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Centre for Patristic Research

At the Centre for Patristic Research (CPO) of the Theological Faculty of VU University and the School of Theology of Tilburg University, theologians, philologists and researchers in the field of religious studies of various religious backgrounds cooperate in scholarly research with respect to the Early Church and its historical and cultural context. The Leiden Institute for Religious Studies also participates in this research. In the Early Church, the age of the Church Fathers, Christian thinking about God, man, society and creation developed at a great pace. It was then that Christianity first took shape. From the beginning the new religion was also nourished by the cultural and philosophical tendencies of the age. As the position of the Church got stronger, however, it also began to have more and more influence on culture and society. Therefore many of the discussions and developments that took place at the time are still relevant today. The members of the CPO publish the results of their research in international scholarly journals, compilations of (congress) papers, lexica and books. In addition the CPO regularly organises lectures, symposia and congresses.

The Focus of the Research

The academic investigation of these sources of Christianity is still important, because without a thorough understanding of these sources it is impossible to think through the depositum fidei – the treasure of faith, handed down in the Scriptures and thought through by the Church Fathers – in the light of the changing times. Without such a thorough understanding of the first reflections on the Scriptures and the creeds, thinking through the Christian faith in a changing society is like drifting on a sea without a beacon. Taking as a point of reference the texts which are fundamental to the self-understanding and the god-consciousness of the first Christians leads to more durable results. Studying the classical texts, which have proved their strength in their reception through the centuries, makes theology more vigorous, while the community of faith remains clearly rooted in tradition, is fed by it, and at the same time keeps it alive for the sake of the church and the world.


A research plan will give focus to the studies executed by the co-workers of the CPO. The Centre’s research is distinguished from and makes a unique contribution to patristic research elsewhere by taking the mystagogy of the Church Fathers as its starting-point. Mystagogy is regarded as a guided process of transformation, in which believers acquire an inner balance by a certain order of life, in that they become more receptive to God’s being and operation, without losing touch with everyday life and the community of faith.

This focus is also geared to the broad interest in spirituality and to the need for spiritual development, while at the same time it takes seriously the main intention of the Church Fathers themselves. For as pastor, preacher or bishop, they especially intended to induce the believers to become more receptive to the mystery and the grace of God.

By taking the mystagogy of the Fathers as the starting-point, justice is done to a hermeneutics in which the motto is taken seriously that ‘every letter should be read in the spirit in which it was written’.


The office of the Centre for Patristic Research is located at
the Faculty of Catholic Theology at Tilburg University

Mailing address:
P.O. Box 80101
NL - 3508 TC Utrecht
The Netherlands

Phone: ++31 (30) 253 29 28
E-mail: info@patristiek.eu

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