Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Intended for use in future years
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 18 x 50 minute lectures (two lectures per week)
Seminars / Tutorials 5 x 100 minute seminars (1 seminare per fortnight) 1 x 10 minute individual essay tutorial


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Exam 3 Hours   3 question closed examination  60%
Semester Assessment 2 x 2,500 word essays  40%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

Demonstrate a firm grounding in the secondary source material and on-going debates in the study of the medieval church

Show an understanding of the value of an inter-disciplinary approach to the study of the past

Reflect upon and critically analyse secondary and primary sources.

Collect, collate and analyse historical evidence and produce both oral and written arguments.

Work independently and collaboratively (not assessed).

Produce work in a professional manner and demonstrate skills appropriate to the study of history.

Brief description

The church, it has often been argued, was central to the medieval world. It provided much more than the spiritual care of the people and developed, during the course of the period covered by this module, into an exceptionally powerful, wealthy and influential institution, which effectively controlled education and the development of learning, and which was crucially involved in the political, social and economic life of the day. This module assesses the medieval church from two perspectives. On the one hand it explains and examines the structure of the church as a hierarchical institution comprised of those serving it (monks, priests, bishops, popes, etc.). On the other, it assesses the faith of `ordinary' people and their daily religious experiences, including the popularity of saints' cults, pilgrimages and miracle stories. Ideas of what was accepted, and where the ever-shifting line between orthodoxy and heresy was drawn, and why, will also be discussed. A continuous thread which runs through the module is the call for reform of the church, both from above and from below, and the ways in which reform was implemented over the centuries and up to the events in the sixteenth century, which saw the reform of the church on an unprecedented level.


This module offers students the opportunity of an in-depth study of the medieval church, from its beginnings to the sixteenth century, but with the main focus on the period c.500-1500. The module considers the history of the Christian faith, with emphasis on the religiosity of the people and ideas of orthodoxy and heresy, and of the institutional church across Western Christendom. It takes a widely comparative approach and extensive use will be made of the rich and varied source material available (in print and translation), by which means the significant role of the medieval church in the development of western culture and learning will be examined.


Lectures: 18 x 50 minutes (2 per week)
1. Introduction and sources
2. Beginnings of Christianity: the Desert Fathers
3. The Age of the Saints I: the concept of sainthood
4. The Age of the Saints II: saints, relics and pilgrimage
5. The faith of the people: orthodoxy
6. The faith of the people: before and after death
7. The Papacy I: origins and institutions
8. The Papacy II: reform
9. Heresy I: the origins of Christians dissent
10. Heresy II: later medieval heresy
11. Christianity and other faiths: Judaism
12. Christianity and other faiths: Islam
13. Religious orders I: the monastic ideal
14. Religious orders II: monastic reform
15. Religious orders III: the new religious orders
16. Religion in art and literature
17. The economy of the church
18. The eve of the Reformation

Seminars: 5 x 100 minutes (1 per fortnight)
1. The early church
2. Belief and unbelief
3. The cloistered life
4. Church and state
5. The challenge to Catholicism
1 x 15 minute essay return tutorial

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number
Communication Read a wide range of both primary and secondary texts; improve listening skills during the lectures, and consequently develop skills in note taking; demonstrate and develop the ability to communicate ideas in two essays; skills in oral presentation will be developed in seminars but not assessed.
Improving own Learning and Performance Show awareness of own learning styles, personal preferences and needs; devise and apply realistic learning and self management strategies; devise a personal action plan to include short and long-term goals and to develop personal awareness of how to improve on these.
Information Technology Students will be encouraged to locate suitable material on the web and to access information on CD-Roms and to apply it appropriately to their own work. Students will also be encouraged to word-process their work. These skills will not be formally assessed.
Personal Development and Career planning Develop awareness of personal skills, beliefs and qualities in relation to course in progression; plan and prepare for future course/career.
Problem solving Identify problems and factors which might influence potential solutions; develop creative thinking approaches to problem solving; evaluate advantages and disadvantages of potential solutions.
Research skills Understand a range of research methods and plans and carry out research; produce academically appropriate pieces of written work.
Subject Specific Skills
Team work Understand the concept of group dynamics; contribute to the setting of group goals; contribute effectively to the planning of group activities; play an active part in group activities (e.g. short group presentations in seminars); exercise negotiation and persuasion skills; evaluate group activities and own contribution.


This module is at CQFW Level 6