Christoph Schönborn was born on 22 January 1945 in the castle Skalka near Vlastislav in the Litoměřice region. He comes from the Czech branch of an aristocratic family whose members were politicians, patrons, and clergymen in the Czech lands for more than 150 years. After World War II, the family settled in Austria, where Christoph Schönborn entered the Dominican Order after graduating from secondary school.
He studied at the University of Vienna and in Paris, was ordained a priest in 1970, received his licentiate in theology a year later, and successfully completed his doctoral studies in 1974. He then became professor of Dogmatic Theology at the Faculty of Theology at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. He also taught the theology of the Christian East. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, he became involved in the renewal of academic life in Catholic theology, was the first foreign lecturer at the theological faculty in Litoměřice, and lectured in Brno and Olomouc. His academic career ended with his appointment as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Vienna in 1991, and four years later he became its head as archbishop, which he remains to this day. In 1998 Pope John Paul II appointed him Cardinal-Priest of the titular church of Gesù Divino Lavoratore. He was President of the Austrian Bishops’ Conference from 1998 to 2020, and has also held various positions in Vatican offices.
Cardinal Schönborn is the author of some twenty monographs, numerous scholarly articles, and chapters in collections and books, written in many languages, many of which have also been translated. His research focuses on Christology viewed from a patrological perspective, as is evident in his early work on Sophronius of Jerusalem or in his doctoral thesis on the theology of the Icon of Christ.