Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2020-2021 (archived)

Module THEO57630: Christian Northumbria 600-750

Department: Theology and Religion

THEO57630: Christian Northumbria 600-750

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Not available in 2020/21 Module Cap


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To provide training in the basic methods of historical research required for the critical interpretation of primary sources.
  • To explore the primary sources (literary, artistic and archaeological) for the history of Chrisitianity in Northumbria in the seventh and eighth centuries.
  • To investigate a variety of topics which contribute to the understanding of a period of major importance in regional, national and European history.


  • Within a relatively brief period Northumbria went from being a missionfield to becoming one of the major religious and cultural centres in Europe. This module, which will be based on a study of the original sources, will include such topics as the christianisation of Northumbria, the different influences which met and mingled there (Irish, Gallic, Roman), the interaction between Christianity and heroic Germanic society, the relationship between monasticism, the contemplative ideal, and pastoral care, the work of Bede, and the artistic, cultural and scholarly achievements of the Northumbrian church. The literary sources will be studied in English translation, and will include both works originally written in Latin, such as Bede's Ecclesiastical History, and also the early form of an Old English poem, 'The Dream of the Rood', which is engraved in runes on the Ruthwell Cross. It will also involve consideration of artifacts produced at this time, especially carved stone crosses and manuscripts, several of which are in the collections owned and housed by the Dean and chapter of Durham Cathedral.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • a good background and understanding of the formative period of Northumbria's conversion to Christianity, the various ideals and achievements of the key figures (including Wilfrid, Aidan, Bede, Cuthbert) and the constraints under which they were operating
  • a good background and understanding of Bede's concerns and the context in which he wrote
  • a good background and appreciation of the 'Golden Age' of Northumbria and its achievements in the sphere of scholarship, manuscript illumination and stone carving, and its commitment to conveying the Gospel to new audiences
Subject-specific Skills:
  • As appropriate to the topics studied in detail:
  • an ability to ask questions of original written sources in order to handle them critically and effectively in one's own research
  • a realisation of the importance of context, and of understanding the difference between our way of looking at things, and that of people living in a different period
  • an ability to use artistic, archaeological and palaeographical evidence alongside written evidence
Key Skills:
  • development of an ability to read critically, perceptively, and analytically
  • development of interdisciplinary skills
  • an advanced ability in evaluating evidence, reaching one's own conclusions on the basis of the evidence, and constructing a coherent argument setting out one's own views, supported by the evidence

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Objectives are to be met by developing skills in the critical interpretation of literary, artistic and archaeological sources for the history of the period.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 20 1 per week 1 20
Preparation and reading 280
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 5000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

One 5000 word essay

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University