A Leverhulme International Network Grant of just over £112,000 has been awarded to Professor Anthony Bale to explore the books and reading of pilgrims travelling from Europe to Jerusalem and Rome in the later Middle Ages.
During the period, thousands of European pilgrims travelled to Jerusalem and Rome, part of a highly organised industry. The two-year project – running until 2018 – seeks to interrogate the surviving books that the pilgrims read and wrote before, during, and after their pilgrimages to reveal what can they tell us about premodern culture.
As part of the project, staff at Birkbeck will aim to forge the development of an international and interdisciplinary network of scholars of medieval bibliography, history, literature and religion. It is hoped the network will make a dynamic and lasting contribution to understanding the mobility of people and ideas of medieval Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean, particularly along the pilgrim routes between Venice, Dubrovnik, Cyprus and Jerusalem, as well as to Rome, which at the time rivalled the Jerusalem pilgrimage in popularity.
In marrying archival material with literary criticism and cultural history, the network will open a conversation about using surviving medieval texts to explore questions of culture beyond their immediate locality.The project will embrace contemporary concerns of religious hostility, migration, multiculturalism, and nationhood, the curatorship of the past and contemporary legacies of medieval pilgrimage.
The project will be underpinned by two research-intensive workshops, to be held at Birkbeck, University of London (2016) and the Royal Netherlands Institute, Rome (2017).
Partners for the project include the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel; Centre for Pilgrimage Studies, University of York; Rijksuniversiteit, Groningen, Netherlands; Institute of Pilgrimage Studies, The College of William and Mary, Virginia, USA; and Konninklink Niederlands Institut, Rome, Italy.
Anthony Bale, Professor of Medieval Studies at Birkbeck, who is leading the project, said:
“Travel between the Holy Land and Europe was considerably more developed, and arrangements more sophisticated, than many people might believe was common in the late Middle Ages.“This project will seek to use the books owned by and consulted by the pilgrims themselves to explore how their travels influenced culture and the spread of ideas across continents.
“Given the scope of the research, it is fitting that this project will draw together scholars from across Europe, the Middle East and the USA, building collaborative links which will be a strong foundation for further research in this expanding area.”