RRE4201 – Early Christian Liturgy

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Course content

An important field of Early Christianity is its ritual dimension. Early Christians not only had certain beliefs but also practiced a ritual liturgy, and the two were interconnected. In this course you will approach the Christian liturgy of the first eight centuries from both an historical and mystagogical perspective, with archaeology and sociology forming important background aspects. The study of original sources will be an important part of the course.

Christian liturgy developed considerably from Christianity’s beginnings within Judaism till its triumphant ascendency within the Roman Empire. A major external shift in liturgical history took place in the fourth century. The legalisation of the Church allowed its cult to become public, and the building of new and brilliant churches called for enrichment of the cult’s ritual aspects, including urban processions.

The central ritual act of Early Christianity was the Eucharist. Christian initiation was celebrated through Baptism and Chrismation (holy unction). The worship of Jesus and the growing cult of saints were expressed in an ever more replete Church year, centered on Easter and Christmas/Epiphany. A weekly cycle developed with daily offices in major churches, centered on Sunday, in Jerusalem with a flowering hymnography. The understanding of the meaning of Eucharist and Baptism also evolved and, in addition, from the 4th century onwards the spiritual exegesis techniques (typology, allegory) were applied even to liturgy, producing mystagogical commentaries of ritual.

The study of the three first centuries’ liturgy will have a general outlook, encompassing all Christendom, while for the following period (until ca. 800) the major liturgical center of the Holy City of Jerusalem will be focused on particularly.

Learning outcome

Through the study of original sources and secondary literature, you will gain methodological skills in interpreting ritual acts present in texts, generally from a comparative perspective. You will acquire general knowledge about the various fields of early Christian ritual: Eucharist, Baptism/Chrismation, church year, daily office, and stational liturgy, - in their development from initial diversity to fixation and uniformisation in the post-Constantinian era. Knowledge about the formative period of Christian liturgy will provide for you a basis for understanding Christian religious practice today.


Formal prerequisite knowledge

Bachelor degree with an emphasis in theology or Christian/religious studies, 80 units or equivalent.


Time period
Teaching: week 5-19
Compact seminar in Lund 5th to 9th of March for students on the Masters Programme of RRE.

Obligatory requirements:

In mid-semester, a short paper (ca. 1000 words) or an oral presentation (in class).


Term Paper of some 3-4000 words.

Examination support material

No examination support material is allowed.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Withdrawal from an examination

It is possible to take the exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.

Facts about this course






Spring 2012


Spring 2012

Teaching language