Letters from Europe publishes essays by the artists and writers and scholars who have participated in the programs of Gordon College in Europe, and which reflect the themes of the Studio for Art, Faith & History. Letters from Europe is edited by John Skillen, the associate dean of European programs, and founding director of the arts-oriented semester program in Orvieto (Italy).
Mark Sargent: Easter in the Ruins
Corinth, Greece, 2011
What struck me reading First Corinthians in Corinth is that this is a different kind of integration than we usually envision when we are striving after an intellectual fusion of faith and learning, refining our "worldview," as valuable as that can be. It is a project far messier, paradoxical, and irresolvable.
Agnes R. Howard: Notes on Monastero San Paolo: Reentering the Vestibule of Paradise
Italy is dotted with monasteries of obscure identity, old purposes being forsaken, antiquity and cultural value arguing for their preservation. Of course there are religious houses still functioning as such and inhabited by consecrated men and women. But others have disappeared altogether, bulldozed to make room for new roads or apartments. And still others have been left behind when no monks or nuns were left inside. What should be done with an old hulk of a building, often vast and sturdily built, graced with art or good views or fine acoustics?
Damon DiMauro: Vittoria Colonna in Orvieto
On March 17, 1541, a noblewoman of a certain age in widow’s weeds appeared before the door of the Convent of San Paolo in Orvieto, seeking refuge. According to Jacob Burckhardt, she was “the most famous woman” of sixteenth-century Italy.
Mark Sargent: Thoughts for Palm Sunday
In Lithuania, the word for Easter is an import—"Velykos," or "important day," taken from Byelorussian. Here and there the grassy landscape of the nation slopes, but for the most part the rivers weave slowly, almost reluctantly, through the flatlands. Water in motion, according to local folklore, is a spiritual gift.
Susanna Tamaro: The Dictatorship of Happiness
Even though everyone talks of happiness and self-actualization, the wind which blows through our age is one of confusion and desperation, a wind that makes us grab onto anything only to disappear into the black hole that we carry within ourselves. ... As a writer of books – and books widely read – I have had the opportunity in recent years to come to know a number of people who are active, capable, passionate, and working to change things for the better.
Karin Coonrod: Strangers and Other Angels
Orvieto, Italy, a warm spring evening, near midnight:
Tables covered with flying white cloths and laden with food appear out of nowhere for a crowd of several hundred in a piazza at the edge of the cliff, in the oldest part of this old city.
Mark Sargent: The Body of Christ: A Visit to Orvieto
Orvieto, Italy, 2005
This spring, once again, Orvieto's residents will gather to watch the mystery cycle. It is as if the English literary genre—molded anew by American hands—has come home, returning to the very site from which the Corpus Christi tradition took wings.
Bruce Herman: The Body Broken / Il Corpo Spezzato
The sacred-art tradition of Italy has been a source of both inspiration and frustration for me: inspiration, because of the perennial human themes and the profound understanding of form that the Italian school forwarded in its art and architecture; frustration, because of the inevitable sense of historical dislocation that one experiences when trying to address sacred themes in an era that suffers cultural amnesia or seems frankly uninterested in this realm of artistic endeavor.
Mark Sargent: Deep River
But I could only imagine how the song might have been heard in the cathedral, or the neighboring synagogue, where the loss of sons and brothers from the last century’s wars may still be an open wound. And I could only imagine how the old slave lyric about crossing the Jordan River, reframed with European choral designs, moved a Slavic audience with its own recent memories of Communist control.