Orvieto duomo facade

Seminar Schedule

This Lilly Summer Seminar is planned for three weeks in the summer of 2016: from Sunday 12th June to Saturday 2nd July.

Each week takes up one of the three topics, Learning from the Past, Assessing the Present, Brainstorming the Future. The rhythm of each week is as follows: Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays are class days in Orvieto, with a daily pattern of formal presentation of topics in morning; general discussion, led by appointed discussion leaders, in the afternoon; with evenings free for reading and private conversation and enjoying the town. Tuesdays and Thursdays are excursion days to six places where visits to 10 fresco cycles provide a shared set of references for our discussion and study. Weekends are free for independent travel, quiet time, convivial hours at a café, or group activities organized by the director. Seminar participants can enjoy a variety of opportunities for joining the town’s Roman Catholic community in worship and fellowship, whether on Sunday at the Duomo or the millennium-old parish church of San Giovenale, or during the week at the chanted Vespers of the cloistered Franciscan nuns or with the Roman Catholic charismatic renewal community at their Wednesday evening gathering of prayer and praise.

Most of our meals will occur in-house, in leisurely fashion, at the hands of the local cook for the Gordon programs. Periodic meals will be arranged at restaurants in town. Dining together is included in the Seminar budget. Participants are permitted to visit restaurants on their own, at their own expense.

Detailed Schedule:

Art and community in early Renaissance Italy (125–1550)

  • Who made the art work?: the four parties
  • Where did art do its work?: the three places of art in architecture, in narrative, in liturgy
  • How did art do its work?: the uses of art in liturgy, theology, devotion, education, politics and civic life

Local Excursion to Orvieto’s own cathedral, with a focus on:

  1. The End Times and Last Judgment frescoed on the walls and ceiling of the San Brizio Chapel in the Orvieto Duomo, begun in the 1440’s by Fra Angelico and completed in the early 1500’s by Luca Signorelli.

Excursion #1 to Florence, with a focus on the following fresco cycles:

  1. Scenes from the Life of St. Peter frescoed on the walls of the Brancacci Chapel in Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence, begun by Masaccio and Masolino around 1425, and completed by Filippino Lippi in the 1480’s.
  2. The frescoed decoration of Monastery San Marco, Florence, overseen by Fra Angelico during the 1440’s.
  3. The Journey of the Magi frescoed by Benozzo Gozzoli on the walls of the Chapel in the Medici Palace, Florence in the 1460’s.
  4. Ghirlandaio, Nativity and Adoration of the Shepherds, altarpiece, and Scenes from the Life of St. Francis, frescoed on the walls of the Sassetti Chapel in Santa Trinità, Florence in the 1480’s.

Excursion #2 to Siena, with a focus on:

  1. An Allegory of Good and Bad Government frescoed by Ambrogio Lorenzetti on the walls of the Meeting Room of the Council of Nine in the town hall in Siena in the 1330’s.


The dislocation of the artist from community

  • The (dis)placement of art in museums
  • The artist as lionized loner, trying to make a living
  • The church: using a misplaced model to find a place for the artist

Excursion #3 to Mont’Oliveto, to see:

  1. Scenes from Pope Gregory the Great’s Life of St. Benedict frescoed by Sodoma and Signorelli in the Monte Oliveto Maggiore monastery outside of Siena around 1500.

Excursion #4 to Assisi, with a focus on:

  1. Scenes from the Life of St. Francis frescoed by Giotto on the walls of the upper basilica of the Franciscan monastery church of San Francesco in Assisi around 1300.

Putting the arts and artists (back) in their place

  • Educating the artists: “It would please me if the painter were as learned as possible in all the liberal arts” (Leon Battista Alberti, On Painting [1435])
  • Educating future church leaders: using the arts in worship, theology, and spiritual formation
  • Educating the laity: from exhibitions to commissions; from collectors to patrons
  • Revisiting and Revising the curriculum: in studio art, art history, Christian ministries

Excursion #5 to Arezzo, with a focus on:

  1. The Legend of the Holy Cross frescoed by Piero della Francesca on the walls of the apse of the Franciscan monastery of San Francesco in Arezzo in the 1450’s.

Excursion #6 to Rome, with a focus on:
The frescoes representing the four subject areas of Pope Julius’s library in the Vatican—Philosophy, Theology, Literature and Law—painted by Raphael simultaneously with Michelangelo’s scenes from Genesis on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, 50 meters away.