This programme provides students with a comprehensive introduction to the religious culture and spirituality of early medieval Ireland, from the conversion to Christianity down to the end of the twelfth century. The new religion transformed Ireland in fundamental ways, but was also able to accommodate many aspects of indigenous tradition which retained their importance for Irish Christians. Besides exploring these developments, and the impact which Irish Christianity had on the rest of Europe, students will engage in the close study of various genres of religious literature, and can also begin the study of early Irish and of Latin. The writing of a dissertation, under the supervision of a member of staff, will develop and refine research skills. The programme provides an overview of the subject area which is unrivalled in its inclusiveness and diversity; field trips are an optional part of the programme, enabling students to encounter the physical remains of this fascinating culture.
The programme consists mainly of Celtic Civilisation modules, together with designated modules in Archaeology, History, Folklore and Latin. Students will examine the coming of Christianity to Ireland, the often complex and subtle ways in which the new religion established itself within the framework of indigenous culture, and the influence which a Gaelic ecclesiastical diaspora had on the growth of the Church in medieval Europe as a whole. Irish religious culture will also be explored through the lens of such key areas as the cult of the saints, and tales of supernatural voyages and visions. A student's particular interests are served not only by the wide range of modules on offer, but also through research on a special topic; and for a more direct engagement with the primary sources, instruction in early Irish and in Latin is available. The field-trip module is an optional part of the programme (participation in which entails additional costs) with visits to early Christian sites in Ireland, grounding literary study in encounters with what physically survives of a distant world. Students will put what they have learned to use, and hone their research and writing skills, by producing a Masters thesis.