This course is an introduction to the three major Western religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. We will learn about the cosmological foundations of these religions with special regard to Zoroastrianism, Gnosticism and Neoplatonism while we are traveling in the Mediterranean (first third of course). We will learn the founding myths of each tradition, along with its rituals, holidays, and major beliefs. We will pay attention to the diversity within these traditions using Morocco and Senegal as case studies (second third of course). The course will emphasize empathetic engagement (learning from the perspective of the believing community). Finally, we will explore some ways these religions have changed due to the Enlightenment and how they shape contemporary culture with special attention to the influence of Pope Francis on contemporary Catholic identity while in South America (third part of course).
Field WorkCountry: Spain
Day: 1 - Monday, 3 October
The purpose of the visit is to see how religious experience is enhanced by the intentionally created space, and the natural setting of the place where religion is practiced. Students will first travel by bus (about an hour) to Montserrat outside of Barcelona in the mountains. Started as a hermitage in the 11th century, Montserrat became a place of miracles and pilgrimage. Students will get to witness pilgrims coming to see the Moraneta, or little black Virgin, and to experience the beauty of the rugged mountains. After lunch, we will return to Barcelona and visit Barcelona Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia. The construction of this cathedral began in the 11th century; it is one of the finest pieces of Gothic architecture in Barcelona. We will also walk through Sant Pau Del Camp, a Romanesque Cathedral in the Old City that has some remaining Moorish/Islamic influences visible in the arches of the Cathedral. After a stop at the Ancient Synagogue in the Jewish quarter, we will return to the ship. The field class will give students the opportunities to explore how the various concepts of God that we have studied in the course manifest themselves in the material aspects of worship, and what impact the interaction of architecture and natural beauty might have upon religious experience. Learning objectives:
- For students to learn more about the history of the Catholic Church in Spain.
- For students to learn more about Judaism and Islam in Spain.
- For students to experience the architecture of La Sea, and to reflect upon how this intentionally designed space manifests the attributes of the deity in this religious tradition.
- For students to witness people on a pilgrimage, and to understand the function of pilgrimage, as well as the meaning that being in the presence of a sacred object has for pilgrims.