Rebirth and Revolution: Exploring the Italian Renaissance and the German Reformation

Led by Eric Lund, Professor of Religion, and Cynthia Lund, Assistant Curator and Special Collections Librarian, Kierkegaard Library
September 13–27, 2015
$4,300 per person, double occupancy (see inclusions below)

Registration for this program is now closed.

The Italian Renaissance was a period of tremendous ferment. In a short period of time, there were a host of remarkable innovations in art and literature, philosophy and religion, commerce and technology. As in all revolutionary periods, however, change also had disruptive and disconcerting side-effects. During this learning adventure we will look at many facets of this cultural era and also at the reactions it prompted in Germany in the Protestant Reformation.

We will begin in Florence which was the seed-bed of so many of the new cultural developments. Through visits to museums and other historical sites we will witness the new ways of looking at the world that appeared in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. We will view buildings and art works and discuss many of the influential figures whose names are still familiar to us today: Giotto, Brunelleschi, Michelangelo, daVinci, the Medici family, Savonarola and Galileo.

As the artistic and philosophical Renaissance spread, one of its next centers was Rome, where Catholic popes became patrons of numerous artists and architects. When we move on to Rome we will consider how the Renaissance took inspiration from many of the great achievements of ancient Roman civilization and also how its new perspectives transformed the focus of religious life. Rome will also introduce us to the less admirable features of the Renaissance popes and how their actions and outlooks inspired a critical reaction in northern Europe.

We complete our explorations in Wittenberg and a couple of other cities in eastern Germany where quite different innovations in religion, art and politics took place during the Reformation started by Martin Luther. Here we’ll discuss the revolutionary changes in religion that affect our lives still, and compare and contrast our German stay with our previous Italian stays.

Optional Extension in Berlin
Berlin is a culturally rich capital and is extremely important for understanding modern Germany. For those who would like to get a taste of what the city offers, we invite you to join us for a few extra days. We will visit a few of its major art museums and also visit sites that give us a sense of what Berliners went through during the eras of Nazism and Communism.

We’ll visit the Gemäldegalerie, a fantastic collection of paintings, which includes important selections from the German Renaissance and Reformation eras, plus much more. Nearby are other museums in the Kulturform district and Potzdamer
Platz, a major commercial center newly developed after Reunification. We’ll also visit the Topography of Terror, a museum tracing the history of Nazism, and view remnants of the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie, which gives us a sense of what life was like when the city was divided during the Cold War.

Finally, we’ll visit one or two museums on Museum Island, which contain important antiquities and other collections of European or World art. Nearby is the Berliner Dom, the Protestant cathedral. We’ll be happy to adjust some of this schedule according to the interests of those who elect this extra segment of the program.

See below for the fee and see the itinerary for the probable daily schedule.

Explore Italy and Germany
Florence, is a wonderfully walkable city. It abounds in museums: the famous Uffizi Gallery, the Accademia and many more. In the center of the city there are pleasant shopping streets free of car traffic and marvelous piazzas offering picturesque views of Brunelleschi’s dome on the cathedral, Giotto’s belltower and the Palazzo Vecchio, (the old palace – seat of city government). Pass through the goldsmith shops on the Ponte Vecchio, which spans the Arno River, and you reach the other side with more museums like the Pitti Palace, the quiet Boboli Gardens and a great overview of the city from Piazzale Michelangelo. Small trattorias offer distinctive Tuscan specialties such as ribollita soup, Florentine steak, accompanied, if you wish, by affordable Chianti Classico wine. End the evening with a tasty espresso or gelato from a number of famous shops.

Rome is called the Eternal City. In addition to the concentration of ancient temples and palaces near the Forum and the Colosseum you run across remains of the old empire scattered all around the city. Some like the Pantheon remain perfectly intact after 2000 years. Rome underwent major periods of renovation several times over the centuries. There are amazing churches everywhere, and it is interesting to compare how styles changed from the ancient and massive Constantinian basilicas to the elegantly simple facades of Renaissance churches to the elaborate decorations of the Baroque era. The Vatican, encompassing St. Peter’s basilica and a huge museum, tops of list of what makes Rome distinctive. The Eternal City also has its own culinary specialties and great local wines. Stroll through its piazzas, pause near their famous fountains and then enjoy a late dinner at a whole range of great restaurants near your hotel.

Wittenberg is a much smaller city but one with its own rich history. It was the residence of the dukes of Saxony and is full of sites associated with the Protestant Reformation. A short walk takes you by the former monastery where Luther lived (now a Reformation museum), the Leucorea university buildings where Luther taught, the home of Luther’s co-reformer Melanchthon (1497-1560) and the oak marking the spot where Luther publicly burned the papal bull that threatened him with excommunication. There are two great churches: the Stadtkirche, containing notable artwork by Lucas Cranach (the foremost painter of the Reformation), and the Schlosskirche, which has bronze doors marking the spot where Luther nailed his “Ninety-Five Theses” in 1517. Eisleben, is an even quieter town, but it has its own impressive churches and the two houses where Luther was born and died. Nearby, in Helfta, you can visit a revived monastic community, which occupies the nunnery where some of Germany’s most famous medieval mystics lived. By contrast, Leipzig is a thriving larger city, extensively modernized since German Unification but still full of important historical sites. It is also a great place to study more recent developments in Germany history such as the eras of Nazism and Communism.

Program Leader
Eric Lund has been a Professor of Religion at St. Olaf for 35 years. During the past decade he also served as Director of International Studies. He retires in February 2015. Eric has led 17 programs in Italy and Germany for St. Olaf students and 2 others for older adults, so he is deeply familiar with the sites highlighted on this program. As time allows, he will supplement visits to the main attractions with optional explorations of some of the less-known curiosities he has discovered on prior trips. His teaching and research has focused especially on the Renaissance and Reformation periods so the program will also include some evening presentations on various aspects of Italian and German culture including art, literature, politics, social history and religion. He will be accompanied by his wife, Cynthia Wales Lund, who is assistant curator and special collections librarian at St. Olaf’s Hong Kierkegaard Library.

What to Expect
Europe is best experienced on foot. Be prepared for lots of walking! We will travel by private motor coach from city to city, but within each city we will take public transportation or walk. Comfortable shoes trump the latest fashion! We will provide precise timing and addresses in the final itinerary so that you may take taxis (at your own expense) if you prefer.

Accommodations will be in centrally-located, three and four star tourist-class hotels with English speaking staff. We have deliberately sought out more European-feeling accommodations, which means that rooms will be smaller than the typical American hotel room.

To fully partake in this Study Travel program, you should be able to walk up to five miles per day over possibly uneven terrain (e.g. cobblestones or aged sidewalks), climb stairs that may not have handrails, keep pace with an active group of travelers, deal with the emotional highs and lows that can occur when experiencing a different culture, and be a considerate member of the group (prompt, courteous and flexible). We recommend you bring layers to accommodate fluctuating temperatures, and a small umbrella for likely rain showers.

Average temperatures and rainfall in late September are:

  • Florence, low 59, high 80, 3 inches rainfall
  • Rome: low 60, high 80, 1 inch rainfall
  • Wittenberg, low 48, high 66, .08 inches rainfall

You should plan on seeing your family physician or a travel doctor at least four to six weeks prior to departure, preferably earlier, to talk about routine vaccinations. For more information on travel health, visit or

Program Fee
The program fee is $4,300 per person. Based on double occupancy, it includes discussions led by Eric Lund, assistance by Cindy Lund, accommodations, breakfast daily and group meals as listed on the itinerary, admissions for group activities, ground transportation (except for your airport transfer in Florence), the flight from Rome to Berlin, gratuities to group guides, drivers, and meal servers, and limited medical protection while overseas. Add $450 for single occupancy.

Airfare from your home town to Florence and from Berlin back home is not included. Participants are solely responsible for all expenses not specifically included in the program fee. Examples of excluded expenses include: international airfare to/from the U.S. • airport transfers • any passport or visa fees • any recommended immunizations or vaccinations • trip cancellation insurance • beverages, including at group meals • tipping to hotel staff, including housekeeping • laundry • dry cleaning • phone charges • room service or other items of a personal nature • expenses incurred during free time or non-group activities • lunch and dinner, unless specifically included on program itinerary.

The optional extension in Berlin is $453 per person, based on double occupancy. It includes the transfer from Wittenberg to Berlin, 3 nights’ accommodation in Berlin, a Metro day pass for 3 days, admission fees for the activities listed in the optional extension description, and 3 dinners. The single supplement for the optional extension is $269.

A Note About Booking Your Flights
Please plan to depart the U.S. on Sunday, September 13, 2015 in order to arrive in Florence on Monday, September 14, preferably by mid-afternoon. Plan to depart from Berlin after 11 a.m. on Sunday, September 27. (A transfer is included from Wittenberg to Berlin on Sept. 27 for flights that leave at 11 a.m. or after. If your flight leaves earlier, you will need to arrange your own transfer to Berlin, at your own cost.)

If you participate in the optional extension in Berlin, plan to depart from Berlin anytime on Wednesday, September 30.

For assistance with flight arrangements, may we recommend Noreen Deiss of Travel Leaders. She can be reached at 651-429-0039 or We recommend you not purchase non-refundable airfare until we can confirm the program has enough participants to go.