Christianity in Fragments: the Formation of the Cult of Relics, c. 300-800 – Protecting Body and Soul


The 2018 Birkbeck Lectures, Christianity in Fragments: the Formation of the Cult of Relics, c. 300-800, will be given by Professor Julia Smith, this February. Julia Smith is Chichele Professor of Medieval History in the University of Oxford.

The lectures will take place in the Winstanley Lecture Theatre, Trinity College, at 5.00 pm on Mondays in February, as follows: –

5 February:|‘Refashioning the Holy Land’

12 February: ‘Material Blessings’

19 February: ‘Protecting Body and Soul’

26 February: ‘Martyrs, Bones and Bodies’

Professor Smith describes her research as addressing ‘the materiality of Christian experience in the Middle Ages. I am concerned with ‘things which do things’, and use an ethnographic approach to exploring how, why and in what social contexts a wide range of material substances acquired a sacred aura, serving as mediators between humans and the divinity … This research draws heavily on approaches and methodologies derived from my earlier publications on the history of women and gender in the early Middle Ages (a field in which I retain a strong interest) but also has a strong cross-cultural dimension. Beyond that, I am interested in developing interdisciplinary approaches to studying the abundant material remains of late antique and early medieval relic-objects which I have discovered while undertaking field work in the treasuries of some of Europe’s oldest churches.’