Obituary: Fr Wolfram Christian Hoyer (* 09/06/1969 † 30/07/2020)

Fr Wolfram Hoyer, historian, archivist of the Dominican Province of Southern Germany and Austria, former member of the Historical Institute of the Order of Preachers and member of the Academic Committee of the journal Archivum Fratrum Praedicatorum, was snatched from this life in a tragic car accident.


Christian Walter Hoyer was born in Augsburg on 9 June 1969. After graduating from high school, he studied from 1988 to 1990 at the Faculty of Theology in Augsburg as a seminarian for the Diocese of Augsburg. He entered the novitiate of the Dominican Province of St Albert the Great in Southern Germany and Austria in 1990 and took the religious name Wolfram. On 28 September 1991, he made simple profession. He continued his studies at the Faculty of Catholic Theology in Vienna, finishing in 1994 with a Masters thesis on Kirchengeschichte als Heilsgeschichte – Zum Geschichtsbild Hubert Jedins (The history of the Church as history of salvation – On Hubert Jedin’s conception of history). Br. Wolfram made solemn profession on 1 October 1994. His diaconate ordination took place in Vienna that same year, and he was ordained to the priesthood on 16 June 1995, also in Vienna.

From 1995 to 1998, Fr Wolfram studied Auxiliary Sciences of History and Archival Studies at the Institute for Austrian Historical Research in Vienna. He completed his Doctorate in Church History at the Faculty of Catholic Theology of Vienna University in 2000 with a thesis on Restitutio ad pristinam gloriam – Die böhmische Dominikanerprovinz zwischen 1778 und 1857. From 1998 to 1999, he worked as an assistant at the Institute of Dogmatic Theology at the same faculty. During this time, he held the office of archivist of the Dominican convent in Vienna, a task he undertook with great diligence. From 1997 to 2000, he was rector of St Ursula’s Church and chaplain at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna.

At the request of the Master of the Order, Fr Wolfram taught Church History at the Dominican Institute of Philosophy and Theology in Ibadan, Nigeria from 1999 to 2000. He was then called to Rome and appointed member of the Historical Institute of the Order of Preachers, where he worked from 2001 to 2006. He was central in organising the conferences on the Inquisition in 2002 and 2004 and edited the proceedings of the former (Praedicatores, Inquisitores: The Dominicans and the Mediaeval Inquisition, published in 2004). Under his aegis, the digital edition of the Dominican Constitutions and Acts of the General Chapters of the Order of Preachers (Constitutiones et Acta Ordinis Fratrum Praedicatorum 1232-2001) was released in 2002. During his “Roman period”, Fr Wolfram also published the volumes Jordan von Sachsen. Von den Anfängen des Predigerordens (Dominikanische Quellen und Zeugnisse 3, Leipzig 2002, with an introduction and translation of the primitive Dominican constitutions) and, in 2005, Der Index Universalis von 1692 des Archivs des Wiener Dominikanerkonventes (Archivum Fratrum Praedicatorum – Complementa). Alongside his research activity, he taught at the Faculty of Theology at the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas from 2002 to 2005.

At the end of his mandate as a member-in-residence of the Historical Institute in 2006, the Master of the Order appointed Fr Wolfram an associate member. After his return to the Province of Southern Germany and Austria, he was assigned to the priory in Augsburg and appointed rector of the autobahn church “Maria – Schutz der Reisenden” on the A8 near Augsburg, a post he held until his death.

In addition to his various pastoral and institutional commitments, Fr Wolfram continued his research with tireless dedication. The results of his studies have been published in various monographs and journals. Among his main interests were the history of the Dominicans in the territory of the former Province of Hungaria (Austro-Hungarian Province) and the history of the Province of Southern Germany and Austria. His publications on these topics include Vom Kloster zum Einkaufszentrum. Die Geschichte des Leobener Dominikanerklosters (together with Alfred Joham, Leoben 2011) and Gott loben, segnen, verkündigen. 75 Jahre Dominikanerprovinz des hl. Albert in Süddeutschland und Österreich (Freiburg-Basel-Wien 2014). Fr Wolfram also devoted himself to the study of issues related to the history of Dominican legislation. In his doctoral thesis Dominikanische Buchnormen, completed in 2017 at the Faculty of History and Cultural Studies at Vienna University, he dealt with the Order’s legislation in regard to books and libraries from the 13th century to the present. Fr Wolfram always put his historical and archival expertise at the service of the Order: as archivist of the Province, as lecturer in the History of the Order in the novitiate and since 2016 as a member of the Academic Committee of the journal Archivum Fratrum Praedicatorum.

Br. Wolfram had the extraordinary gift of presenting even seemingly insignificant historical topics in an exciting way. Many gained important insights from his challenging questions and critical comments. With his studies and teaching, Fr Wolfram contributed to a critical view of complex historical developments by avoiding simplistic interpretation.

With his tragic death, the Order and Dominican historiography suffer a great loss. May his various initiatives in the field of research on the history of the Order, which he could not complete himself, nevertheless come to fruition.