HCAS People Contact Information

    Fabianinkatu 24 (P.O. Box 4)
    00014 University of Helsinki

    Tel. +358 2 941 21735



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Katja Ritari

PhD (History)

Room 322

Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies
P.O. Box 4
FIN-00014 University of Helsinki

Tel +358-(0)2941 29213
Email katja.ritari(AT)helsinki.fi

Curriculum vitae (pdf)

List of Publications (pdf)


Research interests

  • Early medieval history
  • History of religion
  • Conversion and Christianization

Current research

How to Become a Christian?
The making of a Christian Community in Early Medieval Ireland

This project focuses on religious adaptation and acculturation during the early centuries of Christianity in Ireland from the 5th century onwards. These issues are fundamental for understanding the formation of the ‘Christian Middle Ages’ and must be studied in their local contexts since each ‘local Christianity’ offered its own solutions to the problem of creating a Christian community.

The formation of a Christian self-identity meant on one hand shedding the past and building bridges with the past on the other. This project will explore two main themes, which illustrate the continuities and disruptions involved in the cultural change from one belief system to another:

1) Forbidden beliefs and practices: Injunctions against idolatrous and superstitious practices can be found in many texts, including the Bible, hymns, sermons, and hagiography where they serve to reinforce the lines drawn between us and them. By defining what is non-Christian, the authors were at the same time stating what is Christian. 2) Christianizing the forefathers: The cult of saints and intercessory prayers for the dead served to satisfy the intuitive need to maintain a relationship with the recently dead thus helping to bridge the mental gap between the pre-Christian and Christian belief systems.