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images of duomo, students and city textures Students drawing in museum student harvesting grapes

Vision in Orvieto

Gordon in Orvieto invites students into a dialogue about the interplay of faith, art, community and society—and to learn from the lives of artists, poets and saints of the past. As a part of the program, students encounter places that were formative to Christian civilizations in the West. These encounters spur Orvieto students to reflect on contemporary cultural influences and the ways in which they live, further orienting them toward a life that seeks to listen closely and respond thoughtfully to the people and ideas around them.

Italy is overwhelmingly beautiful and full of wonderful as well as tragic reminders of its remarkable fame. Tens of millions of people visit Italy each year to eat the food, walk beneath shadows cast by masterpieces of art and architecture and trace the steps of Peter and Paul on pilgrimage. It is one of the greatest countries in the world to visit precisely because of the vast scope and unparalleled scale of its epic history.

To visit as a tourist is one approach but we have the advantage of time. We choose to go further because leaving what is familiar in search of something new is essential for any form of study abroad, any real education.

streets of Rome

Gordon in Orvieto encourages students, each semester, to make this choice by entering a model of living and learning abroad, in Italy, that prioritizes presence in the content of our curriculum and in the care of the community we share. As the world maps and remaps the places of people displaced from home, family and cultures, all around the world, study abroad is as vital as ever before.

Gordon in Orvieto invites students to truly encounter the lives of other people through a curriculum that is dedicated to the arts and the humanities as a source for exploring these vital questions. Our curriculum revolves around a dialogue concerning the role that art and society have to share within communities of mutually dependent and mutually caring relationships. It is equally designed to foster a dialogue with faith that may lead to a fuller understanding of contemplation and action through solitude and togetherness, inspiring lives of genuine service.

students taking in artwork in Padova

Everywhere, from the deserts of Egypt to the green hills of Umbria and beyond, the rich artistic, cultural and contemplative heritage has passed through the millennia. Our program is rooted in the local, monastic past, where the Rule of St. Benedict of Norcia as well as the form of life, shaped by St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi, spread throughout the world. The challenge these and many other similar voices and visions still represent are startling and profound. It is in this context that we choose to encounter our own lives and make our work. Where we can write new poems influenced by our surroundings and paint in response to the specific colors in the local landscape. It is where we can explore questions of design by keeping open new possibilities of form and through observing examples of sustainability as a way of life over centuries. It is where we can identify ourselves in the historic circumstances of the past through the narratives and language that seeks to connect local writers such as Virgil and Dante with themes in our time.

We situate our courses in the context in which we are surrounded, a territory layered with meaning and significance.

Our lecture halls are the piazzas of Rome, our auditoriums are the perfect geometric spaces of Florence and our devotional life is formed in places such as the olive groves of Assisi, beneath brilliant mosaics which shine no less today than a thousand years before . . . and yet most deeply in the shared trust of our purpose for being together as one. These and so many other places are where the Orvieto Program unfolds, in-situ, where we address the present and the future with empathy and compassion. Because at heart, this opportunity is about complete participation and the risks essential to overcoming boundaries. 

student looking out over city

Within the scope of our curriculum and within our life as a community, the semester is an introduction and an invitation:

  • To go deeper into the territories of action and contemplation.
  • To explore central themes of blessing, care, hospitality, friendship and charity.
  • To live with fully embodied presence as guests in a shared community abroad.
  • To consider the value of art in society/community.
  • To understand further the balance between solitude and togetherness.
  • To participate in the scared conversation with the past for the purpose of joining it with the dialogue of our contemporary cultural moment.
  • To share in the narratives and lives of others with undivided attention.
  • To position the exterior life of experience in closer proximity to the interior life.
  • To enter into the rhythms of the local setting by enjoying the seasons through its food, farming and local festivals.
  • To explore the relevance of the monastic tradition and the role of Catholic church in history.
  • To set aside biases, be good citizens of another culture and be challenged by the unique circumstances, habits, forms of worship and traditions of Italy.
  • To “live vibrantly” and expect to leave changed.