Katharina Heyden

Professor for History of Christianity and Interreligious Encounters University of Bern

Portrait of Katharina Heyden

Katharina Heyden has been Full Professor for Ancient History of Christianity and Interreligious Encounters at the University of Bern (CH) since 2014 and is the founding Director of the Interfaculty Research Cooperation "Religious Conflicts and Coping Strategies" (2018-2024).

Heyden is an historian-theologian of interreligious encounters in premodern times both East and West. She has published extensively on literary dialogues and conflicts, shared holy sites, theological thinking and forms of living in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, as well as on entangled interreligious histories and hermeneutics in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and the concepts and methodologies of historical theology and interreligious studies. Her publication list includes 5 monographs, 11 edited books, and more than 40 peer-reviewed articles. In her research, she combines evidence from literary sources with the analysis of material culture, bridging intellectual history and lived religion.

In her first book, which received an award from the Society for the Study of the Christian Orient in 2008, she explored the hitherto unknown apocryphal Legend of Aphroditian in its various literary, historical and religious contexts from 2nd century Syria to 16th century Russia (Die Erzählung des Aphroditian. Thema und Variationen einer Legende im Spannungsfeld von Heidentum und Christentum, Tübingen 2008). In Die westliche Christenheit und das Heilige Land in der Antike (Münster 2013), Heyden analyzed the significance of the Holy Land in late antique Western thought and art. Fremdenliebe und Fremdenangst (Zürich 2016) examined spatial aspects and polemical strategies in interreligious interactions both past and present. In Eine Religionskonferenz in Persien - De gestis in Perside (Frankfurt 2019), Heyden translated and analyzed a 6th century fictional religious contest between Greeks, Christians, Zoroastrians, and Jews at the Persian court. Among her co-edited volumes are Übertragungen heiliger Texte in Judentum, Christentum und Islam (2018); Claiming History. The Role of Historical Reasoning in Religious Conflicts (2021); and Jerusalem in Roman-Byzantine Times (2021).

Heyden is co-editor of the Journal of Ancient Christianity (ZAC) and Verkündigung und Forschung (VuF), and member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Fritz-Thyssen-Foundation.

She was educated at Humboldt University Berlin, Dormition Abbey Jerusalem, Centro Melantone Rome, and earned her doctorate from the University of Jena (2008) and her habilitation from the University of Göttingen (2013). Her research has been supported by four successful project applications from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), most recently a "Consolidator Grant" (2023-2028). For her outstanding teaching, Heyden has received several awards in Germany and Switzerland, including the Credit Suisse Award for Best Academic Teaching (2020). She also created the educational video How to Cope with Religious Conflicts? Insights from History (2020) and the interactive website "theos - Theologisch bedeutsame Orte der Schweiz" (2017).

Heyden currently serves as Vice Dean for Research, Finance and Strategic Development at the Bern Faculty of Theology. She is an ordained priest and member of the Synod of the Swiss Protestant Church.

Stay informed about our
latest news & events

Subscribe to our mailing list