Research Focus Medieval Theology

Giovanni di Paolo, The Creation of the World and the Expulsion from Paradise (1445)

Substantial part of the research undertaken within the Department for Historical Theology focuses on theological texts and ideas from late antiquity to the threshold of modernity. Organized as an open group, the research focus sponsors individual projects by providing a supportive academical environment, in which scholars benefit from intra- and interdisciplinary expertise as well as from library and other research resources. As a joint effort of studying medieval theology in its many expressions and forms, the group contributes to an awareness for the richness and fertility of medieval theological thought and practice. The research focus "Medieval Theology" distinguishes the Faculty of Theology at the University of Vienna within the German speaking academic world and beyond.

The members of the research focus support the network of the "International Society for the Study of Medieval Theology" (IGTM) and its goals. The Society's yearbook "Archa Verbi" is part of this scholarly network and has gained high reputation among the community of medieval theological studies worldwide.

The significance of medieval theology

The medieval period was crucial for the development of theology understood as both an academic discipline and a complex philosophical and philological method of reflecting on divine revelation and leading a religious or spiritual life. Medieval theology had an enormous impact not only for the development of doctrine and ethics, but also for the formation of social, ecclesial and cultural institutions in the modern period. Our secularized contemporary culture relies on numerous ideas, structures and institutions elaborated within medieval theological discourses. Religious controversies, political conflicts and intellectual debates on competing ideologies frequently originate in differences that emerged and developed during the Middle Ages. Modern or contemporary worldviews as well as philosophical and political concepts often depend on medieval debates. History has acknowledged these links and the importance of medieval culture for contemporary civilizations for long, while church history and theology, facing many impasses, are becoming more and more open to recognize and rediscover the importance of medieval theology for their own purposes.

Benefits of studying medieval theology  

The study of medieval theology has not only a superficial value of simply better knowing our common past. Instead, it aims at recognizing cultural differences and overcoming polemics by suggesting solutions that take into account the history of conflicts, their causes, motives and responsibilities. The study of medieval theology inspires new insights and models for the rationale of faith, doctrine and theological knowledge.

Last but not least, medieval theology is part of the larger family of medieval studies and aspires to contribute to these fields from its own perspectives, while at the same time it learns from other disciplines by taking their insights as occasions for refining theological understanding.

German version