Your Teacher, Professor John Skillen

Learn in Class . . .

Learn On-Site . . .

Read Great Literature . . .

Enjoy Learning with Friends . . .

Go on Excursions . . .

Drink Some Really Good Coffee . . .

Delight Your Eyes . . .

View Astonishing Art . . .

Lots of Art . . .

“I loved the spirit of community, the fellowship, and the camaraderie of the group. I enjoyed the intentional talks. The unintentional talks. The coffee breaks. The amazing food. The small vignettes of life found in Italy. The concept of rest. The scholé.”

“As classical Christian educators, we already believe the conclusion has to be everything. This seminar was very helpful and exciting in that it elucidated the connections seen by the early doctors of the church and artists.”

Administrator/Teacher Program: July 4 - 12, 2019

gordon crestThe Orvieto Program partners with Gordon College’s Studio for Art, Faith and History to offer 20 classical educators and administrators eight days of study in the beautiful medieval city of Orvieto, Italy. The Orvieto Program is operated by Classical Academic Press and sponsored by the Society for Classical Learning. If you are an SCL member, you will receive a 5% discount on the fee.


Classical school administrators and classical educators are welcome to apply. (Teachers or administrators must be part of a classical school or homeschool.) You can fill out a brief online application here: Apply for the Orvieto Program

Registration and Payment The cost for the trip is $1,350, plus airfare. The $1,350 fee covers room and board, ground transportation, and entrance to all museums. Airfare usually ranges from about $1,200 to $1,600. Once your application has been approved, we will send instructions on how to pay a deposit of $500 to officially register for the trip.

Payment dates will run as follows:
$500 deposit received within 2 weeks of acceptance into the program
$500 2nd deposit payment due in March
Flight purchased by the end of April/early May
$350 final payment due in June
Cancellation Policy If you cancel before April 30, 2019, you will receive a refund for any payments made (less the $500 initial deposit). No refund will be offered for cancellations after April 30, 2019.



 Click Here for a video showing images of Orvieto.

John Skillen    Chris-Headshot-400-x-300


Trip Leaders

Your trip leaders are Dr. John Skillen, Dr. Christopher Perrin, and Christine Perrin. You learn more about them here.


Gordon College provides administrative support and logistics.

Program Details

Tertullian’s question, asked around the year 200, remains as new as it is old: “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?”

On what terms have educated Christians over the centuries allowed the classical and the Christian—the Greco-Roman and the Judeo-Christian intellectual heritages—to mix it up in the same classroom?

No classical Christian academy can avoid articulating an apologia for Why Christians Should Read the Pagan Classics, to cite the subtitle of Louis Markos’s recent book, From Achilles to Christ. What is the Christian mind to make of the rich and sophisticated heritage of classical thought, literature, and culture, so full of useful tools of learning, so astute in its exploration and analysis of nature and history, of the human psyche and the polis, of human artistic endeavors . . . and yet falling short of a wisdom unto salvation? Dante’s Virgil can lead the pilgrim only so far.

One thumbnail sketch might mark the Christian response to the classical heritage as unfolding in three phases:

  1. Keep up a strong guard against being drawn back into the pagan culture in which we have been nurtured and from which we have been redeemed.
  2. Keep in mind the inadequacies of the classical heritage but recognizing the value of various elements of it.
  3. Appreciate the consistencies to the degree of incorporating swathes of the classical heritage into a broader educational and cultural program intended to be thoroughly consonant with Christian faith and theology.

Yet these responses can, and almost always do, find expression in every generation of Christian believers, whether in reacting to Virgil’s Aeneid or Ovid’s Metamorphoses, or J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings or J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

The historic cliff-top town of Orvieto offers an inspirational setting to reflect on this theme. The town itself is an archeological-architectural palimpsest of the Etruscan, Roman, medieval, and Renaissance strata present everywhere in contemporary Orvieto. We will live and study in a beautiful, restored monastery, alternating days of study and reflection in Orvieto with excursions to sites evocative for the theme.

The classical is also notably integrated with the Christian in the decoration of the Orvieto Duomo. One of Europe’s great medieval cathedrals, the Duomo was admired in the Renaissance as unrivaled in its beauty by the noted humanist scholar-pope Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini (Pius II) when he visited the city in 1463. The façade is divided by four enormous panels, carved in bas-relief in the 1320s with the themes of the Incarnation, from Creation to Final Judgment. Strikingly, a group of pagan philosophers and prophets, including Plato and Aristotle and the Sybil, are depicted at the base of the panel of prophetic scenes from the Old Testament.

Finally, one could hardly ask for a richer distillation of our theme than is found in the magnificent fresco cycle of the End Times, Last Things, and Last Judgment in the right transept of the Duomo. The San Brizio Chapel provides a point of reference both for the classical sources and for three stages of Christian response to the classical heritage: the Late Antique of St. Augustine and the other Doctors of the Church, the Medieval of Dante and Thomas Aquinas, and the Christian Humanism of the Renaissance.

Begun by the Dominican painter Fra Angelico, the frescoes were completed by Luca Signorelli in the early 1500s. In the decorative lower zone, Signorelli painted fictive windows framing great figures of classical thought and literature, including Virgil and Ovid. Around these portraits are scenes from their writings, deemed by Signorelli and his humanist advisors as suggestive parallels foreshadowing the scenes of Christian eschatology unfolding in the enormous murals above them. Dante—the poet who most astutely incorporated the classical heritage into an epic that reinterprets the Homeric and Virgilian “homecoming” stories in Christian terms—is welcomed into their company.

With Signorelli’s visual epic of the telos of humankind as our guide, the texts for the Seminar will include selections from classical writers such as Plato and Aristotle, Virgil, Ovid, and Cicero. Selections from Augustine’s Confessions and City of God, as well as from the writings of Jerome, Boethius, Benedict, and Pope Gregory, will provide touchstones for understanding how educated Christians at the end of the Roman epoch responded to the classical heritage out of which they had been converted. Selections from St. Thomas Aquinas and the Divine Comedy of Dante will open a window on the late-medieval appropriation of the classical sources.

Our excursions will take us to places where the Christian appropriation of classical themes is worked out materially in the architecture and decoration of churches, civic buildings, and monasteries.

2019 Trip Itinerary-

Wednesday, July 3               Travel Day

Thursday, July 4                   Arrival and Orientation

Friday, July 5                        Topic #1: 3 Options & 4 Metaphors / Afternoon visit to the Duomo

Saturday, July 6                    Topic #2: Orpheus & the Harrowing of Hell

Sunday, July 7                      Excursion to Rome

Monday, July 8                      Church in morning, Trip to Bolsena; Topic #3: Augustine & Plato; Aquinas & Aristotle

Tuesday, July 9                     Topic #4: Dante, Virgil, and Statius

Wednesday, July 10             Excursion to Siena and Monte Oliveto Monastery

Thursday, July 11                Topic #5: Case Studies in the Liberal Arts

Friday, July 12                     Departure



Readings As we consider the question, “What does Jerusalem have to do with Athens?” we will read excerpts from a variety of classical and Christian writers including Aristotle, Virgil, Tertullian, Clement, Jerome, Augustine, Benedict, Gregory, Boethius and Dante.  We will also read Dr. John Skillen’s book, Putting Art (Back) in Its Place, which is available on Amazon (link provided).

Links to the readings are provided below: