The Catholic University of America

Undergraduate Major in Medieval and Byzantine Studies


This interdisciplinary major introduces students to the various fields of Medieval Studies and their methodologies, while also providing advanced training in one chosen area of specialization (History and Social Structures; Thought and Worship; or Cultural and Artistic Expressions). In addition to exploring the historical and cultural developments within the traditional boundaries of Medieval Europe from ca. A.D. 300 to 1500, students have opportunities to study Byzantium, the Islamic world, Judaism, and Near Eastern Christianity.

For more information about the MBS undergraduate programs see



(a) 13 courses = total of 36 credits [eleven 3-credit courses and a two-part senior capstone seminar consisting of a 1-credit course (MDST 496A (formerly 451)) in the fall and a 2-credit course (MDST 496B (formerly 452)) in the spring]. For distribution requirements see below.

For current course offers click here.

To view and download the complete list of approved undergraduate courses click here. (Please note that this list is continuously updated with new course offers. If you have taken a medieval course that is not yet on the list, please notify the Director.)

(b) Senior thesis: a 25-30-page scholarly essay (plus bibliography and apparatus) on a topic in the student's chosen field of specialization in Medieval and Byzantine Studies. Evaluated by the student's area advisor and a second reader. To be submitted in the spring semester of senior year as part of MDST 496B (see below).


Students are required to focus on one of the following three major fields of Medieval and Byzantine Studies:
(a) History and Social Structures;
(b) Thought and Worship; and
(c) Cultural and Artistic Expressions.

The area of specialization should be declared by the end of the sophomore year. In addition to the two courses in the field as specified by the course distribution requirements (see Specialized Courses below), at least two of the four Approved Electives (see below) should be used towards the chosen specialization under the guidance of the area advisor, bringing the minimum number of courses devoted to the specialization to four. A senior thesis on a topic previously approved by the area advisor should be submitted by the end of the senior year.

Please note that specializations need not correspond to traditional disciplines (e.g., theology, philosophy, English, art history, etc.). Interdisciplinary and comparative approaches are also encouraged as long as they remain within the three major categories (a-c above). Students are required to work closely with their area advisors in designing their specializations, and electives used towards building a specialization, as well as the thesis topic, must be approved by the area advisor.


Each student majoring in MBS is assigned two advisors. In the first two years the MBS undergraduate advisor (or director) serves as the advisor. By the end of the sophomore year, an area advisor is appointed in the student's chosen field of specialization. Ideally the area advisor directs the senior thesis.

(a) Course distribution requirements:


1 gateway course (3 credits):

MDST 201: Medieval Pathways (3 credits): A team-taught, interdisciplinary course designed to explore different modes of inquiry, or pathways to the Middle Ages. Co-taught by members of the MBS faculty and offers a series of field trips to museums, collections, exhibits, and sites in DC relevant for the study of the Middle Ages. Offered every spring.

Note: Students of the University Honors Program are allowed to substitute HSHU 102: From Charlemagne to Chaucer for MDST 201 as a gateway course with the Director's approval.

2 capstone senior seminars (1+2 credits):

MDST 496A (formerly 451): Senior Tutorial (1 credit): Directed reading course in the field of the senior thesis project. Serves as a preparation towards the senior thesis; directed by the thesis advisor. By the end of the semester a thesis proposal, a detailed outline, and a related annotated bibliography should be submitted, together with book reviews and other minor written assignments as required by the instructor. Offered every fall.

MDST 496B (formerly 452): Senior Thesis (2 credits): Directed thesis writing under the guidance of a previously appointed thesis advisor. By the end of the semester a senior thesis of 25-30 pages (plus bibliography and apparatus) should be submitted. Offered every spring.


Courses in this category are selected each semester from a master list of approved courses relevant for MBS. The same list also serves as a list of Approved Electives (see below).

2 courses (6 credits) in any aspect of western or non-western medieval history (e.g., social, political, institutional, economic, legal, cultural, gender studies, etc.).

2 courses (6 credits) in medieval religions, theology, philosophy, or liturgy (also including non-Christian traditions).

2 courses (6 credits) in medieval literatures, languages, art, architecture, music, or material culture.


4 courses (12 credits) from the three categories of Specialized Courses. At least two of the four courses should be in the student's area of specialization. May include relevant language courses (Latin, Greek, Arabic, Syriac, Coptic, Old English, or other medieval vernaculars) above and beyond the School's foreign language distribution requirement.


Language studies in general fall outside the major, in the School's foreign language distribution requirement (satisfied by two semesters at the intermediate level, typically LANGUAGE 103-104). The language requirement should preferably be fulfilled by Latin or Greek, but students may, with permission, substitute other languages according to their chosen focus of studies and area of specialization. (Latin is strongly encouraged for students who wish to pursue an emphasis on medieval Europe and the Western tradition; Greek is recommended for those who are primarily interested in Byzantium; Arabic is advised for those focusing on Islamic Studies. Students building a specialization in medieval vernacular languages and literary traditions are advised to take courses in modern languages.) Further studies of relevant languages (i.e., beyond the School's foreign language requirement) can be accommodated under Approved Electives with the area advisor's approval.