HIS-20071 - Saints and Society in Medieval Europe
Coordinator: Kathleen Cushing Room: CBB0.044 Tel: +44 1782 7 33207
Lecture Time: See Timetable...
Level: Level 5
Credits: 15
Study Hours: 150
School Office: 01782 733147

Programme/Approved Electives for 2023/24


Available as a Free Standing Elective






Barred Combinations


Description for 2023/24

In 2004 animal rights activists kidnapped the corpse of 82-year-old Gladys Hammond from a Staffordshire church-yard. In 2006 Argentine trades unionists fought a gun battle over the coffin of former dictator, Juan Perón, when it was reburied. And, in 2007 the home and grave of Elvis Presley attracted 600,000 visitors. An anthropologist might explain these phenomena as cultures in which the dead are seen as powerful. In this module we will look at an important group of powerful dead, saints, who are critical to the formation of European culture, embodying concepts of ritual, power and celebrity. The module will cover a wide range of issues including the development of the cult of saints in the early Church, its development and spread during the period c.900-c.1250, as well as the religious, social and political use functions of the saints in medieval culture.
Particular attention will be devoted to the changing nature of who was a saint, the extent to which popular acclamation made a saint, medieval society's belief in the saints, the difference between local and universal saints as well as the increasing procedures demanded by the Church for canonization. With case studies on martyr and confessor saints and other models of sanctity and the use of translations of primary sources, it will also look to address the problems faced by historians of medieval saints due to the nature of the historical record.

To explore the development of the cult of saints and their role in society in early medieval Europe, with particular focus on the period c.900-1250, and the religious, social and political functions of the saints in medieval culture, in order to advance students's historical and historiographical knowledge using a wide variety of primary and secondary sources, including visual sources.

Talis Aspire Reading List
Any reading lists will be provided by the start of the course.

Intended Learning Outcomes

demonstrate that they have acquired knowledge of the role of the saints in medieval society and their religious, social and political functions: 1,2
read and use contested texts and other source materials critically, while addressing the issues of genre, content, perspective and historicity: 1,2
evaluate scholarly debates on this topic, in particular the idea of `living with the dead¿ in medieval culture: 1,2

Study hours

12 lectures, 12 seminars, 12 workshops, 38 hours seminar preparation, 38 hours commentary preparation, 38 hours lecture consolidation and exam preparation.

School Rules


Description of Module Assessment

1: Commentary weighted 40%
One c.1000-word commentary on a textual source from a selection set by the tutor

2: Open Book Examination weighted 60%
Take-Home Exam
An unseen twenty-eight-hour take-home examination in which students will be expected to answer two questions: part 1. comment on one image from a selection; part 2: complete essay question a list of 6. Although you have 28 hours, you should expect to need 2-3 hours active working time.