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The fields of Ecclesiastical History, History of Doctrine and Territorial Church History analyse Christianity in the context of the various historical factors that have shaped its spiritual concepts, its pronouncements and its understanding of life, and which have also led to conflict, dispute, alienation and dissent.
In order to structure the vast amount of source material in this field, the study of Ecclesiastical History is traditionally divided up into certain eras which also reflect the research fields of the two chairs in the department. Teaching and research in the field of the Early Church is focused, for example, on a consideration of the origins of Christianity, the formation of the early “Catholic” church and its theology. In Medieval Church History, the main considerations are the interpretation and analysis of the reception of the legacy of late antiquity in the medieval period, the growing Christianisation of Europe and the development and role of the monastic orders. It is only against this background that the motives behind the clash between the Holy Roman Emperors and the Papacy, the conflicts with “heretics” and the Crusades can be fully understood. The History of the Reformation looks at the major figures of the first and second generation of reformers, the various forms that the Reformation took in Germany and Western Europe, the development of the various creeds and doctrines in the 16th and 17th centuries and the gradual formation of a denominational identity against the political, social and psychological background. A consideration of Pietism and the Enlightenment, with the nine fundamental concepts of piety and theology, provide for a transition to a consideration of the Church in modern times; the interaction of the Church with the various manifestations of the recent past and present is at the core of academic work here.
However, the study of the Ecclesiastical History and the History of Doctrine is by no means limited to the simple imparting of facts. On the contrary, its purpose is not only to demonstrate the way these have developed in the historical context over the epochs, but to make us aware of the limitations and relativity of our own theological outlook and the fact that our own beliefs have often been inherited from the past.