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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 a core part of the programme, enabling students to encounter the physical remains of this fascinating culture.

The programme may be studied full time (over 12 months) or part-time (over 24 months). Participation in the Field Trips to Early Christian Sites (CC6013) is compulsory (cost is included in the programme fee), as is attendance at taught modules (approximately 100-125 lecture hours). 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.

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 field trip (a core module) 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.

Unique Aspects of the Course
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.

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. All applicants whose first language is not English are required to sit either an IELTS test or a recognised equivalent test. The minimum requirement is an IELTS score of 6.5, with no individual section lower than 5.5. English lanaguage requirements can be found at


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

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

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

Ms. Ciara Ní Churnáin,
Executive Assistant
Email Address:
Telephone: +353-21-4903360
Address: Department of Early and Medieval Irish, UCC

Subjects taught

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. An essential part of the programme as a whole is a field-trip module (participation in which entails no 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.


Who Teaches This Course
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.

Academic Staff in the Department of Early and Medieval Irish:
John Carey
Kevin Murray
Máire Herbert
Caitríona Ó Dochartaigh
Academic Staff in other Departments:
Tomás Ó Carragáin
Marie-Annick Desplanques
Damian Bracken
Vicky Janssens
David Woods

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 2017-18 intake are now open.

While UCC operates a rounds system for Postgraduate Taught courses (detailed below) we would advise you to apply as soon as possible.

Deadline for receipt of Applications: Offers will be made:

For all completed applications received by January 16th 2017 Offers will be made by January 30th 2017

For all completed applications received by March 1st 2017 Offers will be made by March 15th 2017

For all completed applications received by May 1st 2017 Offers will be made by May 15th 2017

For all completed applications received by July 3rd 2017 Offers will be made by July 17th 2017

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

Non-EU Applicants:

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

Course fee

Costs: 2017/2018 Irish/EU Fee: €6,000 full-time; €3,000 per year part-time

Enrolment and start dates

Next Intake: 11 September 2017

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