Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module HIST2631: Treasure in Heaven: Medieval Monasticism c.1000-c.1300

Department: History

HIST2631: Treasure in Heaven: Medieval Monasticism c.1000-c.1300

Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • A pass mark in at least ONE level one module in History.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • Explore the significance of the medieval monasticism for our understanding of the history of high medieval Europe.
  • Develop the way in which students use religious, literary and other primary sources including architectural and archaeological.
  • Contribute towards the achievement of the Department's generic Aims for study at Level 2.


  • The module will develop as follows:
  • Explore the origins of monasticism in the West from late Antiquity to the Reform movement of the 10th Century. What are the sources for monastic legislation and for the ideals of monastic life? What are the tensions in monastic ideals? Hermit-life and community-life, Eastern and Western traditions will be explored. Principal texts will include the Rule of St Benedict, the Conferences of John Cassian and the Life of St Anthony.
  • Explore the background to monastic reform in the 11th century by looking at models and inspirations from the Carolingian reforms, the f experiences of 10th century England, and 10th and early 11th century Flanders. Key texts will include: Regularis Concordia, the St Gall plan and collections of sources on Flanders by Diehl and Vanderputten.
  • High Medieval monastic foundations: Part A) a survey of the wide variety of monastic experiment in the period, from Augustinian Canons, to the hermit movement, Grandmontines, Carthusians, Cistercians and Benedictines. Part B) Case-studies of monastic leaders: Stephen of Muret, Bernard of Clairvaux and Bruno the Carthusian.
  • The material support for monasticism: themes of patronage, architecture and building work, tensions between different visions of monastic life – Cluniacs versus Cistercians. A case-study on the Cistercians, their economic advances, ideal and reality, and on monastic architecture with Durham Cathedral Priory and Finchale.
  • Spiritual Life and Monastic Learning: an examination of devotional texts and practice, and monastic theology: Anselm of Canterbury, John of Fecamp, Ailred of Rievaulx and Godfrey of Auxerre.
  • Themes around monastic living: food culture and monasteries, health and well-being, travel and relationships with the secular world.
  • Criticism of monasticism: satirical writing, poetry and prose, critique of monastic reform: Key texts to include John of Salisbury, Walter Map and Brunel’s Ass.
  • The Challenge of the Mendicants: the emergence of Franciscan and Dominican communities: differences between Friars and Monks; Friars and learning.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • an understanding of the content and significance of monastic history in a European context.
  • an awareness of the source of material used by historians to investigate monastic history
  • to provide a basis for level 3 work on the social, economic and religious history of the High Middle Ages
  • experience researching medieval history using primary sources
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Subject specific skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/history.internal/local/ModuleProformaMap/
Key Skills:
  • Key skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/history.internal/local/ModuleProformaMap/

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

  • Student learning is facilitated by a combination of the following teaching methods:
  • lectures to set the foundations for further study and to provide the basis for the acquisition of subject specific knowledge. Lectures provide a broad framework which defines individual module content, introducing students to themes, debates and interpretations. In this environment, students are given the opportunity to develop skills in listening, selective note-taking and reflection;
  • seminars to allow students to present and critically reflect upon the acquired subject-specific knowledge, methodologies and theories, and to identify and debate a range of issues and differing opinions. The seminar is the forum in which students are given the opportunity to communicate ideas, jointly exploring themes and arguments. Seminars are structured to develop understanding and designed to maximise student participation related to prior independent preparation. Seminars give students the opportunity to develop oral communication skills, encourage critical and tolerant approaches to reasoned argument and historical discussion, build the students' ability to marshal historical evidence, and facilitate the development of the ability to summarise historical arguments, think in a rapidly changing environment and communicate in a persuasive and articulate manner, whilst recognising the value of working with others and, occasionally, towards shared goals.
  • Assessment:
  • Unseen Examinations test students' ability to work under pressure under timed conditions, to prepare for examinations and direct their own programme of revision and learning, and develop key time management skills. The unseen examination gives students the opportunity to develop relevant life skills such as the ability to produce coherent, reasoned and supported arguments under pressure. Students will be examined on subject specific knowledge;
  • Summative essays remain a central component of assessment in history, due to the integrative high-order skills they develop. Essays allow students the opportunity to recognise, represent and critically reflect upon ideas, concepts and problems; students can demonstrate awareness of, and the ability to use and evaluate, a diverse range of resources and identify, represent and debate a range of subject-specific issues and opinions. Through the essay, students can synthesise information, adopt critical appraisals and develop reasoned argument based on individual research; they should be able to communicate ideas in writing, with clarity and coherence; and to show the ability to integrate and critically assess material from a wide range of sources.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 17 16 in Term 2; 1 in Term 3 1 hour 17
Seminars 6 6 in Term 2 1 hour 6
Preparation and Reading 177
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
seen open book examination 2 hours 100%
Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Coursework assessment consisting of a short essay (max. 2,000 words) or assignment of equivalent length e.g. source commentaries 2000 words excluding footnotes and bibliography 100%

Formative Assessment:

Formative work done in preparation for and during seminars, including oral and written work as appropriate to the module. The summative coursework will have a formative element by allowing students to develop ideas and arguments for the examination and to practice writing to similar word limits

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