‘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. The project 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 also involves a partnership with the Museum of the Order of St John which holds collections relating to the religious order founded in Jerusalem in the early twelfth century. The Museum’s important, but little-known medieval collections include 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 the Museum’s Curator, Abigail Turner, to study, catalogue and photograph this collection for publication as an online open access database. The first objects within the Museum’s medieval collection can be seen here. The final version of the database will be available towards the end of 2016, but in the meantime, keep up to date with their progress by following the project on Twitter: @CrusaderMatter