MacArthur Fellows Program

William A. Christian Jr.

Historian of Religion | Class of 1986

Historian of Religion
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain
42 at time of award
Published August 1, 1986

About William's Work

William Christian is an independent scholar who writes about Catholicism in Spain and southern Europe.

His approach combines insights from history, anthropology, and sociology.  Christian’s central concern has been the relationship of individuals and groups with the saints, Mary, and God.  His studies involve fieldwork in contemporary communities (primarily in Spain, where he has lived intermittently for the past thirty years) and archival work covering the medieval and early-modern periods.  Christian has been investigating what happens during and subsequent to apparitions, moments when people claim to be in direct contact with the divine.  Since 2000, he has also documented the transmission of memories and feelings related to possessions from one generation to the other in a U.S. Midwestern household.


Christian’s works include Local Religion in Sixteenth-Century Spain (1981), Apparitions in Late Medieval and Renaissance Spain (1981), Moving Crucifixes in Modern Spain (1992), and Visionaries: The Spanish Republic and the Reign of Christ (1996).  He was a visiting professor at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (1995-1996).

Christian received a B.A. (1965) from Harvard University and studied at Pembroke College, University of Cambridge, before receiving a Ph.D. (1971) from the University of Michigan.

Last updated January 1, 2005.

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