Wabash Blogs Immersion 2009: Italy - St. Francis of Assisi

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New Perspectives


During my time abroad junior year, I had the chance to visit each of the cities we have been to on this trip. I spent a weekend in each, two of which were with guided tours and one that was on my own. This time around, however, is a totally new experience, as if I am experiencing these cities with a whole new view.
This is actually, literally, very true. I have pretty poor eyesight and ‘normally’ wear glasses (when I remember to), but before we left for Italy I decided to try contacts. It has been a great change. I now look upon these pieces of art with much more clarity.
            In a more profound sense, having been here before, this time with such a focus upon a particular subject has been very much more enlightening. The frescos of San Francesco were beautiful my first time here but now I am aware of the significant amount of context involved in the procession of the images. So, instead of merely visiting these places on a basic level, I am supplementing my coursework, researching St. Francis in the city he called home. Today, we visited Santa Chiara, which had been my second time there. It was, however, my first time understanding Saint Clare’s involvement with the Franciscans.
            Today was definitely full of information. Like I mentioned, this morning we visited Santa Chiara. After this, we were given a guest lecture by Dr. Hartnett, the first professor under whom I studied Classics. We visited the Portico which is found underneath the “Temple of Minerva.” We then visited San Damiano, one of the churches that St. Francis rebuilt during his conversion. Later, we went back to San Francesco to look at original manuscripts of Franciscan text as well as biblical text. That was one of my favorite experiences so far.
            We just finished our second major dinner together, and needless to say it was amazing. I had been waiting to have prosciutto and melon for over a year; tonight, that wish was fulfilled. The meal only got better as the night went on, as did our conversation. Our trip guide, ‘Jeranimo’ Bowie, is as witty as he is helpful; it is refreshing.
            I am excited to return to campus with all of this information and experience. These last two weeks have been great: I passed comps and flew to Italy. Soon, I’ll be back on campus preparing for the rest of the year and life after college, but not before I enjoy myself on the rest of this immersion trip!
A dopo,
Stephen Iles-‘09