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Irish Christianity - The Beginnings of

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.

Entry requirements

This course is open to graduates with a Second Class Honours Degree or higher in a relevant discipline. For North American students a cumulative GPA of 3.2 is normally expected.

If you are applying with Qualifications obtained outside Ireland and you wish to verify if you meet the minimum academic and English language requirements for this programme please click here to view the grades comparison table by country and for details of recognised English language tests.

Non-EU Candidates

Non-EU candidates are expected to have educational qualifications of a standard equivalent to Irish university primary degree level. In addition, where such candidates are non-native speakers of the English language they must satisfy the university of their competency in the English language. To verify if you meet the minimum academic requirements for this programme please visit our qualification comparison pages.


Full-time 1 year
Part-time option over 2 years

The part-time option will be taught during weekday working hours over 2 years.

The programme may be studied full time (over 12 months) or part-time (over 24 months). Attendance at taught modules (approximately 100-125 lecture hours) is compulsory. In areas of supervised study, supervisors for the relevant modules will be organised by the teaching staff of the Department. The thesis topic and supervisor will be chosen by the student in consultation with members of staff.

Careers or further progression

Skills and Careers Information

An MA degree in The Beginnings of Irish Christianity, besides preparing a student for further study in the field of Celtic Studies, can also provide an additional qualification ? and a mark of distinction ? for students pursuing advanced degrees in such fields as Classics, English, History or Medieval Studies. It is also a useful qualification for pursuing careers in the heritage, local history and broadcasting sectors; and it would be of interest to those working in the fields of religious education and pastoral care within the Christian Churches.

Further enquiries

Contact details for this course
Dr. Caitriona O Dochartaigh
+353 21 4903357

Ms. Ciara Ní Churnáin

Subjects taught

For the full-time one-year option, you are required to choose modules to the value of 60 credits. Most modules have a value of 10 credits and involve weekly classes for the duration of the academic year (24 weeks); some of the electives however are worth 5 or 15 credits, and the optional field trip has a value of 15 credits. Depending on options, a full-time student will have a minimum of 5 classes per week (though many will also contain weekly assignments). For one-on-one supervised studies, and for the 30-credit dissertation, students are expected to meet with their supervisors on a regular basis.

The Masters in The Beginnings of Irish Christianity is coordinated, and principally taught, by members of the Department of Early and Medieval Irish, with participation by staff of the Departments of Archaeology, Classics, Folklore and History.

This programme explores the religious experience of the first European people beyond the boundaries of the Roman empire to become Christian. It is unique in the comprehensiveness of its approach, with modules dealing with literature, history and archaeology, together with language courses to enable students to get closer to the original texts while a field trip will bring direct encounters with the surviving remains of early Christian Ireland. The writing of a Masters dissertation is an invaluable opportunity to develop in-depth knowledge, as well as research and writing skills, with one-on-one supervision by internationally recognised experts in the field.

Assessment method

The taught modules are assessed by continuous assessment and/or by end-of-year examinations. In the supervised-study modules, assessment is by essay/project; in the research presentation, public delivery to an academic audience is also assessed.

Full details and regulations governing Examinations for each programme will be contained in the Marks and Standards 2013 Book and for each module in the Book of Modules

Application date

Applications for 2019 start dates will open on November 1st 2018.

EU Applicants: UCC operates a rounds closing date system for the majority of postgraduate taught courses, which means we offer places four times a year on a rolling basis. Some courses have one specific closing date, please check your course prospectus page for this information.

The UCC rounds EU application system closing dates for postgraduate taught courses are below. We advise applicants to apply as soon as possible.

Deadline for receipt of Applications:

For all completed applications received by January 11th 2019
Offers will be made:Offers will be made by January 25th 2019

For all completed applications received by March 1st 2019
Offers will be made: Offers will be made by March 15th 2019

For all completed applications received by May 1st 2019
Offers will be made: Offers will be made by May 15th 2019

For all completed applications received by July 1st 2019
Offers will be made: Offer will be made by July 15th 2019

Late applications may be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis for any courses that have remaining capacity for places.

While there is no official closing date for Research courses applicants are advised to submit their application at least two months ahead of their proposed start date. There are four official Research start dates – September/October, January, April and July.

Non-EU Applicants:

Please visit the following page for further information for Non EU applicants

The closing date for non-EU applications is 15th June

Enrolment and start dates

Start Date 3 September 2019

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