Latin and Eastern Christianities: Comparisons and Networks

Lead Investigators: Prof. Dr. Dorothea Weltecke

This project aims to integrate and systematise research on relations and comparisons between the Latin and Eastern Churches from the 7th to 15th centuries. During this period, Latin and Eastern Christians shared many aspects of Christian culture, from institutional structures and theology to philosophy and the ascetic life. In addition to ecclesiastical union negotiations, Latin and Eastern Christians maintained many levels of social contact and cultural exchange. Liturgies, genres of literature, features of church architecture, and even specific saints were frequently shared. Yet important differences also developed. These include inquisitorial tribunals found in the Latin West (peculiar to this culture), differences between Latin universities and Syriac schooling, differences in art and architecture, and even varying attitudes towards war and combat. Such variations in Christian life and culture demand that we see ‘medieval Christianity’ more broadly and with more complexity than scholars are accustomed to doing. These differences cannot be explained using theology, law, or ecclesiastical theory alone—even if these fields may have legitimated or structured sociocultural decisions. This project hypothesises that the historical dynamics of premodern Christianities owe as much to different social constellations of Christian communities as to denominational division and the multiplicity of churches. Indeed, political conditions were decisive: from the situation of communities under Latin Christian rule or in the Muslim realms to broader social structures or the local balances struck between ecclesiastical and secular power.