Call for Papers: From Ctesiphon to Toledo: A Comparative View on Early Church Councils in East and West

January 30, 2023

Call for Papers

From Ctesiphon to Toledo:
A Comparative View on Early Church Councils in East and West
October 12-13, 2023
Central European University, Vienna

The 1700th anniversary of the Council of Nicaea in 325 is approaching, and the importance of the first ecumenical council for the doctrinal and institutional development of the Christian Churches is manifest. Unfortunately for historians, Nicaea itself remains badly documented, but in late antiquity church councils became one of the instruments for ruling the church. For some general church councils, such as the Council of Chalcedon in 451, even the minutes survive, and in recent years, many of these conciliar acts have been made available in translation. This has led to increased interests in church councils, and particularly during the last decades, not only theologians but also historians have started contextualizing conciliar texts.

The envisaged conference "From Ctesiphon to Toledo: A Comparative View on Early Church
Councils in East and West" intends to make use of these scholarly achievements and invite
colleagues to investigate late antique and early medieval councils with a more holistic
approach. The Christian Roman Empire provided a different legal and organizational setting
for the so-called ecumenical councils of the fourth to sixth centuries than the post-Roman
Germanic kingdoms did for regional councils of the Visigothic and Frankish Churches or
Sasanian Persia for councils of the Church of the East. The goal of the conference is to
establish comparative perspectives on late antique and early medieval church councils in East and West up to the seventh century.

Possible topics are questions of procedures, such as the practical and organisational aspects
of convening a council, and the identities of functionaries who took the notes and who
composed the final minutes. Considering the very different frameworks in which these church councils operated – from a non-Christian empire (Sasanian Persia) via the Christian Roman empire to post-Roman Ariminian(/Arian) kingdoms – the question on whose authority the councils convened is another possible topic to address. Independent of the question if it was the emperor, the king or the metropolitan bishop, what were the reasons for convening a council? Were there specific patterns for summoning councils and how much did
ecclesiastical politics play a role? How much then were political and theological aspects and
agendas overlapping at church councils? Did bishops have the freedom to join or to stay
away? Which ecclesiastical topics were discussed in regional councils and did the decisions
differ in East and West?

Other innovative perspectives and questions are of course welcome. The conference is hosted by the Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies (CEMS) and the Center for Religious Studies (CRS) at Central European University (CEU), Vienna. Thomas Graumann (Cambridge), Uta Heil (Vienna), Sabine Panzram (Hamburg), Richard Price (London), and Sebastian Scholz (Zurich) have already agreed to participate, and we hope we can interest many more contributors to make this conference a success.

Please send an abstract (c. 250-300 words) and short CV by April 7, 2023 to Volker Menze
at The conference is funded by CEMS, CRS and the Academic Cooperation
and Research Support Office (CEU); accommodation will be provided for speakers and there
is also (limited) funding available for the reimbursement of travel costs