Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Back to Santa Maria del Popolo

We have finally made up all the snow days, juggled a few site visits and combined a few lectures, and we're back to normal. Class this week was on the book of Acts and we visited Santa Maria del Popolo. Last semester, I blogged about the art and the class. This time around, I'll point out something different. There is something that is true of just about every church in Rome, but Santa Maria del Popolo illustrates it in a particular way. These churches have stood for centuries in this crossroads of the world, and they carry that history in some interesting ways.

One of the fun little facts to know about Santa Maria del Popolo is that it was run by Augustinian monks for centuries. And so, when a young German Augustinian named Martin Luther traveled to Rome in 1511, it was natural that he stayed with his brethren right here at Santa Maria del Popolo. And, of course, it is no accident that, eighty years after Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenburg, Caravaggio was being asked to fill this space with imagery of Peter and of Paul. Such art serves as a reminder both of the scriptural roots and authority of these two men, and--especially The Crucifixion of Peter--as a reminder that they both met martyrs' fates in the city of Rome. The century following Luther's visit to Rome saw not only the flourishing of art like Caravaggio's but also the renewal of interest in the catacombs surrounding Rome and devotion to the martyrs throughout the area. These stories are the stories of the church, formed and nourished by the scriptures, but also real stories of faith on their own. The city of Rome is a space on which these stories are written, in architecture, art, and tombs--in all the relics of the people who lived here, and even some who only passed through.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Snow Day in Rome

Since snow in Rome is rare, and the city isn't really prepared to deal with it, classes all across Rome were cancelled today. It was pretty nasty out there, but I took a walk up to Piazza del Popolo to check things out. Above is a picture of the piazza in the snow. You should be able to see a few more pictures if you follow this link.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Adapting to Challenges

On Tuesday night, all the students, faculty and staff at the Global Campus here in Rome were invited to join our Academic Dean, Kevin Murphy, for a roundtable conversation about cross-cultural exchange.

One of the things that the conversation emphasized was that, when you are in a cultural situation that is new to you, you have a real opportunity to reflect upon whether the differences are cultural ones (or whether something else is going on) and also how you will react and adapt to these differences.

Something that is a universal: no matter where you live, sometimes things don't go exactly as planned. But, when you are living and teaching abroad, it is easy to blame the chaos on cultural differences. My class on Monday did not go as planned, because a scheduling mix-up meant we could not go to the Capitoline Museums as planned. Class tomorrow has now been cancelled due to inclement weather, and we've just learned that there will be a transportation strike on Monday, which will complicate our intended site visit then.

All this is quite frustrating, but snow days and scheduling problems happen in the U.S., too. One of the great things about the situation here, though, is that, although I'm sure the students share my frustration, they have been really enthusiastic. I gave them a choice between just skipping that site visit or adding a class session during their free time so that we could get it in. They chose (unanimously and without hesitation) to plan a time for the visit. That sort of enthusiasm is a great reminder of what a great opportunity for learning this sort of experience offers.