Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
The Challenge to Christendom
Academic Year
Semester 1
Mutually Exclusive
Mutually Exclusive
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 18 x 1 Hour Lectures
Seminar 3 x 2 Hour Seminars


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 1 X 2,500 word essay  50%
Semester Exam 2 Hours   1 x 2 hour written examination  50%
Supplementary Assessment 1 x 2,500 word essay (resit)  50%
Supplementary Exam 2 Hours   1 x 2 hour written examination (resit)  50%

Learning Outcomes

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

Demonstrate an understanding of a body of historical knowledge relating to high and later medieval Europe 2. Demonstrate an understanding of the concept of ‘Christendom’ and how it has been interpreted. 3. Demonstrate an understanding of the range of primary and secondary sources which may be utilised by historians to study Europe in the high and later Middle Ages

Brief description

By the beginning of the thirteenth century the peoples and regions of western Europe had come to think of themselves as part of an entity called Christendom, obedient to the authority of the pope and celebrating the Latin liturgy. The purpose of this course is to identify the characteristics of this 'Latin Christendom' and to provide a broad survey of religious and ecclesiastical activity in the period. It provides an assessment of the place which the medieval church occupied in contemporary spiritual life and its impact on and relationship with, secular politics and social issues. It considers the nature and extent of the challenges, both internal and external, to the idea of a unified and integrated Christian society with particular reference to the period between the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 and the years which immediately preceded the Reformation.


The first lecture will provide an introduction to the module and the key themes to be discussed; in particular it will present the concept of Christendom as the basis for the rest of the module. The rest of the lectures are divided into two major sections. The first section will discuss and analyse the state of Christendom and the Church in the early thirteenth century to identify the characteristics of Latin Christendom. Aspects to be looked at will include the purpose and structure of the Church, the development of ‘Papal Monarchy’ in the time of the Fourth Lateran Council, and the role of the laity within the Church. Understanding the Church and the state of Christendom will prepare the way for the second section which will focus on the challenges, both internal and external, which threatened the idea of a united and integrated Christendom from the thirteenth century onwards. This period saw the rise of heresy, anti-clericalism, Church Councils and humanism. There were also challenges posed from Islam, urban life and the religion of the laity. The final lecture will assess the state of Christendom on the eve of the Reformation and bring together the different threads that have been running through the module.
Students will be expected to attend two two-hour seminars. The aim of these seminars is to provide an opportunity for intensive discussion, which explores both the direct subject matter of the lectures, but also offers ways of thinking across lecture boundaries. Seminar themes are therefore likely to include broad and inclusive topics such as the Papacy and the ‘political Church’, the variety in practice and belief in the later Middle Ages, and the historiography of Christendom.


Survey modules aim to provide students with a broad lecture-based introduction to an historical period and/or theme and this particular module introduces the issues raised by the history of the church in the later middle ages and to provide a broad survey of religious and ecclesiastical activity and its social and political impact in Western Europe between the Fourth and Fifth Lateran Councils. The structure is intended to provide for the analysis of themes within a chronological framework. It is particularly relevant for those students studying the degree scheme in Medieval and Early Modern History (V190) but also provides an additional choice for students of history more generally.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Communication Written communication skills will be developed through the coursework and written examination; skills in oral presentation will be developed in seminars but are not formally assessed.
Improving own Learning and Performance Students will be advised on how to improve research and communication skills through the individual tutorial providing feedback on submitted coursework.
Information Technology Students will be encouraged to locate suitable material on the web and to apply it appropriately to their own work. Students will also be expected to word-process their work and make use of Blackboard. These skills will not be formally assessed.
Personal Development and Career planning Students will develop a range of transferable skills, including time management and communication skills, which may help them identify their personal strengths as they consider potential career paths.
Problem solving Students are expected to note and respond to historical problems which arise as part of the study of this subject area and to undertake suitable research for seminars and essays.
Research skills Students will develop their research skills by reading a range of texts and evaluating their usefulness in preparation for the coursework and the written examination.
Subject Specific Skills An ability to identify and analyze medieval primary sources
Team work Students will be expected to play an active part in group activities (e.g. short group presentations in seminars) and to learn to evaluate their own contribution to such activities.


This module is at CQFW Level 6