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

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 philosophical and theological 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 to the confessional divisions of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries). The course begins with the foundations of Christianity and traces how the Catholic Church was formed as an organization, before turning to an elucidation of central religious institutions, such as the papacy (and its relationship to imperial Rome), the monastery, and the university, as they developed during the Middle Ages, as well as the Inquisition, particularly in the form it took during the Counter Reformation. Emphasis is given to the general Church councils that were held over the course of the centuries, particularly with regard to dogma and practice of the faith. The councils serve as signposts for us, since they were assembled whenever the Church was in need of resolving deep inner conflicts and of deciding which course to take regarding vital issues of the time, as happened, for example, with the early councils which defined the Creed and made clear what was heresy (outside the faith), and with the Council of Trent, which had to contend with the shattering split in Western Christianity created by the Protestant Reformation. Site visits include the tomb of St. Peter (which is accessible by special permission only), the catacombs and church of Sant'Agnese, and the churches of San Clemente (with its underground archeological layers) and Santi Quattro Coronati (with its highly political frescos).


  • midterm;
  • final paper (8-10 pages);
  • final exam