Centre College’s CentreTerm gives the opportunity for students to study abroad and explore the immersive courses available during the three-week term. In January, 23 students traveled to Spain with Lee Jefferson, NEH Associate Professor of Religion, and David Hall, W. George Matton Professor of Religion & Philosophy.
The Art of Pilgrimage course was intended to immerse students into the tradition, theology, culture and environment of the pilgrimage. Students explored the significance of pilgrimages by performing the actions of a pilgrim to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
For over 1,000 years, people of faith have traveled to the burial site of St. James in Santiago. The routes to reach Santiago flourished in the medieval era—paths walked by princes, kings and ordinary peasants. Because of this, the towns along the way bear vivid material evidence through ecclesial art and architecture that speaks to the popularity of the pilgrimage.
Students had the opportunity to walk in their footsteps on these well-trod routes, especially in northern Spain.
Through this experience, students were expected to gain a deeper knowledge of the role of ritual practice in religion, as well as an understanding of the continued significance of physical ritual in the contemporary world.
“The course introduced students to medieval Spain by visiting cities such as Zaragoza, Burgos and Leon, and then shifted to hiking the pilgrimage trail to Santiago,” Jefferson said. “It incorporated readings in art history and religion that the students executed along the way. After walking over 100 miles, we flew to Madrid and spent a day at the Museo del Prado and Reina Sofia museums.”
Jefferson said the students were able to learn different aspects of art and architecture, including the Moorish influence in Spain, as well as the Gothic style and understand the historical context of the Camino. The most valuable part of the course was performing the pilgrimage and experiencing the physical and mental challenges.
“Hopefully, they learned some elements of religious history, but they brought home an impactful accomplishment and experience of walking the trail and absorbing Spanish and Galician culture,” he concluded.
by Kerry Steinhofer
February 12, 2019