THE PLACE OF ART

A WINTER SEMINAR IN ORVIETO FOR GORDON IN ORVIETO ALUMNI

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THE WORK OF ART IN FRANCISCAN AND DOMINICAN MONASTICISM

February 2-10, 2019

All alumni of the Orvieto program received a rich experience of artworks – still in situ – created during a long premodern epoch when visual art framed the places in which people gathered and did their work. As a student in Orvieto, did you notice how so many of the great masterpieces of Renaissance art in Italy are found in Franciscan and Dominican monasteries?

Prof. John and Rev. Susan Skillen combine their interests in offering a seminar-retreat that focuses on why and how the visual arts (and poetry and music as well) found a welcome place in the preaching, teaching, and devotional practices of the Franciscan and Dominican movements.

Please be assured: your eight days back in Orvieto will allow plenty of time for some nostalgia. Explore old haunts, reminisce with friends over a cappuccino, compare notes with new friends. But we celebrate our first 20 years in Orvieto because of its fruit in the next 20 years of our lives.

 The church of San Francesco, Montefalco

The church of San Francesco, Montefalco

Almost simultaneously at the beginning of the 13th century, two young men – the Italian Francis and the Spaniard Dominic – imagined a new form of monasticism. While living in the traditional manner in small communities obedient to a shared rule of life, they cultivated a socially-engaged outward focus towards serving the needs of those in the world around them.  The rapid spread of their off-shoot communities brought spiritual renewal to church and society. A renewed interest in service-oriented community life is showing up in our own time.

Their missions were different but compatible. Francis, the preacher-evangelist, incarnated the Good News of God’s love in his tireless care for the poor, the sick, the discouraged. Dominic, the preacher-teacher, defended the faithful from the wounds of heresies, building up the body with the meat of sound doctrine.

The Dominicans typically used the arts to give visual form to ideas and to cultivate intellectually rigorous forms of meditation.  The Franciscans appreciated the power of the arts to arouse emotion and to strengthen the affective side of knowing and loving God and our neighbors.

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The Dominican “order of preachers” and the Franciscan order of “poor brothers” (along with the sister orders of women) often established outposts at opposite ends of a city – which in short time became poles of social and cultural as well as religious life of the community.  Orvieto was no exception.

In fact, Orvieto has strong associations with the two theologians – one Dominican, one Franciscan – who remain towering figures in the history of the church.  St. Thomas Aquinas, the greatest of the scholastic theologians and philosophers, lived and taught for a number of years in the Dominican monastery in Orvieto.  St. Bonaventure, born in nearby Cività da Bagnoregio, gave lasting shape to Franciscan ideals through a theology of creation and of prayer.

The purpose of this Seminar-Retreat is to help us reflect afresh on the work of art in the places of our own life of worship, devotion, and service, taking our cue from the practices of the Francis and Dominic.

 

COST (not including airfare): $1,000 per person in shared double rooms. A non-refundable deposit of $300 is due by September 15th, with the remaining $700 paid by October 31st. Each seminar-retreat is limited to 18 people (priority given to the first 18 paid-deposits).

INCLUDED:

  • Mid-day Pranzo prepared by the program chef, Maria Battistini, on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, with picnic lunches on excursion days Tuesday and Thursday.  (Sunday lunch is on your own with friends.)
  • Evening Cena every day except Sunday, Friday, and Saturday (when you can go out with friends to old favorites or new restaurants in town).
  • A Welcome buffet on the first Saturday at the Studio for Art, Faith & History’s sala in Palazzo Simoncelli.
  • Several afternoon local events (perhaps a hiking expedition to the Cappuccin monastery, or a book-making workshop, or wine-tasting at Le Vellette, and certainly a guided visit to the Duomo with Prof Skillen). 
  • Two day-long excursions to places rich with art in situ.
  • No one will stop you from arranging your own trips to Rome on the final Saturday with friends!

 

SCHEDULE:

Saturday          Arrive, get settled in the Convento dei Servi, revisit your old haunts; evening buffet

Sunday             Morning pastries at Café Montanucci; church; afternoon discussion; evening free

Monday           Morning discussion, afternoon fun, and evening Vespers with the cloistered Franciscan nuns in Orvieto

Tuesday           Excursion to Florence: the Franciscan monastery of Santa Croce, and the Dominican monasteries of San Marco and Santa Maria Novella

Wednesday     Morning discussion and afternoon fun

Thursday         Excursion to Assisi (San Damiano, Eremo dei Carceri, Basilica) and Montefalco (monastery with Benozzo Gozzoli’s frescoed life of St. Francis)

Friday              Morning discussion and afternoon fun

Saturday          Free day: head off with friends on your own

Sunday             Departure

ACCOMMODATIONS:

Alumni from years before 2014 will experience the thirteenth-century (fully renovated) monastery of the Servite order that is now home to the Gordon in Orvieto program. The nine double rooms in the residential wing come with private baths. The library-classroom is bright and airy. The sitting room is a comfy area for late-night chats. Our private chef takes pride in presenting the best of Umbrian cuisine. The refectory has its own student-created Last Supper. Student and faculty artworks everywhere establish the ambiance. WiFi internet access is available (when necessary).

To apply for this Seminar-Retreat,CLICK HERE.

LEADERS OF THE RETREAT

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Rev. Dr. Susan Skillen (MDiv, DMin, Gordon-Conwell Seminary) completed her seminary training while living in Orvieto during the early years of the Gordon in Orvieto program. Ordained as a priest at St. Paul’s-within-the-Walls Episcopal Church in Rome, she established an Anglican-tradition church community in Orvieto with the blessing of the Roman Catholic bishop.  Presently serving as the canon for Spiritual Formation in the Anglican Diocese of New England, Mother Susan is a spiritual director and trainer of spiritual directors. She frequently leads pilgrimage-retreats based in Orvieto, always focusing on the relevance for people of faith now of the great Umbrian saints: Benedict and Scholastica, Francis and Claire, Dominic and Catherine of Siena.

Dr. John Skillen now directs the Orvieto-based Studio for Art, Faith & History, and serves on Gordon’s campus as senior advisor to Global Education. His study of the role of the arts in the church and society of medieval and Renaissance Italy informs his interest in why Franciscan and Dominican monasticism provided such fruitful seedbeds for the arts of painting, music, poetry, and theater.