Church History: Augustine and Augustinianisms in the Middle Ages

Course content

The history of Christian theology in the West, so it has been claimed, is nothing else but a footnote to Augustine of Hippo (354-430 CE). And while there is some truth to this claim, the analogy at the same time should make us wonder. Does the text (i.e. Augustine) constitute the footnotes (i.e. the history of theology), or is it rather, somehow, the other way around? What do the footnotes add to the text? And to which extent could we say do they transform and change the text?


In this course we will discuss the relation between Augustine and medieval Augustinianisms, first by familiarizing ourselves with the man himself, his life and works, and with some major issues in his theology. On the basis of this we will then discuss three topics that were of crucial importance for his medieval readers: predestination, freedom, and grace. Altogether, we shall try to witness and, perhaps, engage in the dialogue between Augustine and his medieval readers; and that explicitly includes trying to understand misunderstandings, misreadings, and further irritations in the extraordinary medieval history of Augustinian theology. Eventually, we might find that with every reference to Augustine, he himself changes a little bit.


The course has a double goal. First, it provides an introduction to major themes in Augustine’s theology and in its afterlife during the Middle Ages. And second, the course will be an opportunity to critically discuss what it means to do theology within a given tradition. Students may expect to gain from the course a complex notion of the relation between an intellectual tradition and its origins, or (to return to the metaphor from above) between footnotes and text.

The course has an interactive character, meaning that it relies on active participation in the classroom and thorough preparation of the individual meetings. Occasionally, we will translate source texts from Latin to English. One meeting might be an excursion to the Royal Library.

• Peter Brown, Augustine of Hippo: A Biography, Second Edition, Berkeley, CA 2000.

• Eric L. Saak, Creating Augustine: Interpreting Augustine and Augustinianism in the Later Middle Ages, Oxford 2012.

• The Oxford Guide to the Historical Reception of Augustine, K. Pollmann and W. Otten (eds), 3 volumes, Oxford 2013.

Type of assessment
Written examination
Oral examination
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • Course Preparation
  • 244
  • Exam
  • 120
  • English
  • 420