The university recently established a new endowed chair, the Archbishop Demetrios Professorship in Byzantine theology.

The chair’s focus will be on the theology of the medieval Greek-speaking church.  The new chairperson – yet to be appointed – will hold membership in both the theology department and the Medieval Institute.

The position is named in honor of the Archbishop Demetrios Traketellis, primate of the Greek Orthodox Church of America and recipient of an honorary doctorate degree from Notre Dame in 2010.

The position will strengthen both departments’ already robust academic programs.

Olivia Remie Constable, director of the Notre Dame Medieval Institute, told the Rover, “The new chair in Byzantine theology will be a critical component of our new Byzantine Studies program.”

The new chair in Byzantine theology is one of two new faculty positions in the Medieval Institute, the other being a position in Byzantine history.

“These two new appointments will add to existing strengths and complement our academic mission,” Constable explained.  “They will significantly enhance Notre Dame’s profile for research and teaching on the eastern Christian world in the medieval period.”

The creation of the new chair will help highlight and complement the work of current department faculty who specialize in early church and Byzantine theology, including Robin Darling Young, Brian Daley, and Yury Avvakumov.

Matthew Ashley, chair of the department of theology, noted, “I am very pleased as chair to benefit from their work and to support its continuation.”

The creation of the Archbishop Demetrios Chair is one achievement of Notre Dame’s National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Challenge Grant.  In 2007, the NEH Challenge Grant of $800,000 was awarded to Notre Dame as incentive to raise another $3.2 million to support Byzantine studies.  The money raised is to be used for additional library acquisitions, new graduate fellowships, and educational programs, as well as the two professorships in Byzantine theology and Byzantine history.

Recent grants of $800,000 each from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation are bringing the university closer to its $3.2 million goal.

While the hiring process for the new position has not begun, both the theology department and the Medieval Institute expressed high hopes for the new appointee.

“We will be seeking candidates who are of the highest quality in terms of their record for teaching and research and who fit well with the mission of Notre Dame,” Constable said.

Ashley echoed Constable’s comments, stressing his desire to appoint a scholar who “can also contribute to the ecumenical potential of this position.”

“(The appointment) will enable Notre Dame to support ecumenical dialogue between eastern and western churches, which, as Pope John Paul II often said, are the ‘two lungs by which the church breathes,’” he said.

Michael Mercurio is a junior classics major who thinks that the Byzantine Mass is awesome.  (Just saying.)  He can be contacted at