Dr. Julia Winnebeck

Research Group Leader "Structures of Dependency in the Late Antique and Early Medieval Western Church" and Research Area C Representative

Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies
Room: 3.013
Niebuhrstraße 5
D-53113 Bonn
Phone: +49 228 73 62562

Julia Winnebeck.jpg
© Barbara Frommann

Academic Profile

Handling Homicide
My research focusses on the detection and analysis of structures of asymmetrical dependencies within the late antique and early medieval Church and similar structures linking the Church of this period to its surrounding societies. It is based on my understanding of both penance and the ecclesiastical judiciary as structures of asymmetrical dependency within which church representatives could exert power over clergy as well as laypeople. My main research project (Habilitation) analyses the Church’s handling of homicide within these structures. Here, particular attention will be directed to what could be called "ethical greyzone cases," such as abortion, suicide, and self-defence. So far, my studies have yielded some fascinating results regarding the elaborate parameters employed to qualify and punish the different types of homicide. Furthermore, my findings point towards a disparity between the theological qualification of certain sins as homicide and their treatment in (social and legal) practice.

In dealing with penitentials and conciliar legislation from a social and cultural history perspective, I am looking to review these much neglected sources in order to compile a comprehensive history of the Church's perspective on and handling of the capital sin of homicide in late antiquity and the early middle ages (400–800). 


Christian Church and Slavery
I also investigate the late antique and early medieval Church’s relationship with slavery as we encounter it through penitentials and conciliar legislation. I am especially interested in the ways in which the Church integrated existing practices of enslavement and liberation into its own structures and how these practices transformed over time. A striking example is the Church’s involvement with the practice of penal enslavement within the system of penance. I am also interested in tracing slaves and other dependents within structures of the Church such as monastic settlements. So far my research in this area has produced the result that both the penitentials and the conciliar legislation support the notion that the Church in Merovingian Gaul was actively involved with processes of enslavement and the exploitation of dependent labour. Furthermore, I was able to demonstrate that the theological rationale behind the Church’s concern for slaves observable in my sources (e.g. their treatment, their right to asylum, etc.) derivates from the concern for the souls of their masters (= 'Herrenperspekt') of the sources.


Edition, Translation, and Commentary of the unknown penitential in Düsseldorf Mss B 113
Furthermore, together with Dr. Julia Beier, Henriette von Harnier, and Johanna Schwarz, I have been working on the edition, translation, and analysis of an hitherto unpublished penitential which is preserved in a single manuscript in Düsseldorf.

Ph.D. Studies, Department of Church History, Faculty of Protestant Theology, University of Bonn, Germany and Trinity College, Oxford University, UK

M.A. Studies (Kirchliches Examen) in Protestant Theology, Universities of Heidelberg and Bonn, Germany

since 2019
Research Group Leader "Structures of Dependency in the Late Antique and Early Medieval Western Church," Research Area C, Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies, University of Bonn, Germany

Research Associate, Department of Church History, Faculty of Protestant Theology, University of Bonn, Germany (interrupted by research stays and parental leave)

Executive Manager, Zentrum für Religion und Gesellschaft (ZERG), University of Bonn, Germany

Coordinator Master's Programme "Ecumenical Studies," University of Bonn, Germany

since 2024
Member of the editorial board of the publishing series Arbeiten für Kirchen- und Theologiegeschichte of the Evangelische Verlagsanstalt

since 2021
Elected Representative of Research Area C, BCDSS

since 2018
Peer Reviewing for Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte

since 2017
Founding Member of the "Interessenvertretung des wissenschaftlichen Mittelbaus an evangelisch-theologischen Fakultäten und Instituten für evangelische Theologie in Deutschland (IVWM-EvTh)"

Elected Representative of Research Group Leaders, BCDSS

Elected Member of "Fachkommission 1," Evangelisch-Theologischer Fakultätentag

Member of the Faculty Board and Elected Representative of Academic Employees at the Faculty of
Protestant Theology, University of Bonn, Germany

  • Fritz Thyssen Foundation (joint project 2018)
  • Leibniz Institute of European History (IEG) Mainz (individual project 2013)
  • Graduate, German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) (individual project 2010–2011)

Click here for the full publication list

  • 2024. "Moving Late Antique and Early Medieval Penance (c. 550–800) into the Purview of Slavery and Dependency Studies." In Journal of Global Slavery 9: 129–165.
  • 2023. "Menschentötung. Ein Beispiel für Charakter und Praxis der frühmittelalterlichen Buße." In Die Buße in der Alten Kirche, edited by Ulrich Volp, 125–144. Leuven: Peeters. 
  • 2023. "Der Apostolikumsstreit von 1892 als Beispiel akademischer Streitkultur im 19. Jahrhundert." In Streitkulturen in der Kirchengeschichte. Synodal – Politisch – Akademisch, edited by Andreas Müller, 89–114. Leipzig: EVA. 
  • 2023. With Ove Sutter, Adrian Hermann, Christoph Antweiler and Stephan Conermann. "The Analytical Concept of Asymmetrical Dependency." In Journal of Global Slavery 8:
  • 2021. "Slaves and Slavery in the Late Antique and Early Medieval Penitentials." In
    Vigiliae Christianae 75: 130–154.
  • 2021. "Handling Abortion. An exemplary study of the (in)dependence of late
    antique and early medieval penance." In Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte 13: 1–15.
  • 2016. Apostolikumsstreitigkeiten. Diskussionen um Lehre, Liturgie und Kirchenverfassung in der preußischen Landeskirche 1871–1914. Arbeiten zur Kirchen- und Theologiegeschichte 44. Leipzig.
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