Researchers at the centre explore ancient Eastern Christian traditions from their origins until the present day

World-leading researchers with unique expertise in the faith, culture, history and traditions of the past and present Oriental and Eastern Orthodox Christianities have come together to launch the University of Exeter’s new Centre for the Study of the Christian East.

Researchers at the centre explore ancient Eastern Christian traditions from their origins until the present day, in connection to local cultures and religions, a wide range of time periods and different geographical regions and contemporary politics.

The centre, based in the University’s Department of Classics, Ancient History, Religion & Theology, will host events, study days and hopefully in the future postgraduate taught courses.

The centre co-directors are: Professor Emma Loosley Leeming, a world-leading expert in the history, art, architecture and archaeology of the Middle East and Caucasus, particularly Syria and Georgia; Professor Brandon Gallaher, an expert in Eastern Orthodox Christianity, particularly in the modern period and Professor Morwenna Ludlow, an expert in the theology of the fourth century CE (especially the Cappadocian Church Fathers, e.g. Gregory of Nyssa) and their reception in modern theology.

Their specialist expertise includes the Greek Fathers and the history, theology and material cultures of late antiquity, the art and architecture of Syrian and Caucasian Christianity and all aspects of Modern Orthodox Christian Theology, especially Russian and Greek religious thought and Orthodoxy and the modern world.

Professor Loosley Leeming said: “The centre allows us to bring together those at the University of Exeter working on Eastern Christianity. What makes us unique – as well as the breadth of our research – is that we are a secular centre which is inclusive and does not favour any one religion or tradition.

“The displacements of people because of the wars in Ukraine, Syria and Iraq mean there are many Eastern Christian diaspora communities in the UK at the moment who are interested in studying their traditions and faith. We have also seen a growing interest in Orthodox Christianity post covid.”

Professor Gallaher said: “This centre represents the joining together of a unique blend and breadth of expertise. It is significant that our launch was at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies (IAIS). So many Orthodox and Eastern Christians live side by side with people who practice Islam so having this inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue at the heart of our centre is incredibly important. We are not linked to any one church or religion and will not privilege any religion. We welcome students from all religious traditions and none.”

Professor Ludlow said, “My hope is that this centre will be an important place for profound conversation across academic disciplines, across different faith communities and between religious and secular approaches to the study of these traditions. It is a unique opportunity to bring together an impressive range of expertise in Exeter and we look forward to being able to welcome visiting speakers, scholars and new postgraduate students”.   

Researchers welcome enquiries from potential postgraduate students with an interest in any aspect of Eastern European, Greek, Anatolian, Caucasian or Middle Eastern, Oriental and Eastern Orthodox Christianities, including projects which compare eastern and western traditions.