Within the chair of History of Church and Theology and the History of Christianity we study the history of Christians on the basis of historical methods and in critical deliberation with the other disciplines within theology and religious studies.

Close relationship with the discipline of Canon Law

The Nijmegen church historians are primarily concerned with the historical questions of discipline and repression. Dissenting ideas and practices have always existed and orthodoxy is a matter of perspective. Church authorities, however, have branded dissenters, such as the Cathars and the Gnostics, heretics, for instance condemning their beliefs and practices in ecclesiastical courts, especially the Inquisition. This is why our research maintains a close relationship with the discipline of Canon Law.

The enforcement of discipline is aimed at exacting and cultivating obedience, for instance through monastic education. Repression on the other hand is the, often harsh, punishment of the violation of rules. Not all Christians were equally sensitive to this attempt to ‘re-educate’ them, and their conflicts offer us an insight into the fascinating interaction of rule and practice. At Radboud University, the current debate on important societal and cultural issues (synchronous) is therefore connected to historical debates going back several thousands of years (diachronous).


  • Dr. Gian Ackermans researches the History of Canon Law (ecclesiastical law in the Latin Church), focusing on the development of clerical and monastic identity.
  • Prof. dr. Daniela Müller focuses on the transformations of the concepts and formal/informal practices of discipline (regarding orthodoxy and orthopraxis) as well as their (historiographical) representation. Both mirror major continuities and discontinuities in the history of Christianity in social, geographic, political, religious and cultural contexts. This type of research, covering all eras of Christianity, combines specialised and internationally unique, multidisciplinary expertise in socio-cultural history, the history of theology and the history of canon law.
  • Prof. dr. Hans van Oort researches early Christianity in the Jewish and Hellenistic context, paying particular attention to the earliest stages of Jewish Christianity in the city of Jerusalem.
  • Prof. dr. Jacques van der Vliet studies the history of Christianity in Egypt and Nubia, focusing on sources in Coptic, the vernacular of Christian Egypt and the liturgical language of the present-day Coptic Orthodox Church.

Affiliated organisations

The Kaski is a research centre that does research in the field of religion and society. In recent years, reports have been made on, for example, spiritual care in prisons, fund-raising in the churches, parish development and the supporters of the Dutch Bible Society. The main focus of the Kaski is knowledge valorisation and the social impact of research.

The Titus Brandsma Institute (TBI) is a research institute for the study of spirituality and mystic. Research is aimed at the foundations of spirituality and its history. The SPINE project, that focuses on development in the field of spirituality, is one of the partnerships between the faculty and the TBI.

The Institute for Catholic Education (VKO) is an expertise centre for school development. IKO develops and distributes practical knowledge about issues that Catholic elementary schools need to make choices in.

The Institute of Eastern Christian Studies (IVOC) was established in 1991 when significant political changes were taking place in Eastern Europe. The IVOC does research on the actual situation in churches in Russia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Research topics include: developments in ecumenism, dialogue, freedom of religion, nationalism, Islam, secularism and atheism.

The Nijmegen Institute for Mission Studies (NIM) develops, transmits and applies knowledge on ongoing mission practices in relation to (inter-religious) dialogue and (socio-economic) development. Its research projects focus on Non-Western Christianity (outside and inside Europe), Interreligious Dialogue and Mission.