RS 339A: Celtic Christianity

Syllabus- Fall 2001
M/F 1:00-2:15pm
JE 380


Raymond A. Patterson


JE 148


ex. 2427


Web Page:

Office Hours:


11-12 am
2:30-4 pm
and by appointment

Course Description

RS 339: Celtic Christianity is divided into three segments:


An overview of the introduction of Christianity into Celtic lands, including Patrick’s mission, as well as the subsequent "Golden Age" of monastic expansion in Ireland


An examination of Celtic Christian culture and spiritual reform movements in the period before the Viking invasions


A consideration of further developments in the Irish Church in the period between the Viking invasions and the coming of the Normans in the Twelfth century


Required Texts:

The text for the class, available at the bookstore, is:

Davies, Oliver, trans. and ed. Celtic Spirituality. New York: Paulist Press, 1999.

Other readings will be made available on Reserve. With the new library system, students should search the library catalog for the reserve readings, which are organized by the title of the articles listed under my name or the course number. Select the title to see the folder number of the article. Please do not mark the Reserve readings when taking notes.

Class Requirements:

Regular attendance is expected of all students. If a student is unable to attend class, he or she should notify the instructor. More than one absence without the instructor’s permission will negatively impact the final grade. Frequent absences will result in a failing grade.

Students should be on time for class. Arriving late or leaving during the class period can be disruptive for the instructor and other members of the class. Excessive tardiness will be reflected in a lower grade for class attendance.

Students will be evaluated on the following course work:

Mid-term Exam


Class Presentation


Term Paper Project (10-15 pages)
(including Annotated Bibliography)


Take-home Final Exam


Daily Questions/Class Participation/Attendance


Academic Integrity

Students are expected to adhere to the Academic Integrity Policy established by St. Michael’s College and distributed to all students.


Class Schedule

(The instructor reserves the right to change the schedule. Students will be notified in class of any changes.)


August 29

Class Requirements

Introduction-Is there a Celtic Christianity?



400-700: Missions and Foundations

September 3

Continental Christianity in the Fifth Century

Selections from the Life of Anthony, 8-19, 36-41, 64-69
Life of Martin of Tours
(on reserve)

Map: Barbarian Invasions

September 5

Pre-Christian Ireland

Selections from the Mythological and Ulster Cycles, 
in Over Nine Waves, 50-62, 126-140.
(on reserve)

Navan Fort

September 10

Patrick’s Mission

Declaration (Confessio) and Letter to the soldiers of Coroticus, in Celtic Spirituality, 67-89.


September 12

Irish Society in the Sixth and Seventh Century

Kelly, Guide to Early Irish Law, 1-15, 125-157.
(on reserve)


September 17

Irish Church in the Sixth and Seventh Century

Cambrai Homily, in Celtic Spirituality,

Irish Canons (handout)


September 19

Patrick and Armagh

Muirchú’s Life of Patrick, in Celtic Spirituality, 91-117.

Tírechán’s Account of St. Patrick’s Journey, 154-174.
(on reserve)


September 24

Brigit and Kildare

Cogitosus’ Life of Brigit, in Celtic Spirituality, 122-139.


September 26

Columba and Iona

Selections from Adomnán’s Life of Columba
(on reserve)

Iona panaroma

October 1

Peregrinatio and Columbanus

Columbanus’ Rule and Homilies selections, in Celtic Spirituality, 246-256, 353-362.


October 3

Christian Britain and the Council of Whitby

Selections from Bede’s Ecclesiastical History
(on reserve)


October 8

Columbus Day Holiday


October 10

Mid-Term Exam


700-900 AD: Celtic Culture and Reform

October 15


"Penitentials of Gildas and Cummean," in Celtic Spirituality, 227-245.


October 17

Célí Dé Reform

Rule of Tallaght
(on reserve)


October 22


Selections from Stowe Missal and Martyrology of Oengus


October 24

Art I: Illuminated manuscripts and reliquaries



October 29

Art II: Celtic Crosses and Architecture



October 31




November 5




Ireland after the Viking Invasions: 900-120

November 7

Viking invasions



November 12

Hagiography revisited

Selections from Vita Tripartita and Irish Life of Brigit
(on reserve)


November 14

Irish Apocrypha

Evernew Tongue, in Celtic Spirituality, 321-327.


November 19

Vision literature

Vision of Adomnan, in Celtic Spirituality, 330-340.


November 21

[Thanksgiving Holiday]


November 26

Voyage Literature

Voyage of Brendan, in Celtic Spirituality, 155-190.


November 28


Vision of MacCongline


December 3

Twelfth Century Ireland

Selections from Bernard of Clairvaux and Gerald of Wales
(on reserve)


December 5

Coming of the Normans

Life of Declan
(on reserve)


December 12

Take-home Final Exam Due- 1 pm