities of Winchester and York and iconic landmarks like Stonehenge. If you’ve explored some of these famous English sites in the game, then here are 6 of their real-world inspirations.
Stonehenge is a remarkable UNESCO World Heritage Site in Wiltshire consisting of standing stones, some transported from Wales. It’s one of the most well-known prehistoric monuments in Europe.
Stonehenge was constructed between 3000 BC and 1600 BC. Each of the monument’s stones weighs around four tonnes. Arranged in careful horseshoes, arcs and circles, the site is lined up to coincide with solstices and equinoxes.
The purposes to which Stonehenge was put remain uncertain. However in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, it’s wedded to a series of puzzles and is located in a fictionalised county of Hamtunscire.
2. London Mithraeum
The London Mithraeum, or the Temple of Mithras is an ancient Roman religious site built in the 2nd century by worshippers of the god Mithras. London Mithraeum affords visitors a rare glimpse into the Roman city of Londinium.
It was discovered by builders in September 1954 during the construction of a building in the City of London. It sat on the banks of the now vanished River Walbrook, a tributary of the River Thames.
London Mithraeum became the most famous Roman discovery in London in the 20th century. The site today contains an exhibition of Roman artefacts from the city. Its virtual interpretation in Assassin’s Creed is a magnificent ruin, located centrally in the city of “Lunden”.
3. Burgh Castle Roman Fort
Located 3 miles from Great Yarmouth on the Norfolk coast, Burgh Castle Roman Fort is one of the best preserved Roman sites in Britain. It was built in the 3rd century and formed part of the supposed series of fortifications on the ‘Saxon Shore’.
Burgh Castle Roman Fort was known as Gariannonum. Its walls were originally four metres wide and stood as high as four and a half metres high. Catapults called ballistae would have projected from the walls on defensive bastions.
After the Romans, the site was occupied by Saxons and possibly Normans. It’s an embellished version of Burgh Castle which the protagonist of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla storms with their East Anglian allies.
4. Lincoln Old Town
Containing city landmarks like the Stonebow and the castle entrance, Lincoln’s medieval Old Town is the site of the city’s Roman settlement and the later Lincoln Cathedral. The city achieved prominence in Viking times and had an important mint.
Lincoln became one of the Five Boroughs of the Danelaw in the East Midlands. It experienced an economic transformation, with archaeology revealing the development of new timber-framed buildings and a new street system.
Recognisable landmarks from the city are rendered in Assassins’ Creed Valhalla. The city’s Steep Hill makes an appearance, as do the High Street and Newport Arch. Newport Arch is a 3rd century Roman gate and possibly the oldest arch in the United Kingdom still used by traffic. Lincolnshire was reportedly the first area created for the game.
5. York City Walls
York’s City Walls are England’s most complete set of city walls and are an important part of York’s history. The original city walls date from 71 AD during Roman occupation, though these have been replaced over the centuries.
The imposing ten-sided Multiangular Tower remains from the Roman period, however. Danish occupiers in the early medieval period restored the walls, which by this time were in poor repair. The walls make for a scenic walking route, and embraces four ornate stone gateways known as ‘bars’.
York is one of the key cities in Valhalla. The city is the focus of multiple virtual recreations, including Coppergate market and York Minster.
6. Winchester Cathedral
Winchester Cathedral is one of the largest cathedrals in Europe. Its predecessor, the Old Minster, originally stood north of and partially beneath the current cathedral.
The Old Minister was the Anglo-Saxon cathedral for the diocese of Wessex and then Winchester, from 660 AD to 1093 AD. Winchester itself was an important base of power in early medieval England. Many of the kings of Wessex and England were buried in the Old Minster.
The outline of the building is visible in a brickwork layout in the current Cathedral’s churchyard, and as a warmly lit, virtual structure in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.