TFF4221 – Material Religion in Medieval Christianity

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

What can objects, images and rituals tell us about religious practices and beliefs of the past? The theoretical framework of Material religion challenges the traditional supremacy of texts and acknowledges that religious meaning and personal piety was created, shaped, altered, and sustained through contact and engagement with material artefacts and places, and through performances. By engaging with a variety of materials and practices, the aim of the course is to broaden the perspectives on, and nuance traditional approaches to, medieval Christianity, in the East as well as in the West. Moreover, by showing how the study of images, relics, shrines, as well as rituals, performances, and text-bearing artifacts, such as books, rolls, ostraca, or amulets, are important to our understanding of how medieval Christians engaged with religious texts and objects, the course will demonstrate why studies based on texts alone cannot capture the full extent of medieval lived religion.

Through investigations of material artefacts and rituals, this course will provide the students with insight in medieval religious understandings and experiences. The aim of this course is to identify and elucidate religious beliefs and practices in the Middle Ages in harmony and in contrast to normative theological dogmas and institutional instructions.

The course is based on ongoing frontier research at the Faculty of Theology and offers insight into the most up-to-date research methods and debates. 

Throughout this course, students will be offered examinations of artefacts and rituals that in different ways are understood as instrumental for the medieval spirituality and religious understanding, The course is structured around six different categories of artefacts to be examined:

  • Images and sculptures
  • Relics and Eucharistic elements
  • Manuscripts and other text-bearing objects
  • Magical objects and practices
  • Pilgrimage, votive offerings, and shrines
  • Liturgical objects and practices

Learning outcome

  • The students will obtain critical skills in analysing, discussing, and interpreting material objects as primary sources.
  • Through investigations of a variety of artefacts and rituals, the students will be able to explore medieval religious expressions against the backdrop of historical developments.
  • The students will be able to identify material dimensions of religious beliefs and practices in harmony with, and contrast to, authoritative texts and religious instructions. They will also gain insight into significant medieval theological debates and controversies. 

This course is offered on both Bachelor's and Master's level. The Master's level syllabus will be more comprehensive than that of the Bachelor's level, and a higher level of knowledge and reflection will be expected from the Master students at the written exam, compared to the Bachelor's level students.


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

Students enrolled in other Master's Degree Programmes can, on application, be admitted to the course if this is cleared by their own study programme.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.

In case of available capacity on the course, individual admission can be granted to the course for applicants with relevant previous studies and a bachelor's degree/equivalent completed education. (Foreign education must be approved by NOKUT as being minimum equivalent to a Norwegian bachelor's degree.) It is also required that the student is registered with Higher Education Entrance Qualification ("generell studiekompetanse") including Norwegian and English language proficiency at the University of Oslo, for example is qualified as a single course student at the bachelor level. You can register your interest by submitting an interest registration web form for TFF4221 (in Norwegian) by the deadline: December 15, 2021. This registration of interest will be treated as an application for admission to the course, if there is available capacity, cf. more information on the web form.

Overlapping courses

10 credits overlap with TFF3221 – Material Religion in Medieval Christianity


The teaching consists of weekly seminars and an excursion.

Mandatory activities:

  • a written assignment consisting of 500 words
  • a written assignment consisting of 1500 words

Students must have completed the assignments to a satisfactory standard in order to take the exam.


Three day home exam, 3000-4000 words.

Submit assignments in Inspera

You submit your assignment in the digital examination system Inspera. Read about how to submit your assignment.

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Language of examination

The examination text is given in English.You may submit your response in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish or English.

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 2022

The course is also offered on the Bachelor's level with the course code: TFF32


Spring 2022

Teaching language


The seminars will be held in English unless all the students are Norwegian speaking.