Official Blog for the Rome School of Classical and Renaissance Studies, University of Kent Centre
The annual event celebrating the University of Kent’s Rome School of Classical and Renaissance Studies took place at the British Ambassador’s residence in the Villa Wolkonsky on 4 April.
The evening opened with the hosting of the European Innovation in Academia Awards by Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost, David Nightingale. The awards recognise individuals who have made a difference in higher education in Europe or North America and celebrate academic creativity and innovation.
This was followed by a lecture from Dr Thomas P Campbell, former Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York from 2008-2017 who spoke about Raphael’s Tapestry Designs for Pope Leo X and their legacy at the Court of Charles I.
Academic Director of the Rome centre, Professor Tom Henry and several of our Rome centre MA students later continued to discuss the Mortlake tapestries based on Raphael’s Cartoons (three of which hang on the walls of the Villa Wolkonsky).
Jill Morris CMG, British Ambassador to Italy celebrated the performance of our students and the University of Kent on her Twitter feed.  We are looking forward to celebrating at the residence again next year.
“Just back from a tremendous (but exhausting!) week with our Rome MA Ancient History/Archaeology students for this year. On Thursday we arranged a minivan to take us all out of the city of Rome–which the students are expert in now!–and off to Hadrian’s villa at Tivoli, a spectacular pleasure palace from the 2nd century AD. Since we were in Tivoli, though, it hardly made sense to miss the Villa D’Este: a grand Renaissance palace built by a cardinal and relative of the dukes of Ferrara in the 16th century. The gardens in particular were exquisite: the students were all awed at the fountains, and the spectacular view! After a day’s rest, on the Saturday we made the short and easy train journey to Ostia Antica, Rome’s ancient sea-port on the banks of the Tiber. We arrived around 10 and by 4:30 most of us were shattered. Fortunately a few soldiered on to see the Christian ruins and the synagogue by the Porta Marina; the rest of us headed to the café for a well-deserved drink in the sunshine. Here are a couple of snaps of us enjoying the blissful panorama from the Villa D’Este and admiring one of the largest and best-preserved mosaics in the ancient city of Ostia. We will definitely be going back to both next year!”
(sent in by Dr Christopher Burden-Strevens – Ancient History lecturer on our Rome MA programmes https://www.kent.ac.uk/secl/classics/staff/burden-strevens.html)
The University of Kent annual event celebrating our Rome Centre for Classical and Renaissance studies will take place this year on the 4 April at the British Ambassadors residence in the Villa Wolkonsky.
The schedule for the evening includes the European Innovation in Academia Awards and a lecture by Dr. Thomas Campbell. This will be our second European Innovation in Academia Awards. The Awards recognise individuals who have made a difference in higher education in Europe or North America and celebrate academic creativity and innovation.
Our guest lecturer, Dr Thomas P. Campbell, was Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York from 2008-2017. His academic specialism is the study of Renaissance tapestries and he will lecture on ‘Raphael’s Tapestry Designs for Pope Leo X and their legacy at the Court of Charles I’, taking the Mortlake tapestries based on Raphael’s Cartoons (three of which hang on the walls of the Villa Wolkonsky) as his starting point.
Dr. Campbell studied at Oxford University and the Courtauld Institute of Art, before embarking on a career that has been dedicated to the preservation, study and promotion of cultural heritage. Having become interested in European tapestries while working on the art and propaganda of the European courts, he became a curator in the Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, he was appointed Director and CEO of The Met in 2008. Serving for nine years as the ninth Director of the Met, Dr. Campbell pursued a ground-breaking agenda that combined scholarship with accessibility, and reimagined how a museum can engage with diverse, global audiences. His focus was on simultaneously reinforcing the museum’s excellence in faculty, collections, galleries, exhibitions, publications and international engagement while ensuring its scholarship remains accessible, engaging and thought-provoking to a contemporary audience. He has recently stepped down from this position and is currently at the Getty Research Institute and at Waddesdon Manor in the UK as the Getty/Rothschild fellow 2017/18.
Our ancient history and archaeology students have been having just as busy and fulfilling a time as the art historians. Much of January for our students was spent settling in to their new accommodation and their new routine: most have been able to live with the friends they made while studying at Kent back in the Autumn Term, and it’s fantastic to see such strong personal relationships developing into effective working relationships too.
This has been so important and helpful for them over the last month. We begin each week with a lecture from Dr Higgins, an expert in material culture. Students then head out to see the sites first-hand. February began with the Colosseum and Arch of Constantine (of course), followed by the building programme of the emperor Trajan (marketplaces, temples, columns…).
Then there’s the Pantheon, mausolea of Augustus and Hadrian, the epic baths of the emperor Diocletian…the list goes on. Since students work together to prepare talks discussing their favourite aspects of the sites, the close bonds they’ve formed are really bearing fruit this month. As February draws to a close, we are gearing up for two trips beyond the ancient city to consider its surroundings in the imperial period. Shortly we will be taking a trip to Ostia, Rome’s principal sea-port and a major centre of trade in the 1st century AD and beyond. We’re also preparing for a jaunt to the ruins of Herculaneum and Oplontis, two ancient Roman towns in the Campania region. One of the (few) fortunate things about the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD is that the quantities of volcanic ash and pumice preserved these fantastic sites for us see in a comparatively solid state of preservation today.
This doesn’t mean that it’s all work, of course: when in Rome! Kent students are evidently making the most of the Italian they learned in the Autumn term and rightly putting it into practice as they enjoy everything that the Eternal City has to offer.
We’re now four weeks into our term in Rome and everyone seems nicely settled into their studies, and living the dolce vita. As I write the bells are peeling just as the sun sets on another day of blue skies and sun (we have also had diluvial rain but this seems to bounce off our students as well as off the monuments of the city).
Everyone’s pattern here has been slightly different, so summing up the first four weeks is not easy, but here are some highlights from the Art History side of things.
Last week students were on the restoration scaffolds at the Vatican where the restorers explained fresco technique and discussed particularly interesting and challenging issues that they are encountering as they work in the Sala di Costantino (started by Raphael and completed by Giulio Romano). We have also been up to several of the excellent lectures offered at the British School at Rome. Among our visits we have been in churches, villas, palazzi, museums, exhibitions, archives, libraries and lectures to say nothing of the cafes and piazzas. We had a film crew with us for a few days so watch this space for a short film of some of our activities.
Looking ahead we have a trip to Orvieto, Perugia and Spello this week; and Florence the following week where again we are going to be in restoration studios and the drawings collection of the Uffizi as well as in the normal run of museums and churches. We’re also looking forward to guest lecturers later in the term, and to our annual event (this year at the Villa Wolkonsky). And with each day more spring-like than the last, our students seem to be making the most of a wonderful experience.
Students on our split site Canterbury and Rome MA programmes in History of Art, Ancient History and Archaeology and Roman History have now arrived in Rome to continue their one year MA studies in the Eternal City. Students arrived in Rome on the weekend of the 13th January to settle into their new homes and begin to navigate the city armed with all the necessities from Kent to help them settle in – status letters, getting started guides and so on, before starting their orientation week with University of Kent staff and professors.
Our arrivals week started at the study centre of the American university of Rome which is where our students will be taught and make use of the study facilities on offer. Students attended a welcome briefing with Academic Director, Professor Tom Henry and Academic Administrator Sophie Punt who spoke to them more about their modules in Rome, study visits, events happening whilst they are there as well as student support, security, IT amongst other things to ensure they could settle in.
During this week the first seminars for the core modules took place so students met their professors and started to immerse themselves in the city whilst learning in-situ about the subject matter. Firstly students were taken on a guided tour visiting Churches containing work by Raphael in Rome with Art Historian and Academic Director of the Rome School of Classical and Renaissance Studies; Tom Henry. We visited 5 churches in total including Santa Maria della Pace and Santa Maria del Popolo. History of Art students were able to comment and explain to our Ancient Historians and Archaeologists why a certain piece was painted in a particular way and the influences on show. Students were guided around the different churches and the winding streets of Rome pointing our various places of interest and realising that navigating the city was not as hard as they first thought.
The next day students were guided around the Capitoline Museums by one of their Ancient History lecturers Christopher Burden-Strevens before meandering around the Campidoglio and down to the Roman Forum. The Capitoline Museum houses the original bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius on horseback, statue of Constantine and the bust of Commodus as Hercules among many other treasures. Students were encouraged to choose one piece of interest whilst exploring the museum to discuss in the seminar that afternoon. A tough task to undertake as there are so many treasures hidden in the Capitoline museums.
That evening students were invited to attend a lecture at the British School of Rome by Professor Elena Isayev ‘Between hospitality and asylum – a historical perspective on displaced agency’. There are often events and conferences that our students are free to attend around Rome and we encourage them to make the most of them including those at the British School of Rome as well as those at the American Academy of Rome.
The next Morning students were taken on a tour of the American Academy in Rome, just around the corner from the University this Research and Arts institution houses study spaces and an extensive library that we arrange our students to have access to whilst in Rome. Students discovered how to use the library and saw the gardens and learnt about the rich history of this centre.
Students finished off the week by going out for dinner together and for drinks with the Academic Director to talk about their plans for whilst they are in Rome, discuss their schedules and the visits they wanted to take part in. Past students have been to Pompeii, Florence and Ostia – where will this years students go? With travel in Italy being considerably cheaper than in the UK students are prepared to make the most of their time with us! We look forward to sharing their journey with them.
As part of their orientation, all of our 2017/18 cohort who will be spending their spring term in Rome got to join us on a 3 day trip to Rome to familiarise themselves with the area of the Rome School of Classical and Renaissance studies’ centre.
The trip began nice and early as we caught a coach from campus to Gatwick for our flight, by the time we arrived at the airport the students had time for breakfast and a quick sit down before we boarded the plane. We arrived in Rome at lunch time, greeted by our taxis we took the students to their Hotel in the heart of Trastevere. Once the students were settled they were free to explore Rome for the afternoon before rejoining us in the evening. That evening the students were treated to a dinner by David Nightingale, the Senior Deputy Vice Chancellor of Kent university, and Jeremy Carrette, the Dean for Europe. They got to try some local cuisine in the form of Pasta, Pizza and a selection of food for starters.
The next morning the students were treated to a wonderful tour of the Castel Sant’Angelo by SECL’s Christopher Burden-Strevens. This discussed how the castel had adapted over the years, from a mausoleum to the museum that it is today. Following this, the students were also taken to San Luigi dei Francesi, a Carravagio chapel, by Martin Hammer from the Arts department.
These two lectures gave the students a feel for the type of teaching that they would be receiving when they arrive in January. With academics out in Rome and almost weekly trips to visit these impressive monuments, it really sets the MA’s apart from a classroom-based UK masters course.
The afternoon again was given to the students to explore the city, though most of them on our recommendation used the time to visit the accommodation arrangements that they have for the spring. This way they are then reassured that they know the location and the details of their accommodation before they arrive in January.
The following morning we were up bright and early again to greet the students and take them for an introduction at the Rome school of Classical and Renaissance studies’ centre at American University of Rome. They were greeted by the president of AUR, Richard Hodges, and the Graduate Studies Coordinator, Susan Kaesz, as well as other academic and administrative staff who welcomed them to the centre and then gave them a tour of the facilities.
Following this introduction to the Rome centre, the students also received tours of two of the Academic Schools in Rome, the Norwegian institute and the American Academy of Rome, in an effort to highlight to them the different institutions that were available to them as libraries and study spaces during their term abroad. Following this the students had a small amount of free time to shop for souvenirs or grab one last gelato before we boarded the plane back to the UK.
The large provision of this trip is included in the students course fees. The university organises travel, flights and accommodation, leaving the students to only cover a few meals and any personal spending that they wish to do. We feel it is an invaluable experience in making the students aware of the location and the facilities available to them whilst they are in Rome. The trip is also a vital first step in their relocation process, making them feel comfortable enough to call the eternal city home.
In early April 2017, Dr Emily Guerry took fourteen of her third-year students from her special subject module, ‘Saints, Relics, and Churches in Medieval Europe’ (HI 6058), on a four-day fieldtrip to explore the material culture of medieval Rome. The School of History generously subsidized the cost of travel and accommodation.
“When we arrived in the early evening, the students checked into their hostel near Termini and we all headed straight to the Forum to get a sense of the city of Rome that still-smoking hearth of culture. Our itinerary was designed to proceed both chronologically and geographically through the development of the Christian capital so our first morning was packed with time spent in the Palatine Hill and the Capitoline Museo, followed by an afternoon in the Pantheon (which was converted into a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary in the sixth century). Next, we examined the first major Rome house-church female cults located Santa Pudenziana, Santa Prassede, and ended our day with a special private tour of the loggia (with captivating city views) atop Santa Maria Maggiore on the Esquiline. On our second morning, we began by spending two hours inside the stunning church of San Clemente and descended into its many layers of archeological history. Then we ventured to the Lateran for private visit of SS Quattro Coronati thanks to the Augustinian nuns (and performed our very own re-staging of the Donation of Constantine), followed by a pilgrimage to the Sancta Sanctorum, wherein four enterprising students actually acquired an indulgence! We spent that in Trastevere to make a private visit with generous thanks to the Clarissa nuns to Pietro Cavallini’s monumental Last Judgment fresco in Santa Cecilia, which is said to embody the ‘turning point’ between the transformation of Gothic painting into the ‘Renaissance.’ We ended this special day by looking at the amazing spolia in Santa Maria in Trastevere purportedly the earliest location for the Roman cult of the Virgin and marveling at its resplendent medieval mosaics. We spent out last day wandering through the Vatican museums, where we came face to face with dozens of sacred and sublime objects from our course, including early Christian sarcophagi, cult statues, and even Michelangelo’s wall paintings in the Sistine Chapel. In the end, our trip was an awe-inspiring intellectual adventure. The students encountered and examined some of the most transformative examples of church architecture, painting, and sculpture in the history of art and architecture in Rome. We are all so grateful to the School of History, especially Jenny Humphrey, for providing us with this once in a lifetime opportunity.Grazie mille!”
Congratulations to our alumna Tabitha Rose, who has been accepted onto a PhD programme at the University of Buffalo.
Tabitha not only took a Kent MA in Rome, but also took part in our field project in the Forum of Trajan in 2016 (see accompanying photograph). Our Rome Alumni have gone onto work in many sectors including higher education, art galleries and museums and publishing.
The Rome MA students were visited by the Dean of the Graduate School as they showcased their assessed itineraries around the city. Paul Allain; Dean of the Graduate School took part in Kent in Rome’s final visit assessments on 5-6 April; speaking about the itineraries he said:
“it was a great privilege to be led through the overwhelming outdoor museum that is Rome by Kent’s Master’s students, budding classics detectives. I saw the city in a totally new light as they unpacked the rich complexities of its past and revealed hidden gems that I would otherwise no doubt have passed by. Many thanks to them for letting me participate and for teaching me so much.”