Bearers of the Cross: Material Religion in the Crusading World, 1095–c.1300 is being led by Dr William Purkis (University of Birmingham) and is funded by a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council. It will run from October 2015 to December 2017 and its primary aim is to develop new knowledge and understanding of the lived, material religion of medieval crusaders through a wide-ranging analysis of the texts, art, architecture and material culture associated with crusader belief. Dr Purkis is exploring the devotional worlds that those who ‘took the cross’ inhabited, examining the ritual practices crusaders observed, the religious objects and images they treasured, and the sacred spaces they shaped and were shaped by. The principal output of the project will be a monograph, to be published by Yale University Press.
Dr Purkis’s research into the materiality of crusader belief involves a partnership with the Museum of the Order of St John (MOSJ) – ‘a hidden jewel in the City of London’. With a direct connection to a religious order founded in Jerusalem in the early twelfth century, MOSJ has an important but little-known collection of medieval material culture, including seals and seal casts, manuscripts and a substantial number of coins originating from the crusader states. The project’s Research Fellow, Dr Rosie Weetch, and Inventory Officer, Dickon Whitewood, are working with one of the Museum’s curators, Abigail Cornick, to study, catalogue and photograph this collection for publication as an online open access database. The first objects within MOSJ’s medieval collection will be published early in 2016 and the final version of the database will be available towards the end of the year.
There will be a number of public events taking place as part of the project, including a series of lectures at the Museum in 2016 and 2017, as well as a research workshop on medieval material religion (June 2016), and a workshop on best practice in collaborations between academics and heritage professionals (December 2017).