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Department of History - Research Seminar Series

Date: 27 February 2013 Time: 5.00 pm

Venue: Bowland North SR23

Lent Term 2012-13

The Invention and Oblivion of the Holy Lance of Antioch

Dr William Purkis, Birmingham


The discovery (or 'invention') of the Holy Lance during the siege of Antioch in June 1098 is often regarded as one of the major turning points in the history of the First Crusade. Many medieval sources record that the crusaders were so inspired by this 'miraculous' find that they were able to inflict defeat on their opponents and thus able to see the expedition through to its conclusion in July 1099. Yet within two years of the conquest of Jerusalem, the cult of the Holy Lance was fading into obscurity and the relic's significance as an object of devotion was all but forgotten. This paper will suggest that a close analysis of the biography of the Holy Lance, from invention to oblivion, offers important insights into medieval attitudes towards sacred matter and the relationships between relics, historical writing, and the creation of crusade memory.


Dr William Purkis is Senior Lecturer in Medieval History at the University of Birmingham. His main research interests are in the religious cultures of the central Middle Ages, with a particular focus on crusading, pilgrimage and monasticism, and his publications include Crusading Spirituality in the Holy Land and Iberia, c.1095-c.1187 (The Boydell Press, 2008). He is currently researching a book on religious material culture associated with the crusading movement, which is to be published by Yale University Press as Bearers of the Cross: Violence and Devotion in the Crusading World.

All staff and PGR students are warmly invited to History research seminars.


Who can attend: Internal


Further information

Organising departments and research centres: History


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