BATTLE ABBEY, England (AP) — Thousands of history buffs, many in full costume, marked the 950th anniversary of the 1066 Battle of Hastings with a dramatic reenactment Saturday that commemorated one of the most important events in British history.
The battlefield in southern England seemed to erupt as more than 1,000 soldiers in period dress clashed with swords, swung their maces and shot arrows across the fields.
The reenactment was part of a weekend of festivities to commemorate the landmark battle. Tickets have long been sold out.
Some of the participants, dressed as warriors, had walked or traveled on horseback roughly 300 miles (480 kilometers) from York in northern England to the Battle Abbey in East Sussex in southern England to recreate a march that preceded the battle.
They stayed along the way in Saxon-style encampments during the three-week trek, drawing stares from onlookers surprised by the contrast between present day England and 1066.
Nigel Amos, designated to lead the march organized by English Heritage, called his role “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
The famous battle between William of Normandy and Anglo-Saxon King Harold ended in the latter’s death. William assumed the crown on Christmas Day and ruled until his death in 1087.
Thousands of combatants died in the fighting and the bloody battle was later portrayed in the Bayeux Tapestry.
Historians believe that William, known also as William the Conqueror, founded the Battle Abbey on the site several years later as a way to do penance for the extensive bloodshed.
The weekend event also included falconry displays, archery events and history lectures. The battle is re-enacted each year, but interest was at a high peak for this year’s anniversary.