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The Dark Side of the Church or How to Study Ecclesiastical History

Church with dark clouds and lightening
Thursday, December 1, 2022, 12:40 pm – 2:00 pm

Traditionally, ancient Church History is done by “Patristic” scholars, that is, theologians who study the works, particularly the theological treatises, of the Church Fathers. I am no theologian but since my PhD I have focused on late antique Church History. I use the same texts as theologians, but my interest is more worldly on the Church in this world: how did the Church as institution develop in the early centuries and what how did bishops assert their doctrinal persuasions? How did episcopal governance work, and in as much were bishops involved in ecclesiastical politics? In my talk I am not searching for new answers, but I intend to present students with some topics that have interested me during the last ten years and how I ended up with them. To some extent, this can be summarized as The Dark Side of the Church as I studied episcopal nepotism, ecclesiastical bribery and corruption, religious violence, book burnings, and crusading saints. I will offer some insights into this less traditional Church History which, I believe, is crucial also for understanding the political history of the Later Roman Empire.