Ian Styler

Ian Styler

Department of History
Doctoral researcher

Contact details

PhD title: An Analysis of the Longevity, Influence and Success (or Otherwise) of the Shrine of St Æthelthryth at Ely
SupervisorDr William Purkis and Dr Simon Yarrow
PhD History


I am a doctoral researcher in the Department of History at the University of Birmingham, funded by a College of Arts and Law scholarship.  I completed my MPhil in 2014 also at Birmingham and commenced my PhD in the same year under the supervision of Dr William Purkis and Dr Simon Yarrow. 

My doctoral research is an interdisciplinary study into the influence of medieval cults of saints. During the Middle Ages, pilgrimage to saints’ shrines was an activity engaged in by many people for a variety of reasons.  It was highly lucrative for the shrines, as they gained financially from the donations made by the pilgrims and the sale of badges and other artefacts, while also enhancing their reputation through the publication and dissemination of stories of the saints’ lives and deeds, and therefore competition between shrine centres was rife.  At the same time, however, the location of other centres nearby could also be beneficial as pilgrims would often visit several shrines in one journey.

My research concentrates on the East Anglian shrine centres, with the cult of St Æthelthryth at Ely as its prime focus. The shrines at Peterborough, Bury St Edmunds, St Albans, Norwich, Lincoln and Walsingham are all in the vicinity of Ely, and would therefore have had an impact on the level of pilgrimage activity that it experienced.  I am using an interdisciplinary approach with a variety of sources, both historical (such as texts of the saints’ lives) and archaeological (for instance, church dedications, stained glass windows and pilgrim badges), to understand Ely’s success and influence, while also quantifying the impact of the other, nearby shrines throughout its nine-hundred year history.

My MPhil thesis was a comparison of the relative success of the shrines of the two principal Worcester saints, Wulfstan and Oswald, and the methodology and approach used within it has subsequently been developed to formulate the basis for my PhD.