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From the Blood of Christ to the World of Confessions: Christianity Through the Ages

Instructor: Dr. Stefan Bauer [see profile]
Disciplines: Religious Studies; History

Through a close study of both primary and secondary materials in political and social history, as well as theological and philosophical thought, this course introduces students to the major forms and institutions of religious thought and practice in late antique, medieval, and early modern Christian Europe (from Christ and St. Paul to the twenty-first century.)

The course considers the interwoven strands of spirituality, dogma (prescribed belief), religious practice, and institutional authority. It begins with the foundations of Christianity and traces how the Catholic Church evolved as an organization, with an elucidation of central religious institutions, such as the papacy (and its political relationship with imperial Rome and medieval monarchs), the monastery and the university, as well as the Inquisition, particularly the form it took during the Counter Reformation. Examination of several major general Church councils brings to light key points in the development of Christian dogma and practice of faith, from the early definition of the Creed and what was heresy (outside faith) to the Council of Trent, which had to contend with the shattering split in Western Christianity created by the Protestant Reformation. We learn about at Christian life in early modern Europe, characterized by the diversity of the confessions, new expressions of piety as well as conflicts between freedom of thought and the Inquisition. In the last session, we examine how Christianity dealt with the challenges posed by modernity since the nineteenth century.

Site visits include the tomb of St. Peter (accessible by special permission only), the catacombs of St. Calixtus, the churches of San Clemente (with its underground archeological layers) and Santi Quattro Coronati (with its highly political frescos), and the Jewish Ghetto and the Great Synagogue.

This course has several Friday or Saturday site visits.

Requirements:

  • a mid-term exam
  • a research paper (8-10 pages)
  • a final exam