ERC 10th Anniversary Week: The Cult of Saints


In 2007, the European Commission established the European Research Council with the mission to encourage excellent frontier research in Europe through competitive funding, supporting top researchers across all fields and of any nationality.  In 2017 the European Research Council is marking its 10th anniversary, an important milestone in making Europe a global centre of excellence in research. 

The University of Oxford is the number one university recipient of ERC awards across the whole of the EU, and the Faculty of History currently holds 5 such awards, an indication of the world-class  quality of our historians and their research ambitions. To celebrate this important anniversary, we have talked to those leading ERC projects in History here at Oxford, to find out what big ideas this funding is enabling them to explore, and what the ERC means to them.

The Cult of Saints


This ERC project  investigates the origins and early development of the cult of Christian saints in Late Antiquity. In mapping the cult of saints as a system of beliefs and practices in its earliest and most fluid form, the project will help us to understand the emergence of a central plank of Christianity, which once united Christendom and now divides it. At the heart of the project is a searchable database, on which all the evidence for the cult of saints up to around AD 700 is being collected, presented (in its original languages and English translation), and succinctly discussed, whether it is in Armenian, Coptic, Georgian, Greek, Latin or Syriac.  Towards the end of 2017, this database will be made freely available on line for other scholars, and the wider public, to use. For the first time it will be possible to view and search all the evidence for the early cult of saints, from the Atlantic seaboard of Europe to the Caucasus and Mesopotamia.

The ERC is the only body that can provide funding on the scale needed for such a substantial, ambitious and complex project, that requires six expert researchers, drawn from all over Europe and working over a five-year period, to locate and consider all the evidence for the early cult of saints, written in six different languages and recorded in a bewildering variety of literary and physical mediums: inscriptions in stone, mosaic and paint; sacred images; ecclesiastical and secular texts; papyrus documents, ranging from private letters to tax receipts; martyrdom accounts; saints' lives; and collections of miracles.

Podcast: Bryan Ward-Perkins introduces the project