Module HTA-3102:
Celtic and Anglo-Saxon Art

Module Facts

Run by School of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Prof Nancy Edwards

Overall aims and purpose

The art of Britain and Ireland in the period c AD 400–1100 is immensely rich and varied. It consists of ornamental metalwork, such as the Sutton Hoo grave-goods and Stafford Hoard of gold and garnet artefacts, intricately illuminated manuscripts, including the Lindisfarne Gospels and the Book of Kells, and sculpture such as the Pictish symbol stones and the Ruthwell Cross. The module is divided into two parts. Using an archaeological perspective, we will first critically examine the various methods used to study the art of the period and the insights and limitations of these methods. Secondly, taking a broadly chronological approach and detailed examples, we will examine the main developments in Celtic and Anglo-Saxon art over the period and gain an understanding of certain examples, how they were made, who made them and why. We will begin with the origins of such art in the Iron Age and Roman periods and the influences of Germanic and Christian art. Because of its wealth and beauty, the art of the seventh and eighth centuries is considered something of a ‘Golden Age’ but what lies behind this? What was the impact of the Vikings on such artistic output and to what extent is it possible to trace a revival at the end of the period?

Course content

  1. Introduction: art in Britain and Ireland c. AD400–1100
  2. Ways of Seeing 1: Time and Place
  3. Ways of Seeing 2: Context. Materials and Technologv
  4. Ways of Seeing 3: Form, Ornament and Symbolism
  5. The Iron Age and Roman Origins of Insular Art
  6. Pagan Anglo-Saxon Art
  7. The Origins of Christian Art
  8. Secular Metalwork c.650-825
  9. Ecclesiastical Metalwork c.650-825
  10. Insular Illuminated Manuscripts: Luxury Gospel Books
  11. Insular Illuminated Manuscripts: Bibles. pocket Gospels and Psalters
  12. Sculpture c.675-830
  13. The Viking Impact
  14. Viking Art and Viking Integration
  15. Anglo-Saxon art and the Reform Movement
  16. Irish Art in the tenth – twelfth centuries

Assessment Criteria


Demonstrate an appropriate range or depth of knowledge of at least parts of the relevant field, and will make at least partly-successful attempts to frame an argument which engages with historical controversies


Will show a solid level of achievement in all the criteria in the paragraph above.


Will show this solid achievement across the criteria combined with particularly impressive depths of knowledge and/or subtlety of analysis.

Learning outcomes

  1. A critical understanding of the methods used to study early medieval art and the problems and limitations of these.

  2. A broad knowledge and understanding of the main developments in early medieval Celtic and Anglo-Saxon art and the society that produced it.

  3. A more precise knowledge and an ability to analyse individual examples of the art of the period in context, including how they were made and why.

  4. A sound understanding (to be assessed by the project) of a broader theme or intellectual debate of relevance to Celtic and Anglo-Saxon art.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
CASE STUDY Artefact case study 25
ESSAY Essay 50
INDIVIDUAL PRESENTATION seminar paper with powerpoint + seminar discussion 25

Teaching and Learning Strategy


Important to see examples of what is being studied


Group discussion with student papers to look at examples and their analysis


To provide module framework

Private study 164

Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Subject specific skills

  • problem solving to develop solutions to understand the past
  • understanding the complexity of change over time; in specific contexts and chronologies
  • producing logical and structured arguments supported by relevant evidence
  • planning, designing, executing and documenting a programme of research, working independently
  • marshalling and critically appraising other people's arguments, including listening and questioning
  • presenting effective oral presentations for different kinds of audiences, including academic and/or audiences with little knowledge of history
  • preparing effective written communications for different readerships
  • making effective and appropriate forms of visual presentation
  • making effective and appropriate use of relevant information technology
  • making critical and effective use of information retrieval skills using paper-based and electronic resources
  • critical evaluation of one's own and others' opinions


Resource implications for students

Contribution to field trip expenses may be required

Reading list

This is in the handbook

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: