Katharina Heyden

Professor for History of Christianity and Interreligious Encounters University of Bern

Portrait of Katharina Heyden

Katharina Heyden is Full Professor for Ancient History of Christianity and Interreligious Encounters at the University of Bern and was the funding Director of the Interfaculty Research Cooperation Religious Conflicts and Coping Strategies.

Heyden is an historian-theologian of interreligious encounters in premodern times. She has published extensively on literary dialogues, shared holy sites, and hermeneutics of otherness and strangeness. 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. In Die westliche Christenheit und das Heilige Land in der Antike (2013, Heyden analyzed the significance of the Holy Land in late antique Western thought and art. Fremdenliebe und Fremdenangst (2016) examined spatial aspects and polemical strategies in interreligious interactions both past and present. In Eine Religionskonferenz in Persien (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). She is co-editor of the Journal of Ancient Christianity (ZAC) and Verkündigung und Forschung (VuF).

Heyden 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). For her outstanding teaching, Heyden has received several awards, 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 (2017).

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

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