Cantor Art Gallery to Showcase the Famed Chertsey Tiles and the Visual Culture of Medieval Europe in ‘Bringing the Holy Land Home’ Exhibition

Richard and Saladin with Latin text surrounds; combat series Chertsey tiles, c. 1250-1300, England, (British Museum, earthenware floor tiles, lead-glazed with inlaid slip decoration).

The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery at the College of the Holy Cross, is pleased to present the upcoming exhibition “Bringing the Holy Land Home: The Crusades, Chertsey Abbey, and the Reconstruction of a Medieval Masterpiece.” Bringing together loans from the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston among other institutions, the exhibition will be on view from Jan. 26 through Apr. 6, 2023. An opening lecture and reception will take place on Thurs., Jan. 26 beginning at 4 p.m. 

“Bringing the Holy Land Home” focuses around the well-known Chertsey combat tiles, a series that was created around 1250 for the Chertsey Abbey, and most likely originally commissioned for the English royal palace at Westminster. The tiles were excavated from the ruined Abbey of Chertsey in the late-19th century, and are now housed in several different institutions across Britain, including the British Museum. The exhibition is guest curated by Dr. Amanda Luyster, assistant professor of art history in the department of visual arts at Holy Cross.

 A specialist in Medieval Art from England, Luyster has been studying the Chertsey tiles for almost 20 years, her newest project involving a reconstruction of the tile floor. This project began when Luyster, as she explains:  “saw echoes [in the tiles] of larger traditions, especially Islamic and Byzantine images of combats in roundels. I also realized that we now have imaging and coding resources that were simply not present in 2000, and that these new resources would allow us to solve some of the unsolved problems of the combat series: namely, their original appearance and their original accompanying Latin texts.” This insight led Luyster to the work of reassembling hundreds of broken ceramic fragments, pieced together for the first time and yielding surprising discoveries about the impact of the Crusades in England. Along with an international team, Luyster reconstructed the mosaic, including both images and lost Latin text, demonstrating not only that the theme of the entire mosaic is the Crusades, but that its composition draws from imported Islamic and Byzantine silks, often carried home by returning crusaders. 

As an exhibition, “Bringing the Holy Land Home” brings the Chertsey tiles into dialogue with materials from the Byzantine and Islamic worlds, including ceramics, metalwork, liturgical objects, weapons, and textiles. 

For the exhibition, labels were written by students from Holy Cross and other neighboring institutions, based on substantial research into each object and its cultural role in the period of the crusades. Students also created a website for the exhibition, which includes videos in which they explain the significance of their objects. The exhibition and accompanying catalog feature contributions from prominent scholars in the fields of medieval history and art.  

Meredith Fluke, director of the Cantor Art Gallery, says “this exhibition highlights the excellence of faculty scholarship, student mentorship and collaborative, cross-disciplinary learning that is at the heart of a of liberal arts education at Holy Cross. We are thankful for the support of the College, which encourages projects such as this one, that highlights not only the significance of objects, but also cooperative scholarship, accomplished by faculty, curators, staff and students from many different backgrounds and disciplines.”  

The exhibition has been awarded generous support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, the Kress Foundation, the Mary Jaharis Center for Byzantine Art and Culture and the International Center of Medieval Art. 

A robust schedule of related programming will be available throughout the duration of the exhibition, including a symposium featuring a panel of scholars with expertise in the areas of the crusades and medieval history on March 25, gallery talks and musical performances. All events will be posted to the Cantor Art Gallery’s website.



January 26

Opening Lecture

4 p.m. | Rehm Library

Dr. William Purkis, Department of History, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom

"Bringing the Holy Land Home: Crusaders, Relics, and the Transformation of Latin Christendom’s Sacred Material World"


5:30 p.m. | Cantor Art Gallery

Opening Reception


January 30

12:15 p.m. | Cantor Art Gallery

Gallery Talk

Amanda Luyster, Assistant Professor of Visual Arts and Guest Curator

“The Chertsey Tiles, Context and Reconstruction” 


February 13


4 p.m. | Media Lab, Prior Performing Arts Center

Dr. Chad Leahy, College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences, University of Denver

“Bringing the Holy Land Home to Spain: Jerusalem and the National Imagination, 1095-2022”


February 21 & 27

Student Presentations

12:15 p.m. | Cantor Art Gallery


February 25

Family Day

10 am – 12:30 pm | Cantor Art Gallery


March 25


All day | Rehm Library

“Bringing the Holy Land Home: A Symposium”

A distinguished panel of national and international scholars will convene to present papers related to the exhibition. See the Cantor Gallery’s website for registration information.


April 4

Gallery Talk

4 p.m. | Cantor Art Gallery

Meredith Fluke, Director Cantor Art Gallery

“Bringing the Chertsey Tiles to Holy Cross: What We’ve Learned”


Concerts + Chertsey: A series of musical performances inspired by the exhibition

February 16

12:30 p.m. | Prior Performing Arts Center Beehive

Holy Cross Chamber Music Ensemble


February 22

8 p.m. | Prior Performing Arts Center Beehive

Holy Cross Orchestra


March 23

5:30 p.m. | Prior Performing Arts Center Beehive

Holy Cross Chamber Singers


March 29

1 p.m. | Prior Performing Arts Center Beehive

Gregorian Chant Ensemble