The Visionary Cross Project

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The “Visionary Cross” is an international, cross-disciplinary project directed by Catherine Karkov of the University of Leeds, Daniel Paul O'Donnell of the University of Lethbridge, and Roberto Rosselli Del Turco of the Università degli studi di Torino, with James Graham (Multimedia, University of Lethbridge) and Wendy Osborn (Mathematics and Computer Science, University of Lethbridge).

The goal of this project is to draw together a number of recent developments in the Digital Humanities and use them to produce an innovative and intellectually significant study of a key group of Anglo-Saxon texts and monuments. In doing so, the project will contribute to the advancement of knowledge in the Digital Humanities and Anglo-Saxon studies. Within the Digital Humanities it will serve as a model for the next generation of digital projects, providing an example of how such technologies and rhetorics can be used to produce significant and lasting works of humanities scholarship. Within Anglo-Saxon studies the project will greatly improve upon existing research tools, and, by exploiting proven strengths of contemporary technology, present its content in ways that allow scholars to address questions difficult or impossible to answer using print-based resources.

The objects we have chosen for this project include some of the best known and most important of the Anglo-Saxon period: the Ruthwell and Bewcastle standing stone crosses, the Brussels Reliquary Cross, and Vercelli Book copy of the Dream of the Rood poem and Elene. These texts and monuments have disparate temporal and geographic origins: the Ruthwell and Bewcastle crosses are northern and date from the eighth century; the Vercelli Book copies of the poems and the Brussels Cross date from the tenth and eleventh centuries and are of southern manufacture. Despite this, the objects are clearly related to each other along a variety of artistic, literary, and thematic planes: the Bewcastle and Ruthwell crosses share a number of stylistic and iconographic similarities; Ruthwell and Brussels share a textual connection with the Vercelli Book; Brussels and Bewcastle appear to have shared a commemorative function; and the Vercelli Book poems are important textual evidence for understanding of the cross in the Anglo-Saxon period, and, in the case of the Dream of the Rood, describe a Cross that shares features with reconstructions of Brussels and Bewcastle and The Visionary Cross project will use multimedia, collaborative technologies, and digital rhetorics derived from the world of serious gaming to allow modern users the chance to study these objects as both individual works of art and parts of a larger cultural tradition. To Anglo-Saxon audiences, these works would have had a strong spatial dimension. The Ruthwell and Bewcastle crosses were “read” by walking around their four faces and were designed to be seen in particular landscapes; the Brussels Cross would have been seen on the altar or carried in procession. With the use of 3D modelling and navigation techniques drawn from serious gaming, it is possible to recreate and even improve upon this original experience virtually. In our edition, modern users will be able to read the crosses as did their Anglo-Saxon predecessors—by moving around them. Unlike the original audiences, however, modern users will also be able to move around the objects in ways impossible in person and manipulate the objects' physical appearance and context. Through the use of hypermedia and collaborative technologies, moreover, we also will be able to recreate a sense of the tradition as a whole. Like Anglo-Saxon audiences who might recognise connections among these objects or between these objects and other monuments and texts, modern audiences will be able to use hypermedia to follow artistic, textual, and historical connections among the members of our collection and collaborative technologies to contribute new members or connections.

Digital work for the project will take place on site at at the Universities of Lethbridge, Pisa, and Turin. At Leeds the project will include a series of exhibitions and seminars to be held both at the university and in conjunction with local museums.

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