MA in Religious Studies

The American University of Rome

Program Description

MA in Religious Studies

The American University of Rome

Rome as a city & Italy as a country are the quintessential locations for any scholar of religion. The MA Program in Religious Studies offers an interdisciplinary and methodologically diverse study of religion with the focus on the historical, social, and cultural context of Rome, Italy and the Mediterranean. It enables students to study various religious traditions that played an important role in the history and culture of Rome, such as ancient Etruscan and Roman religions, Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

Students will have a unique opportunity to study the history of religion, development of religious teachings, practices and institutions on site. In addition, an opportunity to study religious art and architecture is one of the most important parts of this program. Students will study them, in one of the world’s most important religious and cultural cities.

The program addresses the critical societal need to promote intercultural and interreligious dialogue. The Program in Religious Studies is based on the assumption that research and study of particular religious traditions contribute to the promotion of religious and cultural diversity, and cross-cultural cooperation.

Potential career paths

With this MA, students will be able to either seek employment with organizations related to religions and religious dialogue, or to pursue research at the Ph.D. level.

  • Duration: 15 months
  • Start date: Fall 2015
  • Credits: 36

Courses and thesis

  • Three core courses: 15 credits total
  • Five electives: 15 credits total
  • Thesis: 6 credits total

Prerequisite and Admission Requirements

  • Bachelor’s degree in Humanities or Social Sciences and excellent knowledge of English.
  • Costs for U.S. citizens and permanent residents and Canadian citizens: 17.550,00 US Dollar
  • Costs for citizens and permanent residents of countries other than United States or Canada: 13.000 Euro

Through this program, students will develop an understanding of religious traditions that shaped the history and culture of Rome, Italy, and western civilization in general. Understanding the ancient Roman religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, will assist in understanding some of the most important social forces that exist today. Therefore, this program also gives an opportunity to students to explore religious beliefs and practices in the context of the modern secular society and the process of global integration.

A key aim is to demonstrate how major religious traditions can play a constructive role in contemporary societies, especially in those societies in which particular religious traditions have a strong impact on shaping the social, cultural and political spheres.

The program addresses the following issues and needs:

Religious Traditions in Modern Society

Religious traditions have often played a controversial role in many societies, being often perceived as major obstacles in democratization and modernization of traditional societies. This program recognizes the need for a new interpretation of religious traditions in contemporary culture and society, thus opening space for the articulation of a more constructive role for religion and religious institutions in modern societies. This approach facilitates religious and cultural diversity without threatening the values of democratic society and secular state.

Religion, Conflicts and Crises

Religions and religious institutions have often been perceived not only as obstacles to modernization but also as one of the major sources of division and conflict between different ethnic groups and societies. It is clear that religion is gaining significance again in the contemporary process of global integration. Apart from positive aspects of globalization, it is clear that intolerance, fundamentalism and religiously motivated conflicts have not been overcome. It is important to understand relevant religious traditions, their structure, teachings and practices, in order to address some of the most pressing issues that contemporary societies are facing. These issues include: economic and environmental crises; social and political tensions; immigration policies; (in)tolerance; cultural, religious, and ethnic diversities; integration of minorities; food shortages; rising inequalities, and demographic problems. This understanding is even more important given that religion and religious institutions are extremely important in many societies, regardless of industrial advancement or official secular state policies.

Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue

Ecumenical, intercultural and interreligious dialogue is growing in significance, given the capability of religious institutions to influence, in both positive and negative ways, cultures and societies. Strengthening dialogue between different religious traditions lays ground for mutual understanding and cooperation in various domains, such as humanitarian and cultural projects, or reconciliation processes. Therefore, dialogue between cultures and religions in the contemporary world (for example between Christianity and Islam, or Islam and Judaism) is an essential area that this program will address.

Learning Outcomes

With the MA program in Religious Studies, AUR’s mission is to educate future scholars and professionals who would be able to understand religious traditions in various historical contexts, and who would be able to apply their knowledge in the global society. Upon completing the program, depending on their course of study and focus of specialization, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate a superior knowledge of the religious traditions of Rome, enabling them to understand, describe and analyze the culture, social and political systems in various historical periods that were under significant influence of these traditions
  • Articulate the religious doctrines, practices and sacred spaces of ancient Roman religions, Christianity, Judaism and Islam
  • Discuss the religious topography of Rome
  • Recognize the theories and apply the methods in the study of religion
  • Distinguish the features of the three major branches of Christianity – Roman Catholicism, Protestantism and Orthodoxy, their teachings, rites, saints and art
  • Appreciate and explain religious art and architecture
  • Read and discuss biblical texts and main approaches to Christian theology in the patristic era
  • Read texts in Latin
  • Discuss the historical involvement of religion in various forms of political culture
  • Explain the practices of religious NGOs in Rome, and elsewhere in Italy, and their activities
  • Discuss the contribution of religion and religious institutions to local societies, through their charity, cultural and other programs
  • Describe and discuss the intercultural and interreligious dialogue and its significance for modern society
  • Analyze how religions and religious institutions can contribute to modern society and its attempts to overcome some of the contemporary challenges, such as religious fundamentalism, ecological/economic crisis, immigration, and intolerance.

Students will also be able to clearly demonstrate that they have acquired the following abilities and skills:

  • Research skills, necessary to study at the graduate level and to write research papers
  • Ability to plan and execute an extensive research project
  • High level analytical skills
  • Ability to use and analyze source materials, including non-literary sources, and to appreciate the context of these sources
  • Ability to communicate ideas and arguments effectively, in speech or in writing, in an accurate, focused and lucid manner
  • Ability to critically analyze religious traditions and their teachings, and their role in the public and political life
  • Ability to form a critical understanding of religion, culture and society in the late antique and Byzantine world
  • Ability to recognize the potential for alternative interpretations in religious studies, and related fields (such as political and cultural history, history of ideas, and theology)

A vital aspect of the learning process will also be the exposure of students to the cultural and religious diversity throughout the history of Rome and Italy, through experiencing various religious practices and sacred spaces during on-site classes.

This school offers programs in:
  • English

Last updated November 23, 2015
Duration & Price
This course is Campus based
Start Date
Start date
Sept. 2016
15 months
Full time
13,000 EUR
Start date Sept. 2016
Italy Rome
Application deadline Request Info
End date Request Info
Duration 15 months
Price 13,000 EUR
U.S. citizens and permanent residents and Canadian citizens: 17.550,00 US Dollar, itizens and permanent residents of countries other than United States or Canada: 13.000 Euro