Ravenna & Assisi Trip 6th – 13th May 2017
Please read full details of the trip and booking information below
RAVENNA AND ASSISI are two compact and remarkable cities, each of them outstanding in Christian history.
RAVENNA became the seat of government in the western Roman Empire in 402 AD and a main residence of the imperial court. It continued as the capital of the Gothic kingdom after the last western Roman Emperor abdicated in 476, and, when Justinian’s generals defeated the Goths, he made it the centre of his revived Roman Empire in the west. It continued as the centre of Italy’s Byzantine administration until the Lombard invasions of 751. This relatively brief period of greatness has left an extraordinary mark. Successive emperors and kings (including Theoderic the Goth) commissioned major churches and brought in the best mosaic artists of the eastern Mediterranean to decorate them. The mosaic schemes are beautiful, and historically and theologically fascinating. Apart from its exceptional churches, Ravenna is a pleasant town to wander in, and a prosperous one to shop in. The poet Dante is buried in Ravenna, and Lord Byron lived there for a year before setting off on his final journey to Greece.
The group will convene at the Hotel Centrale Byron at 6 pm on Saturday 6th May. The Byron, a long-established and comfortable three-star hotel, is the most central hotel in the city – very close to the main Piazza del Popolo, with its bars and cafes. All rooms are en-suite. The Byron will be our home for two nights, for bed and breakfast. A set dinner will be provided each night at Babaleus, a popular restaurant close by.
After joining the local congregation for Mass on Sunday morning at San Vitale, in front of Justinian’s mosaics, the programme will include visits to all the major churches in the centre (San Vitale, the “Mausoleum” of Galla Placidia, Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, the Cathedral with its Baptistery, and the Arian Baptistery built by the Goths). We will also visit the Diocesan Museum, home to Archbishop Maximian’s 6th-century ivory throne. Sant’Apollinare in Classe, which is a little outside the town, will be visited en route to Assisi on Monday afternoon.
The churches in the centre are visited on foot. The town is completely flat. Its pavements are rather narrow.
THE TOWN OF ASSISI is inextricably linked to its most famous son, St Francis. Born around 1181, the son of a rich cloth merchant, he turned his back on the expectations and wealth of his family – and his own early dreams of becoming a knight – and embraced a life of radical poverty and humility. After his religious ‘awakening’, he started to share the life of those on the margins of society, such as lepers. Much to his surprise, he began to attract followers, including the beautiful, well-born St Clare. Inspired by St Francis, she founded the Order of enclosed nuns that bears her name and became the first woman to write a Rule, approved by the Pope, for her own nuns – still in force today after more than eight hundred years.
The programme in Assisi will take us through successive layers of its history, illustrated in its art and its monuments, from the Roman amphitheatre and forum, through the early mediaeval churches and monuments familiar to Francis and Clare when they were growing up, to the places most closely connected with their own life stories (e.g. San Damiano, the Porziuncola), to the churches built to honour them immediately after their deaths (e.g. The Basilica of St Francis, The Basilica of Saint Clare, Santa Maria degli Angeli). Looking at the older monuments, we will build up a picture of the history of Assisi, both religious and political, and the influences that shaped the spirituality of both Francis and Clare. Looking at some of their writings, we will get to the heart of what made them ‘tick’. Looking at the visual art in the churches (especially at the famous fresco cycles in the Basilica of Saint Francis), we will see what aspects of their lives and spirituality their followers, the Pope, and the wider Church wanted to illustrate. Finally, we will discover what attracts so many young men and women today to make the radical choice of becoming franciscan nuns and friars.
The centre of Assisi is compact and visited on foot. The town slopes steeply from east to west. Our hotel, Albergo La Rocca, is a long-established family-run business at the quiet ‘top’ end of town, in the oldest part of Roman Assisi. Jules has used this hotel many times for groups and summer schools, and has always found them welcoming, flexible and accommodating of those with particular dietary needs. All rooms are en-suite. The hotel is very close to the coach/bus stop and accessible by taxi. There is a bar next door open until late, and many more on the route between the hotel and the main Piazza – perfect for coffee or prosecco breaks!
The Revd Dr Anders Bergquist has been Vicar of St John’s Wood since 2002. His family lived in Ravenna for seven years when he was a teenager, and this experience inspired both his interest in early Christian life and thought (which he has taught in the Cambridge Theological Federation and in Cambridge University) and his love of Dante’s Divine Comedy. He has visited Ravenna almost every year since even if only for a day or two on his way to somewhere else.
The Revd Marjorie Brown has been Vicar of St Mary’s Primrose Hill since 2009, and also Area Director of Ordinands for the Edmonton Area since 2016. She recently served as the first female President of the 385-year-old Sion College, a fellowship of London clergy. She is one of the London diocesan representatives for the Anglican Centre in Rome and has always been involved in ecumenical work. She will coordinate prayer and worship during the week.
The Revd Jules Cave Bergquist has, in the thirty years since her ordination, been a parish priest, a college chaplain in both Oxford and Cambridge, and closely involved with vocations work – as Area Director of Ordinands for the Two Cities Area, as the C. of E.’s National Vocations Adviser, and as Diocesan Director of Ordinands in the Diocese of Oxford. Before ordination she lived in Italy for five years, first in Assisi and then in Rome, where she did postgraduate study at the Antonianum (the Pontifical Franciscan university), writing her thesis on the spirituality of St Clare. She has organised and taught many summer schools on Franciscan spirituality in Assisi. She is currently researching the effect of the Unification of Italy on the Religious Communities in Assisi in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
There will be opportunities for those who wish to join in worship during the week. In particular, we will celebrate a group eucharist in a tiny church in Assisi, founded in 1088 by a penitent murderer…
And there will be free time, for private exploration and for shopping.
Cost and Booking Form (Link to downloadable PDF of booking form below)
Ravenna & Assisi_Booking Form
Please note that this is not an inclusive tour, but a free-standing programme of visits. This means that those taking part need to make their own travel arrangements. Help is available. Jules Cave Bergquist, in particular, will gladly help with the booking of flights, and give advice to those who would like to arrive in Italy early, or stay after the programme ends, either in Assisi or elsewhere.
Because we are organising the programme directly ourselves, we have been able to hold the cost to £640 per person, based on dual occupancy. A limited number of single occupancy spaces are available at a supplement of £130. This price includes:
2 nights’ bed and breakfast at Hotel Central Byron in Ravenna • 2 dinners at Babaleus in Ravenna (wine included) • transfer to Assisi by private coach • 5 nights’ dinner, bed and breakfast at Hotel La Rocca in Assisi (wine included with dinner) • entrance charges • local guides as needed • bus tickets to and from Santa Maria degli Angeli • all local tips and gratuities • offerings to churches
The price does not include: lunches, snacks, or drinks beyond wine at dinner • travel costs to Ravenna and from Assisi • travel insurance.
Participants MUST arrange adequate and up-to-date travel insurance of their own, and supply details of their insurance when booking places.