Dr William Purkis has been awarded an AHRC Leadership Fellows grant for the project Bearers of the Cross: Material Religion in the Crusading World, 1095–c.1300, which will run from 2015 until 2017.

The project will study the lived, material religion of crusaders through a wide-ranging analysis of the texts, art, architecture and material culture associated with crusader belief. Dr Purkis will explore the devotional worlds that those who ‘took the cross’ inhabited, creating new knowledge and understanding of 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 will involve collaboration with a post-doctoral research assistant and 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 crusader material culture. The project team will study and raise awareness of this collection through the development of an open access database for use by scholars, MOSJ staff, volunteers and visitors, heritage professionals and a wider public. 

As part of the project Dr Purkis and MOSJ will also co-organise a series of public lectures (2016–17), a research workshop on medieval material religion (June 2016), and a workshop on best practice in collaborations between academics and heritage professionals (December 2017). 

For further information about the project, please contact Dr Purkis (w.j.purkis@bham.ac.uk) or follow him on Twitter (@WilliamPurkis).