Historiography, Ecclesiastical

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The development of ecclesiastical historiography depends both on the formal recognition of its object, the Church, and on the methods by which the investigator examines and presents the role of the Church in time and space. The study of this discipline may center on four distinct periods: (1) the beginnings in Christian antiquity; (2) the expansion of historical insight, both sacred and profane, in the Middle Ages; (3) Church history from the 16th to the 18th century; and (4) the modern science of Church history in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Early Christianity

If the first Pentecost is accepted as the Church's birthdate, the acts of the Apostles should be credited with the distinction of being the first fruits of historiography in the Church. Nevertheless eusebius of Caesarea bears the title "Father of Church History" by reason of his Historia ecclesiastica, which in its earliest form (in seven books) appeared prior to the persecution of the Emperor diocletian. After the conversion of constantine he continued his account to 324, expanding it into ten books. It was Eusebius's purpose to report "on the times which transpired from Our Savior's day to our own," especially on the most distinguished Christian communities

and their leaders, on the rise of heresies and on the persecutions with which the Church was harassed. Accordingly, he began with the work of Christ and the Apostles (books 13), published the lists of bishops in the apostolic churches of Rome, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem (books 47), included a catalogue of ecclesiastical and heretical writer as well as a discussion of the persecutions of the Church and concluded with the "persecution of our time" (books 89) and the victory of Christianity (book 10). Because of the citation of numerous texts from official acts and of excerpts from documents no longer extant (for example, from papias of Hieropolis), the work of Eusebius is considered to be the most important historical source for the first three centuries of the Church's existence. In the judgment of Eusebius, the universal Church lived pre-eminently in the local churches of apostolic origin.

eusebius was fortunate in his three continuators. Of these, the best was the lawyer and historian socrates of Constantinople, who, depending on excellent sources, described events from 305 to 439; in covering the period 325 to 439, sozomen was superior to his collaborator in narrative skill but not in reliability. theodoret of cyr wove into his text many sources for the years 324 to 428, but is inaccurate in chronology and lacked impartiality as a native of Antioch. theodore lector coordinated the three accounts and continued the relation of events to 527. Of his work, however, only an epitome has survived. The Church history of evagrius scholasticus, down to the year 594, presents a severely orthodox account of the christological controversies of that age. From this work and from the epitome of Theodore, later Byzantine annalistic historians, for example, theophanes the confessor (d. 817) and Nicephorus Callistus xanthopulus (d. c. 1335), drew their inspiration, but they considered Church history to be connected in the strictest fashion with the history of the Byzantine Empire and its rulers.

In the West, the Church History of Eusebius exerted its influence through the free Latin rendering and additions of rufinus of aquileia (403); his three continuators lived on in the Historia tripartite, translated by Epiphanius under the direction of cassiodorus. Western historical interpretation during the Middle Ages, however, while it was indebted to these works, was more deeply influenced by the creation of a Christian salvation history, drawn from Old Testament and New Testament sources, appearing in the world chronicles that began as early as the third century with Sextus julius africanus and hippolytus of rome. The somewhat free Latin recasting of the world chronicle of Eusebius by St. jerome became both the prototype and the point of departure for Christian historiography in the medieval West. In the same category, the Chronicon of isidore of seville (to 615) was highly esteemed. The chronicles of sulpicius severus and of prosper of aquitaine were also held in esteem though to a lesser degree. Employing the history of the Roman emperors as their chronological frame of reference, these chroniclers projected a profane history in the guise of a Biblically oriented salvation history. It remained for St. augustine, however, to present salvation history in the grand manner in the 22 books of De civitate Dei, composed between 413 and 426. The City of God, identified with the Church as a sacramental society, stands in unending conflict with the Earthly City (civitas terrena ). The latter Augustinian concept is not to be identified with the Roman state, but with the society of men concerned with earthly values. The struggle between faith and unbelief is the master theme of world history. Augustine sought to demonstrate that Christianity bore no guilt for the current miseries with which the Roman world was afflicted. A similar apologetic theme was pursued by Paul orosius of Braga in his Historiae adversus paganos, a work inspired by Augustine, written between 417 and 418. The central focus of both profane and salvation history is the Incarnation of the Logos. In placing the birth of Christ in the year 754 ab Urbe condita, cited in his Easter table for 532, dionysius exiguus became the founder of Christian chronology.

Middle Ages

Medieval historiography in the West cannot be labeled Church history; it is, rather, a combination of salvation and profane history, embellished with individual historical accounts of dioceses, monasteries and saints. The divine economy of redemption, proceeding according to medieval thought, from the creation of man through the Old down to the New Dispensation, found its ultimate expression in the last things, the Eschata. It was customary to distinguish three stages in the history of the world (ante legem, sub lege, sub gratia ), or six world epochs corresponding to the six days of creation in Genesis (Aug., Civ. 22.30; Trin. 4.4). Furthermore, the organization of time periods into four world empires, associated with Daniel 2.36, suggested for the Christian Era the succession of the Roman emperors as a chronological framework.


The more important chronicles of the Middle Ages depended on Eusebius and Jerome and their continuators for their reconstruction of the earlier period. But the closer they approached their own day, the more they depended on personal experience for knowledge of contemporary events. Thus, the Chronicon of regino of prÜm, a mere compilation down to the time of Louis the Pious, becomes a reliable source for the later Carolingian period. Similarly, the world chronicles of hermannus contractus of Reichenau (d. 1054) and of sigebert of gembloux (ending in 1105) were expanded into histories of the German Empire. otto of freising (d. 1158), on the other hand, in his Historia de duabus civitatibus, follows Augustine rather than the work of Eusebius and Jerome.

During the age of the evangelization of the German peoples, gregory of tours (d. 594) described the acceptance of Christianity by the Franks; somewhat later, in his Historia ecclesiastica, bede (d. 735) wrote on the Anglo-Saxons and how "they were converted to the Church of Christ." The Chronicon Bohemorum of cosmas of prague (d. 1125) was similarly motivated. Monastic and diocesan annals, however, were to become more significant than ethnic histories in developing the history of the Church in the Middle Ages. Year by year in every great monastery (for example, fulda, sankt gallen, and lindisfarne), the chronicler recorded the most important events. Outstanding among the diocesan annals, which developed somewhat later, were such works as the history of the church of Reims by flodoard (d. c. 966) and the Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum by adam of bremen (d. after 1081).


Perhaps the most popular form of medieval historical writingwith the exception of the ubiquitous annalswas the vita, a biography devised to serve the purposes of edification. With notable exceptions, the vita was generally the life of a saint, fashioned on classical models such as the Lives of Sallust or Suetonius and on the Christian pattern of Sulpicius Severus. Although in the later Middle Ages hagiographical writing showed a marked degree of restraint, when compared to the legendary fabrications that abounded in the Merovingian lives of the saints, they nevertheless maintained the same inspirational objective. Thus the monk Ruotger, in his life of St. bruno of cologne (composed 967969), projected the model bishop of the Empire, successful in achieving both spiritual and temporal goals; eadmer accented the sanctity of anselm of canterbury (d. 1106), not by regaling the reader with miracles but by stressing his subject's fidelity to the monastic ideal. william of saint-thierry and Gaufridus composed a life of St. bernard of clairvaux based on their intimate familiarity with that great Cistercian. The lives of the great religious founders, for example, of francis of assisi by bonaventure and of dominic by jordan of saxony, were influenced by the concern of each order for a standardized portrait of its founder.

History. With the emergence of hugh of fleury and ordericus vitalis in the 12th century, the use of the title Historia ecclesiastica began anew. Their work, however, was hardly Church history after the fashion of Eusebius. Toward the close of the century the Historia pontificalis by john of salisbury (d. 1180) attempted to assign to papal history the function of universal Church history, an effort that was repeated in the Historia ecclesiastica nova by the Dominican bartholomew of lucca (d. 1326). The chronicle of the Dominican martin of troppau (d. 1278) was widely used as a textbook and frequently translated and continued, as was that of the Dominican bernard gui (finished in 1331). While these works may be classified as valuable late medieval chronicles of the popes, they cannot be considered as Church history in the strict sense. They failed to satisfy the requirements of the genre because, in basic structure, they conformed to the pattern of the world chronicle. And finally, neither the continuations of the liber pontificalis down to B. Platina nor the Lives of the Popes of Avignon provided a proper substitute for a genuine history of the Church.

The theology of history, elaborated by the Calabrian Cistercian joachim of fiore (d. 1202), exerted a profound influence on historical thought in the High Middle Ages and succeeding centuries. Joachim distinguished three periods of salvation history: (1) the age of the Father, in which Old Testament law prevailed; (2) the current age of the Son, dominated by faith and grace; and (3) the future age of the Holy Spirit, producing the reign of love, during which the Evangelium aeternum would be announced. In the course of the last prophetic period of salvation history the Johannine Church of the spirit would replace the current Petrine Church. Despite the Fourth lateran council's condemnation of Joachim's Trinitarian teachings, his ideas continued unabated among the franciscan spirituals (for example, peter john olivi), in late medieval apocalyptic movements in the literature of reform, and, surprisingly, in the writings of nicholas of cusa.

Related to Joachimism was the "theory of decline, which held that the Church in the current age had fallen from the high estate of the primitive Church and was in need of reform. The descent from the ideal of early Christianity had proceeded through several stages: the golden age of the martyrs had been followed by the silver era of Constantine, then by an age of bronze and finally by an iron age, in which both clerical and lay indifference and immorality provoked the judgment of God. Influenced by the theory of decline, Dietrich of nieheim in the 15th century wrote his History of the Great Schism (see western schism), and the Viennese professor Thomas ebendor fer produced his several tracts on the same theme. During the age of religious dissension in the 16th century, however, the theory of decline was given a completely new interpretation.

Church History, 16th to 18th Century

The historical image of the Church as it appeared to Martin luther was formed by the conviction that the true Biblical doctrine of salvation had been falsified by the influence of aristotelianism on theology and the connivance of the papacy during the previous 400 years. He concluded that the repeated efforts toward the reform of the Church in the late Middle Agesnever actually implementeddemanded, as a presupposition, a return to the primitive doctrines of Redemption and justification and the removal of intervening "human institutions." Matthias flacius (Vlačich) and his collaborators attempted a vindication of Luther's view in their historical project (155974), which was organized according to centuries and based on a systematic marshaling of the sources. They tried to prove that, in its teaching and organization, Lutheranism rather than the Roman Church corresponded more closely to the early Church and that it was, in consequence, the true Church. As a result of this position, the history of theology was compelled to assume the burden of proof and to furnish historical evidence that the Roman Catholic Church, in its teaching, liturgy and institutions, was in conformity with primitive Christianity. Simultaneously, systematic theology developed the doctrine of the marks of the church (notae ecclesiae ), and through the efforts of Robert bellarmine and Maximilian Sandaeus (Van der Sandt, d. 1656) ecclesiology became an integrating factor in apologetics. The need for a more precise definition of the concept of the Church and the pressure to defend it against Protestant attack actually contributed to the return of Christian historiography to the tasks of general Church history.

Obviously, both Catholics and Protestants were able to rely on the preparatory work supplied by the humanists. The published editions of the great Fathers of the Church (Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome) and of the early Church historians (Eusebius) in Latin, 1523, and in Greek, 1544, by erasmus of Rotterdam and his collaborators; the conciliar collections of J. merlin, Peter Crabbe and L. surius; the editions of the ancient liturgies (for example, the liturgy of St. Basil by Georg witzel, 1546 and the apostolic constitutions by Francisco torres, 1563); and the collected sources for the history of the papacy and of the Roman Church by the Augustinian Onofrio panvinio (d. 1569)all provided a wealth of material for the Annales ecclesiastici of Caesar baronius (d. 1607), an elaboration of the lectures that he had delivered in the Oratory of St. Philip neri. The work of Baronius, appearing in 12 volumes between 1588 and 1605, covered the history of the Church down to the pontificate of innocent iii and was based on both printed and manuscript sources with copious citation of pertinent texts. The objective was patently apologetic: "against the innovators of our day, and in defense of the authority and of the antiquity of the sacred traditions of the Roman Church." The Annales, continued by many authors, especially Abraham Bzovius (d. 1637) and Odoricus Raynaldus (d. 1671), remained the standard work of general Church history into the 19th century.

The same period saw the emergence of the history of Christian literature. The catalogues of authors, compiled by gennadius of marseilles (c. 480), Isidore of Seville, ildefonsus of toledo and their medieval continuators, sigebert of gembloux and Johannes trithemius, were reedited and enlarged (1580) by a fresh review of Christian literary production. Similar works appeared

at short intervals: the Epitome of the Augustinian Angelo rocca (1594), the voluminous Apparatus sacer of the Jesuit Antonio possevino (1606) and the little work of R. Bellarmine, De scriptoribus ecclesiasticis (1613). At the same time the Belgian Albert Le Mire (d.1640) carried on the catalogue of Trithemius and founded the study of ecclesiastical statistics.

The advance of Church history in the 17th and 18th centuries can be studied under three headings: (1) the broadening of the documentary foundation of Church history by the edition of numerous texts, improved through the application of a critical method; (2) the appearance of monumental historicostatistical works on the papacy, the dioceses and religious orders, which were to remain authoritative for centuries; and (3) the rise of professional instruction in Church history in schools of theology toward the end of the period.


By employing Greek texts for the first time, the Roman edition of the general councils (160812), prepared under the direction of paul v, surpassed all of its predecessors in the 16th century. The Sacrosancta concilia (17 v. 167172), edited by the Jesuits Philippe labbÉ and G. Cossart, included both ecumenical and provincial councils and synodsas the Collectio regia (Paris 1644) had previously done. Their work was later expanded by Étienne baluze (1683), Nicola and Sebastiano Coleti (172833) and Giovanni Domenico mansi (174852). Mansi's later work, the Amplissima collectio (31 v. 175998), is the most complete and the most frequently consulted conciliar collection. Between 1899 and 1927, L. petit and J. B. Martin, continued Mansi's work down to vatican council i. Though inferior to Mansi in volume, the Collectio maxima of the Jesuit J. hardouin (171415), commissioned by the assembly of the french clergy, surpassed it in the use of critical method. The appearance of national conciliar collections paralleled the great conciliar editions of G. Loaysa (1593) and J. Catalani's second edition of the work of J. Sáenz de Aguirre (169395) for Spain; of J. sirmond (1629) for France; of H. Spelman (163964) and D. Wilkins (1737) for Ireland and England; of J. F. Schannat and J. Hartzheim (175990) for Germany.

The methodological advance that characterized the editing of conciliar documents was applied with equal success to the hagiographical collections, whose objective was the vindication of Catholic veneration of the saints. The Lives of the Saints, calendared by L. Lippomano (d. 1559) and L. Surius (d. 1578), were not only brought to completion by the Acta sanctorum (ActSS) of the Jesuits John Bolland and Gottfried Henskens butmore importantlywere superseded by the use of historical criticism. The first two volumes of the Acta sanctorum, containing the saints for the month of January, appeared in 1643. The most renowned successor of Bolland, Daniel Papebroch (d. 1714), defended the method of the bollandists against the attack of the Benedictines and the Spanish inquisition. The Jesuit Denis pÉtau (Petavius, d. 1652) founded the science of chronology, and the Benedictine Jean mabillon (d. 1707) founded the sciences of paleography and diplomatics. In preparing reliable texts for the Fathers of the Church, the maurists refined the methods of textual and literary criticism, systematically investigated manuscript collections and solved problems of authenticity.

The edition of the works of St. Augustine by the Maurists Thomas Blampin and Pierre coustant, and the edition of John Chrysostom by Bernard de montfaucon surpassed all previous efforts as a result of the meticulous care employed in emending the text and by the critical approach to questions of authenticity. The De antiquis ecclesiae ritibus (170002), the work of the Maurists Mabillon and Edmond Martène, marked the beginning of the science of liturgics. Somewhat earlier, the Oratorian L. thomassin, in his Vetus et nova ecclesiae disciplina (1688), had begun the scientific study of the history of Canon Law. In the field of the history of Christian literature, the Nouvelle bibliothèque des auteurs ecclésiastiques (168491) by the Jansenist L. E. dupin, replaced all earlier works because of the expanse of its coverage.


Among the 17th and 18th century historical works of reference emphasizing the statistical approach, the most outstanding was the Vitae et res gestae pontificum Romanorum et S. R. E. cardinalium (160102) by the Dominican Alfons Chacon (Ciaconius). The revised and expanded edition by A. Oldoini is still useful. For its time, the Italia sacra (164362) of the Cistercian Ferdinando Ughelli was a monumental work of reference for the diocesan history of Italy. Later improved by the edition of N. Coleti (171722), it served as the model for the Gallia Christiana, edited by Scévole and Louis Sainte-Marthe. In 1710, by order of the Assembly of the French Clergy, this work was revised by the Benedictine Martène and his collaborators and became the most perfect work of its kind. Somewhat later came the España sagrada by the Augustinian Enrique flÓrez (begun in 1754) and the Illyricum sacrum by the Jesuit D. farlati (begun in 1751). The plan of Abbot Gerbert of Sankt Blasien to produce a similar work, the Germania sacra, was never carried out.

All of the great orders provided for the publication of source collections and encyclopedic works on their own history: the Franciscans, in the Annales Ordinis Minorum by the Irish friar Luke wadding (d. 1657); the Benedictines, in the Annales Ordinis Sancti Benedicti by the Maurist Mabillon, preceded by his Acta sanctorum O.S.B.; the Dominicans, the Scriptores Ordinis Praedicatorum (171921), an outstanding catalogue of authors made through the efforts of J. quÉtif and J. Échard. The Carmelites, with C. de Villiers (1752), and the Augustinians, with J. F. Ossinger (1768), published similar works. The 18th century was the age of great documentary collections, of which the most distinguished was the Bullarium Ordinis Praedicatorum by P. Ripoll and A. Brémond (172940). The Franciscan H. Hélyot attempted to write the first general history of all religious orders (171419).

General Church history, however, failed to keep pace with the publication of new source material and works of a historicostatistical character. The Historia ecclesiastica of the Dominican Natalis Alexander (1699) was a collection of 230 monographs, hardly a work of historical narrative. The mosaic-like but orderly and accurate mélange of selections from the sources, the Mémoirs pour servir à l'histoire ecclésiastique by L. S. de tillemont (16931712), ends suddenly with 513. C. fleury, on the other hand, brought his Histoire ecclésiastique (16911720) down to the Council of constance, but his work was marred by Gallican views, which were opposed by G. A. orsi, OP, in his Istoria ecclesiastica (174762). All of these multivolumed enterprises, however, lacked the necessary penetration and organization of material, which generally result from formal instruction and training.


Although there was no dearth of planning during the 17th century to place Church history in the curriculum, it was nevertheless excluded from the program of studies in Catholic universities. In Protestant centers, however, and for the first time in Helmstedt in 1650, the new field of Church history was introduced successfully. The Summarium historiae ecclesiasticae, prepared for instructional purposes by the Leipzig professor A. Rechenberg (1697), who continued to labor under the preoccupations of the Magdeburg centuriators, abandoned their systematic divisions by centuries and substituted five distinct periods: (1) Ecclesia plantata (organization of the Church), (2) Ecclesia libertate gaudens (the Church in liberty), (3) Ecclesia pressa et obscurata (the Church oppressed and benighted), (4) Ecclesia gemens (the Church in travail), and (5) Ecclesia repurgata (the Church purified), that is, since the 16th century.

In Catholic circles, Church history was not introduced into the curriculum of theological schools until the 18th century, and even then not universally. A chair of Church history was founded at the Collegium Romanum in 1741 and Austrian schools of theology began lectures in "religious (geistliche ) history" in 1752. Protestant leadership in the field was apparent in that Catholic textbooks prepared for instruction in history followed either the standard Protestant models, especially the work of J.L. von Mosheim (d. 1755), the "father of Protestant Church history," or fell under the influence of the en lightenment, following, for example, such works as the Institutiones historiae ecclesiasticae and the Leitfaden in der Kirchengeschichte (1790) by M. Dannenmeyer. A progressive note appeared in the attempt, evident in the leading texts of the period, to achieve a periodization of history determined by content. Most texts, however, labored under a severe disadvantage: they were generally written from the viewpoint of a state-controlled Church, were anti-Roman in their interpretation and failed to grasp the supernatural character of the Church. Before a new advance could be made, Church history first had to purge itself of the values and outlooks of the Enlightenment that had vitiated its study. A clear reaction to rationalist Church history was already apparent in the History of the Church of Christ (17941809) by the Anglican I. Milner and in the General History of the Christian Church by the American Unitarian J. A. Priestley (180203). The decisive movement, however, was to develop on the Continent.

Scientific Church History

Two tasks presented themselves to the Church historian during the 19th and 20th centuries: a reevaluation of the Church in the light of its origins and the development of a scientific methodology to cope with its sources and their interpretation.


The distinction of having overcome the regalistic and rationalist concepts of the Church and of winning respect for its independence from the state and the acceptance of its supernatural character belongs to many authors working in the period from the French Revolution to the Restoration, some of whom were actually not Church historians. In 1799, while Pius VI was being taken to France as a prisoner, B. A. Cappellari, later Pope gregory xvi, wrote his Trionfo della s. sede e della chiesa, in which he predicted that both the Church and the papacy, as institutions founded by Christ, were indestructible and that they would shortly be revitalized. F.R. de chateaubriand and J. de maistre opened the perspective of the Church's great tradition and of its cultural contributions in the Middle Ages. Meanwhile, the young H. F. R. de lamennais refuted gallicanism and the German Romantics steeped themselves in the piety of the much-abused middle ages. F. L. Stolberg (d.1819), attempted to confirm the tenets of faith, in the several volumes of his Geschichte der Religion Jesu Christi, by recourse to history and identified himself as a proponent of Augustine's and Bossuet's interpretation of Church history as salvation history. J. T. katerkamp, also a member of the Münster circle of historians, wrote his history of the Church (182334) in the spirit of Stolberg. The decisive influence, however, in the reorientation of ecclesiastical historiography was the University of Tübingen Church historian, J. A. mÖhler (17961838). Establishing the historicity of Christianity in the fact of the Incarnation, Möhler elaborated the distinction between Christian history and the history of the Church founded by Christ. His Symbolik sharply contrasted the doctrinal differences existing between Catholics and Protestants, thereby overcoming and rejecting the confessional indifferentism engendered by the Enlightenment. The Tübingen school, founded by Möhler and Johann Sebastian drey (d. 1853), inspired the Conciliengeschichte, written by the future bishop C. J. hefele, which in its French edition and continuation by H. le clercq is still the indispensable work in its field. The Munich school, founded by J. J. I. dÖllinger (17991890), was equally illustrious, exerting its influence on both France (C. F. montalembert) and England (Lord J. E. acton).

In England, J. lingard's Antiquities of the Anglo Saxon Church (1806) had already appeared, presenting a just interpretation of the Christian Middle Ages. The History of Latin Christianity down to the Death of Pope Nicholas V, by the Anglican H. milman (185455), followed in the same vein and was praised by A. Froude as the "finest historical work in the English language." The oxford movement rediscovered the Fathers of the Church, producing J. H. newman, who, in his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (1845), while summarizing the results of his historical studies, concluded that the Roman Catholic Church had preserved intact the deposit of faith committed to it, and in consequence consistently returned to its communion. By frankly acknowledging, however, the religious values to be found in the churches not united with Rome, Newman laid the foundation for a Catholic ecumenical interpretation of Church history.


Insight into the supernatural character of the Church and the removal of the Enlightenment's indifferentism and prejudice against the Middle Ages were only one prerequisite for the flowering of Church history in the 19th century. The other was the discovery and availability of new sources, the emendation of the texts of sources already known and the application of historical criticism to their investigation. The Patrologia latina and the Patrologia graeca by J. P. migne (d. 1875) merely reproduced the best existing texts of Latin ecclesiastical writers down to Innocent III and of the Greek writers to Cardinal Bessarion. Since 1903 supplementary texts have appeared in the Patrologia orientalis. The Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum latinorum, under the auspices of the Vienna Academy of Sciences (since 1860), has provided modern critical texts for the Latin Christian writers and since 1897 the Berlin Academy of Sciences has published the Griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten drei Jahrhunderte (including some writers of the 4th and 5th centuries as well). Many other works of the Fathers of the Church have appeared in bilingual editions with French or English translations. Special mention should be made of the Sources chrétiennes.

Medieval and modern Church history has been especially enriched by the publication of great national source collections: in Germany, the Monuments Germaniae historica (since 1819) and the Reichstagsakten (since 1867) edited under the auspices of the Historical Commission of Munich; in France, the continuation of the Rerum Gallicarum et Franciarum scriptores (begun in 1728) and the Collection de documents inédits (since 1835); in England, the Rerum Britannicarum medii aevi scriptores [Rerum Britannicarum medii aevi scriptores, 224 v. (London 185896)] and the State Papers (1856); in Spain, the Colección de documentos inéditos (1847); in Italy, the Fonti per la storia d'Italia (1887) and the new edition of the Rerum Italicarum scriptores by L. A muratori [since 1900; for contents, see Repertorium fontium Historiae medii aevii primum ab Augusto Potthast digestum, nunc cura collegii historicorum e pluribus nationum emendatum et auctum: v.1, Series collectionum, Instituto Storico Italiano per il Medico Evo (Rome 1957) 509522].

The history of the popes in the Middle Ages was advanced by the admirable surveys of papal documents in the Regesta pontificum Romanorum by P. Jaffé (1851; 2d ed. 188588) and their continuation by A. potthast (187375). Far superior to the above, however, is the collection of all papal documents to 1198, arranged by country, begun by P. kehr and refined by new techniques of diplomatics developed by the École des Chartes in Paris and by the School of the Diplomatics in Vienna. The opening of the secret vatican archives by Leo XIII in 1884 was a monumental event, marking a new era in the study of papal history and of Church history generally. Following Leo's action, French scholarship undertook the publication of the papal registers of the 14th century and the gÖrres-gesellschaft edited the sources for the history of papal financial administration and the Acta of the Council of trent. Next came the publication of the 16th-and 17th-century nunciature reports from Germany, France, Belgium, Poland and Spain; the status reports of dioceses prescribed by sixtus v; and the records pertaining to the investigation of episcopal candidates. The archives of the Congregation for the propagation of the faith provided a wealth of material for Catholic history in Protestant and mission countries. All the major religious orders exploited the Vatican archives in the interest of their own history, gradually publishing the sources pertinent to their own development, for example, in the Monumenta ordinis praedicatorum and in the Monumenta historica societatis Jesu.


The investigation of new source material was facilitated by new historical tools and works of reference. While the Series episcoporum (1873) of the Benedictine P. gams depended solely on printed sources, the Hierarchia Catholica (since 1898) by the Conventual K. eubel and his successors could draw on documents recently made available in the Vatican archives for statistical records pertinent to episcopal history. Indispensable for medieval Church history were the Répertoire des sources historiques du moyen-âge of U. chevalier (1877-88; 2d ed. 190307) and the Bibliotheca historica medii aevi of A. Potthast (186288; new ed. 1962). H. Biaudet (1910), L. Karttunen (1912) and G. De Marchi (1957) assembled lists of apostolic nuncios from the beginning of permanent nunciatures down to the present. The Bibliotheca missionum (since 1916), begun by R. Streit, is a basic treatment of the sources and bibliography of mission history. All modern theological encyclopedias give attention to the history of the Church, the most exhaustive being the Realenzyklopädie für protestantische Theologie und Kirche (3d ed. 18961913) and the excellent though somewhat less comprehensive Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart (3d ed. 195762); The Catholic Encyclopedia (190814); the Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche (2d ed. since 1957); the Dictionnaire de théologie catholique (190250); and the Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie (192453). The Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques (since 1912), however, is devoted exclusively to Church history. All national bibliographies, for example, that of Dahlmann-Waitz for Germany and the Bibliography of British History (C. Gross: C. Read, 2d ed. 1959; G. Davies) for England, take into account the Church history of their respective countries.

To accommodate the ever-growing number of special studies appearing in the field, Church history journals began to make their appearance. The Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte, founded in 1876 by the Protestant theologian T. Brieger, was shortly followed (1880) by the Historisches Jahrbuch by the Görres-Gesellschaft and in 1887 by the Römische Quartalschrift für Christ-liche Archäologie und Kirchengeschichte. In 1900 the Revue d'histoire ecclésiastique, founded at Louvain by A. Cauchie, developed into the indispensable clearing house of international research, providing a full bibliography of all important works in the field of Church history. In France the growth of studies in ecclesiastical history were indebted to the Revue d'histoire de l'église de France (1910); those in the United States were under similar obligation to the Catholic Historical Review, founded in 1917 by P. guilday. Important new journals of the 1940s and 1950s were the following: in the United States, Traditio (1943); in Italy, the Rivista di storia della chiesa in Italia (1947); in Spain, Hispania sacra (1948); and in England, the Journal of Ecclesiastical History (1950). Before World War I several reviews specializing in the history of religious orders made their appearance: the Studien und Mitteilungen aus dem Benediktinerund Zisterzienserorden (1880), the Revue Mabillon (1905) and the Archivum Franciscanum historicum (1908). Many others were begun some years later and published as organs of their own institutes, for example, the Archivum Fratrum Praedicatorum (1931) and the Archivum historicum Societatis Jesu (1932).

This renaissance in the study of Church history would not have been possible without the introduction and concomitant development of basic instruction in Church history, evident almost everywhere in the theological faculties of universities and seminaries. The constitution of Pius XI, deus scientiarum dominus of May 24, 1931, moreover, prescribed the introduction of seminars for the study of historical method. About the same time many universities, for example, Louvain and The Catholic University of America in Washington, began publishing notable series comprising dissertations in Church history.


Instruction and research in Church history were constantly in need of textbooks and scholarly handbooks or works of reference. The voluminous production in the first half of the 19th century, for example, Priestley's General History of the Christian Church (180203) and R. F. rohrbacher's Histoire universelle de l'église (184249), had paid scant attention to research and were unsatisfactory for scientific work in the field. At the start, Protestants had the advantage with such excellent texts as those of J. K. L. Gieseler (182457), F. C. baur (185363), W. Möller and G. Kawerau (18891907). But they were soon matched by the texts of I. Ritter (182635), Döllinger (1836) and J. alzog (1841; 10 eds.), but especially by the Handbuch der allgemeinen Kirchengeschichte (187680; 5 eds., tr. into several languages) by (later cardinal) J. hergenrÖther and the shorter texts by F. X. kraus (187275), F. X. funk (1886; later eds. by K. bihlmeyer and H. Tüchle), A. Knöpfler (1895), and J. P. kirsch (193049). These works were distinguished for their exact presentation of facts, but in their earlier editions were rigid and categorical in tendency.

After the turn of the 19th century several first-rate texts and manuals made their, appearance in France: L. duchesne, Histoire ancienne de l'église (190610)an epoch-making work; F. mourret, Histoire générale de l'église (190921); and the projected 24 volume Histoire de l'église by A. fliche and V. martin (since 1936). In Italy texts were prepared by L. Todesco (192230), A. Saba (193843) and P. Paschini (1931); in England, by P. Hughes, A History of the Church (193449) and O. Chadwick, The History of the Church (London 1962); and in Holland, by (later cardinal) J. de jong. The monumental works by Hughes, The Reformation in England (3v. 195054) and by M. D. Knowles, The Monastic Order in England (2d ed. 1962) and The Religious Orders in England (3 v. 194860), are models of scholarship.

The numerous histories of the popes that made their appearance in this period were of great significance for general Church history. The brilliant Römischen Päpste in den letzten vier Jahrhunderten by L. ranke (1838), written before the opening of the Vatican Archives, was superseded by the wealth of new material found in the Geschichte der Päpste by L. von pastor (18851933), a work that has been translated into many languages and that might well be considered a history of the Church from the 15th to the 18th century. Pastor's work is supplemented by E. Caspar, Geschichte des Papsttums (193033), for the early Christian centuries and by J. haller, Papsttum, Idee und Wirklichkeit (2d ed. 195055), for the Middle Agesboth works of Protestant scholarship. J. schmidlin (193339) continued the history of the papacy into the 19th and 20th centuries. The best comprehensive treatment of papal history is that of F. X. Seppelt; and the number of popular histories of the popes is legion.

The histories of the Church in various countries form to some extent a counterpart to the history of the popes: for Belgium, the work of E. de Moreau; for Germany, that of A. Hauck; for England, W. hunt, G. Stephens and J. R. H. Moorman; for Austria, E. Tomek; for Spain, Z. garcÍa villada; and for the United States, J. G. shea.


One result of the constantly growing trend toward specialization was the splitting off of large segments of Church history into independent fields of study and research. The history of Christian literature, which, together with Church history, developed into an integral part of the theological curriculum at many 18th-century universities, became delimited in time and was put on a sounder basis and defined as patrology. The Oxford movement was distinguished for its study of the Fathers of the Church (Library of the Fathers, 183880). The German Protestant school of A. von Harnack and K. Holl improved on the methods employed by the Maurists and was rivaled by such Catholic scholars as A. ehrhard (d.1940), O. Bardenhewer (Geschichte der altkirchlichen Literatur, 5 v. 1913-32) and B. altaner (Patrologie, 6th ed. 1960).

In France the most prominent, patrologists were G. bardy, A. Puech and F. Cayré; in Italy, A. Casamassa and U. Moricca. In the United States the most significant work is the Patrology (3 v. 195060) by J. Quasten. Research in Christian Latin has been ably served by the journal Vigiliae Christianae (since 1947), and the advance in the study of medieval Literature has been due partly to the studies in medieval Latin language and literature by L. traube, M. Manitius, P. Lehmann, J. de Ghellinck, the journal Speculum and other journals and partly due to the research in the history of scholasticism by H. denifle, F. ehrle, P. mandonnet and M. grabmann. In the field of medieval exegesis, until recently a largely uncultivated area, works by F. Stegmüller, B. Smalley and H. de Lubac are important.

Through the work of G. B. de rossi (d. 1894) Christian archeology was raised to the status of a philological science. The strictly limited Roman orientation given to the field by J. wilpert (d. 1940) in his monumental works on the art of the catacombs, Christian sarcophagi, and Roman mosaics was greatly extended by excavations in the Middle East (dura-europos and Ephesus), the study of early Christian architecture (R. Krautheimer) and the integration of the relations between pagan antiquity and Christianity by F. J. dÖlger and T. Klauser.

In the field of hagiography the reestablished institute of the Bollandists (1837) easily surpassed all other efforts, especially under the direction of such scholars as C. de smedt (d. 1911), H. delehaye (d. 1941), P. Peeters (d. 1950) and P. grosjean (d. 1964). The journal of this enterprise, the Analecta Bollandiana (since 1882), is also unsurpassed.

The history of dogma has been conspicuously advanced through the monographic publications of eminent Catholic scholars, such as P. batiffol, A. d' alÈs and J. lebreton. But despite the effort of L. J. tixeront, whose Histoire des dogmes de l'antiquité chrétienne (190512) was an exceptional work for its time, no comprehensive survey of the history of dogma exists today that can equal the great Protestant works by A. von harnack, R. seeberg and F. Loofs. However, the Handbuch der Dogmengeschichte by M. Schmaus, J. R. Geiselmann and A. Grillmeier was begun in 1951.

The history of the byzantine church and of the other Oriental Churches, which goes back to the work of L. Allatius and J. Assemani in the 17th and 18th centuries, has become a distinct area of study. Recent Byzantine studies were pioneered, particularly by German and French scholars (A. Ehrhard, K. Krumbacher; currently, H. G. Beck); A. Baumstark's Geschichte der syrischen Literatur (1922) and the Geschichte der christlichen arabischen Literatur (5 v. 194455) by G. Graf (d. 1955) opened up relatively unknown areas of investigation. In 1917 Benedict XV founded the Istituto Pontificio Orientale, which since 1935 has published the Orientalia Christiana periodica.

The foundations for the history of liturgy were laid by the editions of the sources by the Maurists E. Martène and E. renaudot. It became a distinct discipline, however, through the efforts of L. Duchesne, P. Batiffol, E. bishop and K. mohlberg, among others. Important texts were published by the Henry Bradshaw Society (since 1890), the Analecta hymnica (since 1886) by M. Dreves and C. Blume and the editions of the Ordines Romani and the Pontificale Romanum by M. andrieu (d. 1956). The history of liturgy has contributed greatly to the current liturgical movement.

The history of canon law was able to build on the efforts of L. thomassin and benedict xiv. It continued to develop during the 19th century through the contributions of such Protestant scholars as E. Friedberg, P. Hinschius and his successor U. Stutz (d. 1938) and the Old Catholic historian J. F. Schulte (d. 1914). Their efforts were matched by Catholic canonists such as J. B. Sägmüller (d. 1942), P. Fournier (d. 1935), G. Le Bras, A. Stickler and S. G. Kuttner. In 1955 Kuttner founded the Institute of Research and Study in Mediaeval Canon Law at The Catholic University in Washington (moved to Yale University, 1964).

missiology and spiritual theology were introduced only recently into theological curriculums as formal disciplines. Mission history and the history of asceticism and mysticism have thus become independent studies. J. Schmidlin (1925) prepared the first serviceable textbook of Catholic mission history, later expanded and improved by A. Mulders and S. Delacroix. The best history of the missions is that of the American Protestant historian K. S. Latourette. The Revue d'histoire des missions began publication in 1924, but the general missiological journals have also from time to time carried historical articles. In 1932 Pius XI established a faculty of missiology at the Gregorian University in Rome. A similar development is to be noted respecting the history of asceticism and mysticism, which had been cultivated consistently by the contemplative orders, for example, by the Benedictines (C. butler) and by the Carmelites (Études carmélitaines, 1913). Its most recent growth, however, has been the result of the introduction of the subject into the area of formal theological instruction.

The growth of all these fields of specialization, branching out of general Church history, has not, however, rendered the latter superfluous; on the contrary, modern ecclesiology requires a sound historical foundation. More than ever, Church history is an integrating component of theology.

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[h. jedin]

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Historiography, Ecclesiastical