O riginally published on June 25, 2010, in the news section of Fuller Theological Seminary’s homepage. To read this article on fuller.edu, click here.

Journal from Orvieto, Italy: Immersed in History, Theology, and Art

A group of Fuller students and faculty have traveled to the medieval town of Orvieto, Italy, for a two-week immersion course in art, theology, monasticism, and history. Daily lectures, readings, and discussion are combined with visits to historical sites, viewing of art and architecture, and engagement in local liturgies, giving participants a holistic experience of Italian faith, art, and culture both present and historical. Joy Moyal, one of the students on the trip, sends this report after Day Five.

I didn’t know what to expect when I met some of my fellow travelers at the Rome train station—most of them strangers, harried, jet-lagged, but eager to move toward our destination: Orvieto, a cliff-top medieval city in the Umbria region of Italy. For the next two weeks we would be studying together, led by Professors Bill Dyrness and Barry Taylor and Brehm Center Artist-in-Residence Christopher Slatoff.

After dropping off our bags at the tranquil monastery that would be our home, we trooped out to the piazza where the duomo, the cathedral, took center stage. Taking in the view of the magnificent structure, the charming side streets trailing away from the piazza full of shops and gelaterias and intoxicated by the fragrant jasmine that seemed to climb over everything, I knew I was in for a fantastic trip.

Our first day of lectures, the group heard from each of our professori: Dr. Dyrness discussed Orvieto’s Golden Age, we had a glimpse of Chris Slatoff’s vast knowledge of art as we gathered on the steps of the duomo, and Barry Taylor blew me away (as usual) with new insights about the most common aspects of life—neighborhood, food, and space. To learn about theology, history, art, and philosophy from such brilliant instructors feels like such a privilege, and I thought once again how glad I was that I made the decision to come to Orvieto.

On our first full day in the city, Taylor played off our sense of displacement by giving us the assignment to roam the streets and compose poems about our first impressions of Orvieto. The next morning it was a fun icebreaker to hear my fellow students read their poems, which included a song parody of “That’s Amore” from alumnus Jeff McRory that had everyone laughing.

Orvieto is just how I pictured it would be: ancient buildings with coral-colored roofs, wrought iron terraces covered in bright pink bougainvillea or delicate white jasmine with some washing hanging in between. The dramatic sand-colored cliffs drop down into a lush green valley with vineyards and a small castle in the distance.

During a walking tour on Wednesday afternoon we stumbled upon an ancient medieval church that was built over 1,000 years ago! A few of us in the group hung back, waiting for mass to end so we could check out the inside. I slowly walked around, taking in the fading frescoes and feeling a reverence that I don’t often experience in my 40-year-old church back home in California. The seven of us stood in a circle and read together from a book of liturgy, basking in the holiness of the moment, and I marveled at the fact that we were reading from the same ancient text that people have read in this church for a thousand years.

And the food! The group has become fast friends as we sit around two long tables every afternoon and evening at “our” local restaurant. We talk and laugh and wait in eager anticipation for that magical moment when the waiters carry out the first course, and spend leisurely hours filling up on risotto, spaghetti, eggplant parmesan, bruschetta, and of course pizza! We get to know each other and discuss the day’s lectures and the sights we’ve seen, all the while keeping one eye on the big screen TV at the end of the restaurant where a World Cup match always seems to be on!

Five days in Orvieto have felt like two weeks, and I’m excited to see what else this trip holds!