School Experience Impress Mucha ’17

Jeff Mucha ’17 – I have been to Chicago many times throughout my life. Most of which have been day trips, or mini-vacations with my family, to the stereotypical tourist areas. However, after being here for a short time I have experiences Chicago in a completely different way.

I was exposed to Chinatown and ate traditional Chinese cuisine for the first time and have been staying in a hostel, which is a completely new thing for me as well. Despite the incredible experiences outside of the classroom, I would say the most interesting aspect about this trip is actually being in a school, and experiencing a different culture by being immersed in it.

As I walked into the school, I was greeted by the principal at the door. As soon as I stepped into the building, a huge number of security guards hit me with a barrage of questions, but as soon as they realized why I was in the building, they were incredibly nice to me, and wished me a wonderful day in Wendell Phillips Academy. That really struck me as a unique component of this school, but I was even more shocked at how receptive the students were of me.

This was the first time that I have been a complete outsider in a room, but many students greeted me with hellos, handshakes, or fist-bumps. The most shocking aspect so far has come from a few brief conversations with my host teacher about her students. Many come from broken homes, and have experienced tremendous loss. These are things I cannot completely relate to, but it is something that has already made this trip so meaningful. I have been given the chance to interact with some of these students, and can hopefully make an impact on them, despite my short time here. Simply being there with a smile on my face, and a willingness to work with them, has made this trip unique, and I look forward to the rest of my time in Chicago, and especially the time spent with these students.

Students Explore Italy’s Siena

James Fritz ’16 – The bus ride out through the suburbs of Florence was interesting, as the large bus zipped through tiny roads with precision skill of clear experience. Leaving the city behind, we twisted our way up into the Italian hillside.  Our destination was San Andrea, a tiny town with only Machiavelli’s villa and a restaurant. Seeing the house where he stayed in his exile from Florence – seeing the same far off view of Florence that Machiavelli would have seen in anger – was fun, but paled next to the beauty of the countryside itself.

Siena-CathedralAfter a tour we had an incredible full course Italian meal. Trays of meats and cheese and crustini were sampled first, then the pasta course, them the meat course featuring bistecca fiorentina, which is an amazing and beautiful thick Porterhouse seared for hardly any time at all. The dessert course rounded off our meal with an Italian take on Apple pie, and we were stuffed for the rest of the day. Italian dining hospitality coupled with excellent food makes for a wonderful time.

Adam Alexander ’16 – Wow. What a week! We’ve seen so many things and learned so much that it feels like we’ve been here for a month. I only wish we could be so lucky! Today we went to Siena and got to see many incredible things. But rather than the sort of academic report I gave on Wednesday, I’m going to share my more general thoughts on our trip.

I feel very blessed to call myself a sort of amateur traveler. Thanks to Wabash, I’ve been able to go to Cuba, New York, study abroad in England, and now Italy. I’ve also been fortunate to go on a couple of vacations with my family to the Caribbean. In all of these places, I’ve either been fluent (English) or had intermediate skills (Spanish) in the native language. Not so in Italy. It really makes me empathize with immigrants around the world. It’s a very powerful, humanizing thing to go into someone’s hometown and have no idea how to speak his or her language, and it’s something I’d never experienced before. Today in Siena, I went into a small neighborhood grocery store for some wine and olive oil. Unlike in the tourist-centric areas of Florence, the store owner did not understand a word of English, so we had to engage in a bit of charades and pointing at things in order to communicate. Even still, this man was completely polite the whole time, and never made me feel unwanted or disrespected for not knowing his language.

It’s impossible to express how lucky I feel to have had this experience in Italy, as well as all of the others Wabash has afforded me. You can spend hours in the Lilly Library studying everything there is written about a city, but until you actually see it for yourself, you cannot possibly reach full understanding. This is something that seems to fall on deaf ears to too many in the academic world. Not so for us. Wabash gets it. It’s one of the things that makes Wabash so great, and why I’m so proud to call myself a Little Giant.

When I was a prospective student, I attended an immersion trip panel discussion at Wabash, and I read through all of the blogs of the students who had the opportunity for immersion learning. I knew after reading them that Wabash was the place for me. To the prospective students who will read this post, I hope you will find that Wabash is the place for you, too. Our College will open so many doors for you, and take you places of which you’d only dreamed – maybe even to Florence’s Duomo.

Sean Best ’16 – Siena. A city with a conscience, and visible monuments to their failures and successes. A city with great history and great violence. Neighborhoods allied against other neighborhoods and a rivalry with Florence that is still visible in the graffiti all over the buses between the two. All this makes it the most obvious example of a republican city. Obviously I do not mean the American political party, but the classical ideals of civic responsibility and citizen sacrifices for the city. Their frescoes of martial skill in war and their sunken failure of a church to rival Florence were built by public funds. In success and failure, the people were together.

Siena is an example of why Alexis De Tocqueville believed American democracy was more successful in the nineteenth century than France’s: the power of association. As people joined smaller communities; fraternities, Kiwanis Club, etc, they cared more about their communities and made a conscious effort to improve it. In Siena, this took the form of the Contrada, neighborhoods where the people associated deeply with that neighborhood and would fight rival Contrada for influence. To this day, rival Contradas rarely allow marriages between them. This seemingly unhealthy relationship, similar to fraternity life at Wabash, made their republic stronger and more wholesome. It is a beautiful monument to what mankind can do when we care enough.

Dylan Miller ’16 – Today, PSC 335 ventured through the Tuscan hills via bus to the city of Siena. As soon as we arrived, we walked through the city’s small, winding, and hilly roads to a restaurant right off of Piazza del Campo, the city’s historic and current center. Like any good Italian meal, we ate for hours as course after course of bread, pasta, meat, dessert, café, and of course, wine were served.

Prof. Jill Lamberton talks with students about Siena's famed public plaza, the Campo.

Prof. Jill Lamberton talks with students about Siena’s famed public plaza, the Campo.

After lunch, we embarked on a much-needed tour of the city to walk off our meal. We began in the Piazza del Campo where the focal point is the large Palazzo Pubblico, which was the city’s main governmental building. The piazza is also known as being the center of Siena’s famous horserace known as the Palio. The 90 second, bareback horserace pits the city’s seventeen contrade, or neighborhoods, against one another. Continuing our walking tour, we explored the contrada onda neighborhood right off the Piazza del Campo. Here we discovered the amazing civic identity and pride the contrade of Siena represent.

Next, we explored the Siena Cathedral. The cathedral is adorned with an intricate façade, elaborate mosaic floors, and a beautiful dome. Despite the cathedral being obviously religious, the idea of civil identity and pride continued to be a theme throughout the cathedral similar to the themes we’ve seen repeated in Florence.

We finished our visit to Siena with a winding climb to the top of the unfinished extension of the Siena Cathedral for a spectacular view of the city. We crowded onto a bus back to Florence and enjoyed pizza and gelato on the steps of the Basilica of Santo Spirito as our final dinner in Florence. Arrivederci, Florence!

Florence Experience Tough to Beat

Nathan Bode ’16 – Buonasera da Firenze! My name is Nathan Bode, and I am one of the lucky senior Political Science majors visiting Florence over Spring Break. With Comprehensive Exams behind us, the seniors (and lone junior) on the trip have appreciated the chance to get off of campus and explore the Tuscan city and countryside. Don’t let the gelato fool you though – it’s not all play and no work! I researched and prepared a short presentation to introduce our class to one of Florence’s most iconic pieces of architecture, the Florence Cathedral, or La Catedral de Santa Maria del Fiore. Like constructing the cathedral itself, giving a sufficient introduction to the gargantuan gothic church was no easy feat, and describing the austere power of such a space in a mere blog post will be all but impossible. You’ll just have to take my word for it.

BodeBlogSanta Maria del Fiore, completed in 1436, contains art and architectural influences from many of the great Medieval Italian artists such as Brunelleschi, di Cambio, and Giotto. The cathedral is located directly across from St. John’s Baptistery, and was one of the first construction projects in Florence designed in two distinct directions: not only anticipating how Santa Maria del Fiore would appear from the Baptistery, but also how the Baptistery would appear from the church. Because the church was funded publicly, rather than commissioned privately, it was to serve as a “church of the state” and a church of the people (aka “People-Tested, Machiavelli-Approved”). This dramatic change in architectural mentality is also reflected in the impressive façade of the Cathedral, formed to be viewed at many different angles and approaches, quite literally from many different walks of life.

Representative of the attempt at a public reclamation of the city’s greatness, the Cathedral dominates the city, particularly “la cupola” or “Il Duomo,” the massive brick dome sitting on top of the church. Decorated on the inside by Vasari’s Last Judgment fresco, the dome rises 376 feet and offers a breathtaking view of the city. As Wallies, we were not content to see Florence from ground level, and climbed the 463 cramped, spiraling steps to the top, ducking through stone tunnels and shoulder-width passages. Considering an accompanying senior, Marcus Kammrath, measures 6-foot-8, this was actually a serious task. Whenever the foot traffic to the top would momentarily jam, we would entertain ourselves by reading the many languages of graffiti scrawled in Sharpie around the “Do Not Write On the Wall” signs. After what seemed like hours on an endless StairMaster from Dante’s Inferno, we finally completed our hike; we were not disappointed. The panoramic view of the clay rooftops, the bells ringing in Giotto’s bell tower, and the infernal squawking uccelli were entirely worth it, and resulted in a high point of the trip (no pun intended) – although I think our legs will certainly be sore for the next month. With a few more days left in Italy, I don’t think it’s necessarily downhill from there – but the trip to the Duomo will be hard to beat.

Happy travels, Wabash!

Class Visits Machiavelli’s Private Villa

Josh Bleisch ‘16 – Today has been the best in Florence yet! We began the day by sleeping in (relatively speaking) and having a nice breakfast in the hotel. After catching up with everyone and recounting details from the day before, we walked around the corner to catch the bus to Sant’Andrea. Sant’Andrea is a tiny town in the hills of Tuscany where Machiavelli spent his exile from Florence. It is a huge understatement to say that this place was beautiful, and photos simply don’t do it justice.


Prof. Hoerl talking with students before entering Machiavelli’s villa.

We walked around Sant’Andrea admiring the landscape for a couple minutes before our tour guide walked out. She showed us throughout Machiavelli’s family villa, explaining both what life would’ve been like back then, as well as how the villa has functioned in more recent years. Throughout this trip, we have walked around the same spaces that some of the world’s most important artists and writers occupied hundreds of years ago, but this experience was different. We were the only people there, and it was so easy to imagine Machiavelli sitting at his desk by the fireplace in a dark room writing The Prince—all the while thinking about how wounded and embarrassed he was to be exiled from his beloved Florence, which was still visible at the bottom of the valley outside his window.

We followed up the tour by having a massive and incredibly delicious lunch at the restaurant that is now part of the villa property. We ate many traditional Tuscan dishes including the much talked about bistecca alla Fiorentina. We all came away from that meal stuffed and satisfied. Needless to say, this day trip put a lot of what we’ve learned into perspective for me and for the rest of the group. Not only did we get to see some amazing scenery, we were able to learn and see what life was like for Machiavelli while he was authoring one of the most important texts in western political thought. We also got a great taste of Tuscan culture by dining and visiting a location that isn’t (at least constantly) inundated with foreign tourists.


Tyler Munjas ‘16 – As we returned from watching the sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo, which sits above the city and provides a breathtaking view of Florence, I was reminded of how fortunate I was to have the opportunity of traveling to the city for spring break. Having focused on how the architecture of early 13th, 14th, and 15th century Florence influenced political thought and vice versa, the only true way to understand our studies was to experience first-hand the art and architecture of the city.

The desk where Machiavelli wrote "The Prince."

The desk where Machiavelli wrote “The Prince.”

Contrasting the private palaces of prominent families such as the Medici and Pitti, to the public spaces of the Duomo cathedral, Palazzo Vecchio, and Piazza del Signioria, it makes understanding the literature we read prior to the trip far more relatable. Luckily, Dr. Hoerl and Dr. Lamberton both have extensive knowledge on the subject and Florence itself, so at each stop we have made, they have provided us with great detail on what to examine and how to observe these spaces in a way that coincides with our class, specifically Machiavelli’s political theory.

Along with the coursework, though, we have also been immersed in authentic Italian food, supplementary artwork (the original David being the most impressive), and of course Florentine night life. Simply walking around the city and finding local and tourist favorite spots after each day of work has provided us with some unforgettable memories.

In addition to Florence, we spent today touring Villa Machiavelli in Sant’Andrea where he spent two years after a brief exile from Florence. We studied how after his exile he became much more pessimistic, which became much more clear today when we saw how his Villa from atop the mountain overlooked the very city that he loved, but rejected him. Our eccentric Italian tour guide took us from room to room, showing us the spot where he wrote his most famous work, The Prince. Additionally, we will spend tomorrow in Sienna touring the Palazzo Publico and Duomo of Sienna. All in all, this week abroad has been an opportunity of which I am grateful to have taken part. Though the week flew by and we saw so many important and enticing things, there is still so much more to experience. Hopefully, I will have the chance to do that at some point later on in my life.

Florence ‘Astonishing, Breathtaking”

The ceiling in the Florence Baptistry.

The ceiling in the Florence Baptistry.

Blair Littrell ’17Today I gave my presentation on the Baptistery of St. John and how important it was in our study of Machiavelli. After researching for several weeks about its artwork, structure, and relation to the city’s cathedral, I was blown back by how amazing and intricate the artwork was inside the Baptistery. The detail and the magnificence of the mosaic of Christ in Judgment was amazing, and the fact that it was in such great condition added to its shock factor. Although I’ve seen several pictures of the building and the mosaic inside from my research, pictures simply just couldn’t do it justice.

When we’re reading Machiavelli’s works in class, we hear about how the various noble families, the powerful guilds, and the various religious orders were able to exert their influence over the city of Florence, but reading about this political dynamic of the city just isn’t enough. Seeing Lorenzo Ghiberti’s famed “Gates of Paradise” and the Franciscan mosaic of Christ in Judgment in person was not only astonishing and breathtaking, but it also helped deepen my understanding of Florentine government and why it is that Machiavelli would have thought about politics in the way he did.

Students Do Deep Dive on Florence Architecture

Prof. Hoerl describing the Santa Maria Novella.

Prof. Hoerl describing the Santa Maria Novella.

Marcus Kammrath ’16 – Today I gave my presentation on the importance of Santa Maria Novella and the artwork and chapels inside. The church is the oldest basilica in all of Florence, with the bottom portion of the façade being the oldest existing in the city as well. The top of the façade was later commissioned by the Ruccellai family. Inside, we saw many great representations of how the families would compete over the chapels to show their power and their hospitality towards the city and public places. The earliest piece we saw was done by Massachio, titled Trinita. It was a great representation of early Renaissance artwork using mathematical proportions as well as proper scale to give a more real look to the painting. Today was a great day and we saw a lot more in different churches. Florence is great and the troop that we are traveling with is even better!

James Fritz ’16 – Built in 1280 by the Vallumbrosan monks, the church of Santa Trinita sits on the square of the same name, and though it bears a mannerism façade, the interior of the church is the best medieval form restoration in the city. Notable about Santa Trinita is the fact it has the most interior chapels of any church in the city, which speaks to the lack of wealth of the monks and to the functionality of nobility in Florence. The most important of the chapels is the Sassetti chapel, commissioned by Francisco Sassetti. The chapel features frescoes by Ghirlandaio, which are incredibly beautiful and moving.  Not uncommon to Florentine frescoes, Ghirlandaio chose to blatantly put images of Florence into his frescoes detailing the life of St Francis.

The church, with its dark vaulted ceilings and corridors, gives the feeling of oppressive religion, embodied strongly in the period which the church was built.  Machiavelli would certainly disapprove of the entire church, as the chapel funding process causes issue in his opinion.  The desire to fund a chapel comes from ambition to grow family fame, or envy or another family, and this private funding creates public works, putting fame and power into the hands of nobility. This is very upsetting for Machiavelli.


Tyler Munjas ’16 – On today’s exploration of Florence, we once again visited numerous churches and museums, observing the physical structures that we have spent the last seven weeks studying in class. One stop, the focus of my research, was the Bargello Museum. Constructed in 1255 as the Palazzo del Podesta, this building was extremely significant for its role in helping the common people of Florence obtain a position of prominence within the government. Until the rise of the primo popolo (government of the people) in 1250, the city of Florence was subjected to the competitive nature of the elite families as their conflicts and inefficient ruling overlooked the needs of the common people.

Munjas '16 gives his class presentation.

Munjas ’16 gives his class presentation.

Once elected in 1250, they set to work constructing a necessary fortress to house the Podesta, the highest ranking official in the government. It was during this time that the Palazzo served as a place of discussion for the people’s dissent towards the nobles and helped initiate such urbanistic policies that chipped away at the noble’s extravagant display of wealth and power. Among these policies were the limiting of the size of each noble family’s tower to 29 meters and a call for the widening and reconstruction of the roadways. Through the latter policy, the common people were able to walk to the Palazzo without facing harassment from the noble families, as they were subjected to previously. The former policy, however, shows just how resilient the people were in rejecting the dominance of the nobles. The tower on the Palazzo stands 57 meters tall, much higher than the newly ordered limit of 29 meters which gives the impression that the common people have more power over the noble families.

Though the Palazzo del Podesta served its purpose as a governmental structure until the late 1500s, the primo popolo lasted only until 1260. The common people were resilient, however, and regained office in the 1290s. During this time, more action was taken by the people to keep power on their side. For these reasons, the Palazzo del Podesta was an extremely significant structure for the evolution of government in Florence. Also of note, many executions took place in the courtyard of the Palazzo, most notably the executions of many conspirators in the Pazzi attempt to overthrow the Medici. It was converted to a prison in the 1500s, when it was renamed as the Bargello. It served as a prison until 1865 when it changed into its current structure, the Bargello Museum. The Museum is home to famous works by Donatello, Michelangelo, Ghiberti, Brunelleschi, and many other prominent Italian artists.


Josh Bleisch ’16 – Today, we visited the Palazzo Pitti, and along with it the Vasari Corridor and the Uffizi complex. The Palazzo Pitti is an absolutely massive building on the other side of the Arno River from most of Florence. The Vasari Corridor is an elevated and covered walkway that goes across the Arno at Ponte Vecchio, and ends all the way at the Palazzo Vecchio.

The Vasari Corridor runs atop the famed Ponte Vecchio bridge.

The Vasari Corridor runs atop the famed Ponte Vecchio bridge.

It was absolutely great to have the opportunity to see these places in person, and to put the things that we’ve learned in class into context. The Palazzo Pitti was built by a wealthy Florentine banker, and is much larger than most other family palaces in Florence. This really connects with the theme of private families competing with one another to create the grandest things—something Machiavelli sees as deeply problematic. Its walls also have many connecting arches, which are reminiscent of Roman aqueducts. This was done deliberately in order to convey a sense of Roman imperial power.

The Uffizi complex is now an impressive art gallery, but its original purpose was as an office building for Florentine city officials, connected to the Palazzo Pitti by the Vasari Corridor. This shows the disconnect between the ruling class and the Florentine people. Officials could move from their home, to the bureaucratic office building (the Palazzo Vecchio), and even attend church without having to mingle with the common citizen. This reflects the conflict between elite and common people that has existed throughout Florence’s long history, a topic that our readings of Machiavelli have addressed multiple times.


Adam Alexander ’16 – We had the opportunity to see many awe-inspiring churches today, as my fellow students have pointed out. The one I enjoyed the most though was the Basilica di Santa Croce, or the church of the Holy Cross. Santa Croce is unique in its very particular placement within Florence. Santa Croce and the Palazzo della Signoria are on roughly opposite ends of the old major north-south street axis of the city. In a sense, this ties the faith of the Florentine people with their government. Additionally, Santa Croce was originally built opposite Santa Maria Novella, with the two churches enclosing the city’s urban center. This was done to emphasize the spirituality of Florentine merchants, and to offer protective prayers for the city’s wellbeing.

Santa Croce is also known as the Temple of the Italian Glories. In the late 16th century, Santa Croce was chosen as the burial site for Michelangelo, after Florentines broke into a Roman church to smuggle his body into Florence. Galileo is also buried under the cathedral, but his body was not allowed a Christian burial until almost 100 years after his death in 1642. The cathedral also contains a tribute to Dante, but Ravenna did not allow Florence to reclaim his body, because the city had exiled him. Machiavelli was also buried under the church, although not until 1787, even though he died in 1527.

The church is particularly relevant to Machiavelli, as it was used by Walter, duke of Athens, as his personal quarters in 1342. The duke had taken over Florence and wanted to use Santa Croce to lend religious credibility to his rule. An emissary from the Signori went to Santa Croce to plead with the duke to change his mind about ruling over Florence. The arguments used by the emissary greatly influenced Machiavelli, including the untrustworthiness of the public, and how people will switch allegiances if it should ever become convenient. The duke ultimately rejected their wishes and ruled with a bit of an iron fist over the Florentines, until he was ultimately deposed and exiled from the city.

The trip so far has been phenomenal, and it truly is invaluable to be able to experience these places in person. I fully understand why the concept of the immersion trip is one of the hallmarks of a Wabash education, and I feel so lucky for having been given the opportunities Wabash has afforded me.

Exploring Churches of Florence

Dylan Miller ’16 – Just steps away from Florence’s famous Duomo, the Palazzo Medici and the Church of San Lorenzo can be found. The Palazzo, or palace, was constructed in 1445 by Michelozzo di Bartolomeo and commissioned by Cosimo de’ Medici, a member of the incredibly influential and wealthy Medici family of Florence. Cosimo rejected an original design for the palazzo from Brunelleschi, one of Florence’s most well known artists, because the design was too lavish and magnificent. Cosimo feared that the magnificence would arouse envy among citizens; so rather, Cosimo insisted the palazzo be viewed as a public ornament for the city. The idea of magnificence and envy are foundationally important concepts in Machiavelli’s theories.

The Medici Courtyard

The Medici Courtyard

The original palazzo was shaped like a cube with a combination of traditional styles of sandstone and rustication as well as Renaissance styles. The traditional styles are reminiscent of ancient Roman buildings, which make the important connection between Florence and the famous Roman Empire. This connection to Rome was linked to the idea of Roman virtue, which Florence, as well as many cities in Italy, wanted to emulate.

The palazzo has many elements that project the feel of a public space such as the loggias, the benches, a courtyard, and a garden. However, the private dominance of the Medici family is still architecturally present. The rise of the Medici family led to its fall in 1494 when the family was exiled from the city, the palazzo was confiscated, and their property was sold at the local Orsanmichele. However, it wasn’t long until the Medici family returned to Florence and their palazzo in 1512.

Just diagonal from the palazzo, the Church of San Lorenzo acts as the official church of the Medici family, the Medici family’s crypt, and a library. The Church of San Lorenzo is one of the oldest buildings in Florence, but the Medici family commission Brunelleschi in 1419 to rebuild it. The Church of San Lorenzo has many important elements to it. It houses the last works of Donatello, Brunelleschi’s Old Sacristy, and the Laurentian library. The library was constructed by Michelangelo and contained the Medici family’s private collection. The proximity of these two Medicean buildings is an important spatial message. The neighborhood essentially became a Medici neighborhood, and their dominance is shown architecturally, which has very important political, cultural, religious, and economic implications.


Students make Way to Florence

Brian Wittman ’16 – We left Wabash at a reasonable time of 2:30 pm, and discussed potential sites we would see. Undoubtedly on the car ride to O’Hare Airport old Wabash stories were swapped between riders. Upon arrival at O’Hare this untraveled blogger learned that we would be flying out of the county nonstop. So I buckled up for my first international flight. The flight would take eight hours which no one slept the entire way. So the hope for a night of full rest was too optimistic.

We landed in Zurich, Switzerland and my passport received its first stamp styled tattoo. It was a proud moment for a 22-year-old that has never seen the coasts of his own country. Of course Euchre was played during our layover in Zurich. After a group photo we boarded our hour-long flight to the beautiful city of Florence, Italy. Unfortunately when we landed in the city it was being showered from the sky. We knew there was supposed to rain, but hope still lingered in my heart. Still, my introduction to the city (which was a crammed bus ride to our hotel) was full of small oddities and differences that my mid-west desensitized eyes darted to one after another. I’m excited to experience them all, eat some wonderful food, and see some beautiful art. I’ll include all of that in my next blog.

Marcus Kammrath ’16 – Today was the first day we had for a walking tour around Florence! We had somewhat of a typical Indiana day, with all four seasons presenting themselves in the form of weather. We all persevered however and made it a fantastic time! I started my day by exploring our assigned spaces for presentations, the church Santa Maria Novella. Luckily my “exploration” did not take long because Santa Maria Novella is on the doorstep of our hotel! The use of space in Florence cannot be understated, and the way that saying “all roads lead to home” works because by following any street you will find a grand work of art or a place of significance.

We followed up our independent explorations by meeting at the Loggia dei Lanzi. The space could be described as a “patio” of sorts with many sculptures that resemble ancient Roman works. Something that we were able to see throughout the day was the use of Renaissance artwork to showcase how artists portraying various types of Florentine characteristics brought religion and the state together. For instance, one piece we saw in one of the chapels had multiple people sitting down outside of a building on benches what symbolized their commitment to their respective patron.

The best part of the trip so far has been the camaraderie that everyone is bringing to the table as well as the know-how and ability of our professors to engage us in the works and texts that we are seeing in front of us for the first time after reading about some of them in the first half of the course! I’m looking forward to more good history, connections to the texts, stories, food, and wine! Ciao!

Tyler Trepton ’16 – As my first time out of the country, everything from the culture to the buildings amazes me. The clouds and rain could not keep us away from the beauty this city holds, as we explored the views Florence had to offer on our first day. Seeing the detail and artwork of the different frescos and buildings which are hundreds of years old, and how these artists were able to craft these different pieces with the technology they had at the time, is something unfathomable at times in addition to the stunning views crafted in this city in the valley. As we made our way throughout the city for lunch, we stopped at what I would consider a giant food court from the heavens with some of the freshest meats, cheeses, pastas, and vegetables I have ever seen. After sitting down and ordering some pasta and their form of a fried pizza which was basically fried bread dough with pizza sauce – accompanied with a small glass of wine – we had the perfect start to the week. As I walked about the food court to find a place to sit, I saw a number of dogs with their owners which at first glance seemed a bit different to back home, but as a dog lover I could not complain. The conclusion I have come to already is that throughout the week my head will be on a swivel, as everywhere you look there is something new to see and think of the previous history of the space and the stories it holds.

Blair Littrell ‘17 – Taking part in this immersion-learning trip to Florence has been nothing short of amazing, and we just got started! After a long day of travel yesterday, we got to sleep in and start our day at 9:45 a.m. For the first 45 minutes of our day, each student spent time on his own to explore and get a feel for a particular place that he will be presenting on later in the week. I went to the famous Florence Baptistery, and was immediately put back by the sheer beauty and magnitude of this historic structure. After going to our individual places, we met up at the Loggia dei Lanzi in the Piazza della Signoria to begin our discussion of how art and architecture shaped the political landscape of Florence.

We visited the Orsanmichele, a small church turned museum right in the old political, economic, and religious center of the city. This museum housed several beautiful statues made by the likes of Donatello, Ghiberti, and Brunelleschi, which was incredible to see in person. After this, a few of us had lunch at the Mercato Centrale and visited the Bigallo. The Bigallo, located right next to the famous Baptistery and Cathedral, was very interesting and housed several gorgeous paintings of the Madonna and Child. To finish off our studies for the day, we visited the Chiesa di Ognissanti, a church with patronage to the Medici family. This church housed several beautiful paitings of various saints and depictions of Christ, and was just downright astonishing to look at as there are not really any churches that look like it in the United States.

While walking through the city, I was amazed at how narrow and compact the streets were, as well as how there was an abundance of small shops and restaurants. This type of city layout is very different from how cities are laid out in the United States, and offers a unique perspective on daily life and also on how powerful families and their allies in 14th and 15th century Florence would have interacted and fought with each other. Walking through the city has given me a really unique perspective on life in Florence that I just haven’t been able to get from reading the various works of Machiavelli. All in all, today was a great day and I cannot wait to see what the rest of the week has in store for us!

Unbelievable First-Hand History Lesson

oldchurchMason McKinney ’17 – The best part about today’s trip was our tour of the church of San Clemente. On the outside, San Clemente seemed like any other church in Rome. The inside, at first, seemed to be the same story as the apse, arches, and altar all evoked a sense of awe and amazement in my eyes. I would soon find out, that this was no ordinary church as Dr. Hartnett directed us down a set of stone stairs which led us to a chilly and damp basement. The class then learned that this was an old church built early on in the 6thcentury, and that the level that we had originally walked into was built directly on top of what we were now standing in. After investigating this layer further, we found a stairwell that led us further down into the earth. At this point we learned that the 6thcentury church had actually been built on top of yet another church that dates to the 1stcentury CE. We had learned about this concept in class where buildings were often times filled in with earth and then built upon at a later point.

What I found to be most interesting about this tour was that we were able to see this stratification of history firsthand. In a matter of moments, my classmates and I walked down two flights of stairs that essentially acted as a time machine bringing us back nearly 2000 years into the past. Going on this tour allowed us to get a firsthand glimpse into the daily and religious lives of the people who lived in pagan as well as Christian Rome.

The Vatican’s Profound Impact

Daniel McCormick ’17  – Today was one of the highlights of the trip where we get to expand our knowledge of not only Roman sculptures, but also religion by visiting the Catholic capital of the world, the Vatican City.  In this post I will only discuss the Roman sculptures we looked and then another post will discuss the paintings and other highlights within the Vatican. So, lets get started!

Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican

Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican

Thanks to Professor Hartnett’s many trips to Rome he was able to secure our visit to a private museum within the Vatican Museums!  We were able to closely examine several different Early Roman Empire Statues and Friezes.  We started with a statue called, “The Augustus of Prima Porta.”  This specific statue, according to professors Wickkiser and Hartnett, is one of the top five most famous statues from Roman Antiquity!  This statue is usually on display, but was having several minor repairs done to it.  That allowed us to be within mere inches from the ancient statue dating back to 15 AD.  In about half an hour we were able to break down the entire statue.  We reasoned that the debate regarding whether the statue was constructed before or after the death of Augustus had to be after death due to several elements of the statue.

Michael Miller presented the second thing we looked close at, the Portrait of Livia and Depictions of Empresses.  He pointed out several different things include how the Julio-Claudian Era (Augustus-Nero) enlarged eyes on portraits.  Michael also pointed out that angle of Livia’s face is pointed slightly down in a submissive, but empowering way like she would have been overlooking a crowd.  Livia also looks to be fully clothed up to her neck, as well as, that she is wearing a cover/hood to show how reserved she is.

In another part of the Vatican Museums, Andrew Jackson presented the statue of Claudius, Emperor 37-54 AD, as Jupiter.  This shows how the Emperors viewed themselves as gods, as well as, how people who earned triumphs (accomplishing great deeds, such as, winning a war) viewed themselves on theirtriumphus, day of triumph.

We concluded the tour of Roman sculptures by viewing the Sarcophaguses of Constantine’s mother and daughter, located across the room from each other and how these tombs help us answer the question, Constantine, Emperor or Christian.

Ben Farmer ’16 – As Dan described earlier, we went into the Vatican Museums to observe the artwork and statues. However, personally I preferred the tour of the old pagan/Christian tombs underneath the Vatican and the Basilica itself to the artwork.

The tour underneath the Vatican was incredibly hot and humid. The surrounding walls were all ancient rooms that were placed along the road to the north of the Circus of Gaius and Nero. There was a variation of tombs, most of them were pagan at the beginning of the tour, but as we walked down the line we started to notice a change. The closer we got to St. Peters tomb, the more Christian tombs began to pop up. The tombs themselves had a great deal of artwork and other designs that showed either pagan and/or Christian symbolism on the walls and ceilings. When we got to the tomb of St. Peter we saw his bones all locked up in little glass boxes returned to his original burial place. Along the wall of the tomb itself was a whole mess of graffiti markings. These markings, according to the tour guild, were names, symbols, prayers and other sorts of things that pilgrims had etched into the stone.

Afterwards, we went into St. Peters Basilica. This structure was massive, and beautiful. The whole building focused your attention towards the center where there was St. Peters tomb and altar. The altar itself was incredibly tall, nearly 25 meters tall at least. One of the most interesting things that I found, however, was that there was a offering table with one of the Statue of a Pope. To the right foot of the statue was a female version of Hercules standing on the club, and to the left foot stood Minerva reading a Bible and pondering it. I just thought it was interesting that they would have included that into the statue.