Church Archaeology

Course summary

  • Tue 16 Jan 2018 to Tue 20 Mar 2018
  • 7:00-9:00pm 10 meetings
  • Room G06, Building 22, London Road Campus, University of Reading, RG1 5AQ
  • From £173.00
  • 10 CATS points
  • Course code R17P259AHW
  • +44 (0)1865 280892
  • Course ended

Church Archaeology


Though a common feature dotting the English landscape, as beacons for their communities which serve a special sense of place, churches still hold a certain mystique, with much of their history little known and buried underneath the surfaces. Yet, the more we understand the archaeology of a church - its churchyard, the surrounding environment, and of course the architecture itself - the greater our appreciation becomes of why a particular site is unique.

This course will investigate various themes related to the archaeology of the Church in Britain, c AD 500-1550, from the onset of the first missions, for example Columba and Augustine, to the time of the Dissolution, including church architecture and layout, liturgical arrangements, ecclesiastical artefacts, churches in the landscape, monumental sculpture and burials.

Programme details

Term Starts:   16th January    

Week 1:          Intro/Archaeology of religion

Week 2:          Church architecture

Week 3:          Liturgical studies

Week 4:          Church fittings and artefacts

Week 5:          Churches in the landscape

Week 6:          Monastic landscapes

Week 7:          Cemeteries and burial

Week 8:          Ecclesiastical sculpture

Week 9:          Funerary monuments

Week 10:        Changing dynamics – conversion, consolidation and conquest


Background Reading:

Hadley, D Death in Medieval England: An Archaeology

Aston, M Monasteries in the Landscape

Gittos, H Liturgy, Architecture, and Sacred Places in Anglo-Saxon England

Gilchrist, R Gender and Material Culture. The Archaeology of Religious Women

Morris, R Churches, Cathedrals and Chapels

McNeill, T Faith, Pride and Works: Medieval Church Building

If you are planning to purchase books, remember that courses with too few students enrolled will be cancelled. The Department accepts no responsibility for books bought in anticipation of a course.

If you have enrolled on a course starting in the autumn, you can become a borrowing member of the Rewley House library from 1st September. If you are enrolled on a course starting in other terms, you can become a borrowing member once the previous term has ended.

Recommended reading

All weekly class students may become borrowing members of the Rewley House Continuing Education Library for the duration of their course. Prospective students whose courses have not yet started are welcome to use the Library for reference. More information can be found on the Library website.

There is a Guide for Weekly Class students which will give you further information. 

Availability of titles on the reading list (below) can be checked on SOLO, the library catalogue.

Recommended Reading List


Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework, but only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.

If you do not register when you enrol, you have up until the course start date to do so.


Course Fee: £173.00
Take this course for CATS points: £10.00


Dr Anne Sassin

Anne is currently a part-time lecturer in medieval archaeology at Cardiff University, with a focus on monumentality in the landscape, ritual performance and sensory engagement with visual culture.

Course aims

This course will equip students with an in-depth knowledge and critical understanding of major themes surrounding the church archaeology in Britain c. 500-1550, helping them to develop an appreciation of the techniques and methods adopted by archaeologists, evaluating and analyzing material culture and documentary evidence.

Course Objectives:

1. Assess the various social, cultural and political processes behind the shaping of ecclesiastical landscapes

2. Analyze how settlement patterns, trade links and environmental conditions can affect the sites and monuments, creating a range of forms and regional variety

3. Appreciate the ways in which archaeologists combine the material evidence, historical sources and relevant methodologies to interpret the evidence

Teaching methods

A range of teaching methods and approaches will be used, including lectures based on powerpoint slides, handouts, group-led seminars and field-trips. Students will be encouraged to read designated material in preparation for each session and participate in class discussion, as well as to pursue individual interests with more specialised reading. Guidance will be given to assist students with preparation for seminars and the writing of coursework. A field visit will be taken to sites which will allow an insight into the monuments and archaeological landscape of local churches, via a long day-trip to sites around Oxford and Oxfordshire (a Saturday or Sunday date to be decided). 

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected to:

1. Be able to demonstrate a basic knowledge of the different theories, practices and material evidence which comprises church archaeology in Britain

2. Have evaluated different approaches to archaeological interpretation of church archaeology

3. Have analyzed a range of data, including monuments, sculpture, burials, artefacts, and sacred landscapes

Assessment methods

At the first session of the course, students will be provided with a coursework booklet which will lay out the assessment options. For Option A, there will be a series of exercise options based on sites or artefacts covered in class, of which students will be required to choose six and prepare a written answer of approximately 250 words for each. For Option B, students will select from a choice of assignments for which a written answer of approximately 1500 words is required.

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form.


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)