Sewanee Summer in Spain

The Sewanee Summer in Spain program consists of two full academic courses and a PE course: Introduction to Medieval Spain and the Road to Santiago (Spanish 314); Western Art, Spanish Art, and the Road to Santiago (Fine Arts 214); and The Road to Santiago (Physical Education 214). It takes place between June 8 and July 26, and involves 10 days of study in Sewanee, 2 weeks in Madrid, and 3 and one half weeks of hiking, study, and travel in northern Spain.

The 10 days in Sewanee consist of lectures and discussions covering the basic themes of the courses and the major texts. In addition, we practice and drill the essentials of conversational Spanish. Furthermore, we take advantage of Sewanee’s location by doing daily hikes in an effort to ready ourselves for the rigors of the pilgrimage.

Our time in Madrid has several objectives. First, we continue to study both the Middle Ages and the Road to Santiago, paying particular attention to the artistic and architectural aspects of these areas. We also plan several excursions that will enrich our study of the Middle Ages. First, we take a 3-day trip through Atienza, Sigüenza, Gormaz, Burgo de Osma, Arlanza, Silos, and Covarrubias. We give attention to small town and city life, we visit several castles (never forgetting that Castile means “land of castles”), we look at several monastic institutions (some in ruins), and pay particular attention to the monastery at Santo Domingo de Silos, its Romanesque cloister, pharmacy, library, and its ongoing tradition of Gregorian chant. Our second excursion is a day-long visit to Toledo, known as the city of three cultures. We visit its famous Gothic cathedral, a mosque, and several synagogues as well as various other museums and ecclesiastical institutions. We hope that familiarity with Toledo will provide students concrete examples of what we perceive to be the multicultural nature of medieval Spain. We intend to follow this theme of multiculturalism throughout the course. Our third field trip takes us to El Escorial for a day. This is the monastery/palace built by Philip II in the late 16th century. Although the building itself does not fall within the subject matter of our course, its library contains one of the best collections of medieval manuscripts in the world. Many of the most important codices in Latin, Hebrew, Greek, Arabic, and Spanish are on display in the library, and again, they exemplify our interest in multiculturalism. In addition, El Escorial is an excellent example of how the attitudes and vision typical of the Middle Ages are maintained in sixteenth-century Spain.

In addition to classwork and field trips, we take advantage of our presence in Madrid to visit the world-class artistic triangle formed by the Prado Museum, the Reina Sofía Museum, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. We also intend to visit Madrid’s Archeological Museum, see a bullfight, and tour the seventeenth-century center of the capital.

A special aspect of the two-week stay in Madrid is small group tutoring by Spanish university students. The objective of this tutoring is to develop and extend knowledge of colloquial Spanish and to provide ample time for conversation practice. Tutors also introduce American students to the university milieu of Madrid, to the extent that a two-week period allows that.

The third part of the program is an accelerated pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela starting from Roncesvalles in the Pyrenees and continuing through Navarra, La Rioja, Old Castile, Leon, and Galicia Our route follows the one described in the fifth book of the12th-century Codex Calixtinus, the famous Pilgrim’s Guide. We will have a small bus and a driver at our disposal, and we plan to book lodging, in advance, for each day’s journey in a wide variety of hotels, hostels, and pensiones. We have several objectives in mind for this part of the course:

1) Tracing the influence of French and other European influences on Spanish culture of the Middle Ages: Romanesque and Gothic art and architecture; literary currents (epic and courtly poetry); monastic culture, especially the Cluniac and Cistercian orders; the impact of Carolingian script and the Roman liturgy.

2) Observing the mudéjar/multicultural aspects of the Road.

3) Learning to read façades–the iconographic, biblical, hagiographic, historic, and aesthetic backgrounds necessary for sophisticated appreciation of the monuments we will see.

4) Becoming familiar with the physical and cultural geography of northern Spain.

5) Walking the Milky Way. Although we will make use of a small bus to accelerate our pace and provide us with the luxury of not having to carry more than what we need for a day’s hike, we plan to complete two periods of intensive walking, one at the beginning of the three weeks in and around Navarra and Old Castile, and a second one in León and Galicia. Pilgrimage is walking. In order to exper