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Women from Medieval and Renaissance Europe

This Summer School course will examine the life and deeds of a number of women who had lived in Medieval and Renaissance Europe. Women seldom wrote the history books in the period between 1050 and 1650. In fact, due to society's structural limitations, they generally didn’t write much at all, so their contributions have frequently been ignored until recently.

We will look at the way women lived over this period and concentrate on a number of the most influential women who led the way in their own fields and often changed the course of history.

This week-long short course is just one of a number of courses offered by Odyssey Traveller each year in Hobart. To view the range of summer school programs available, please follow this link.

Summer School classes for mature and senior travellers

Odyssey offers a collection of week-long learning programs offered each January in Hobart, Tasmania.Courses are refreshed for each year’s programs. Classes are limited to 15 people.

Over the last twenty-five years, Odyssey’s small group Summer School Program has given countless travellers an unforgettable educational and travel experience. Each summer, we prepare and offer fun and challenging special interest courses and programs designed to give travellers the options and opportunity to learn about history, religion, Australian culture, and the arts, among many other topics. These courses are designed in such a way that enthusiasts can deepen their knowledge of a particular topic or be initiated into new understandings on a subject.

These programs offered are tailor-made for mature-aged and senior travellers who are eager to explore in-depth a particular topic. Summer school learning programs for mature and senior travellers who are and remain curious about the world. Read more about our philosophy of the Odyssey Summer Schools.

PDF of Tour PDF of Reading List

Overview: Overview: The Summer school program  begins with a welcome reception and dinner.

Overview: Introduction We’ll begin with a general introduction to the role played by women in the years between 800 and 1660. We’ll look at their treatment in childhood, their education, the work they did, marriage, leisure activities and their role in the political and religious life of their various countries. Most is known about women from the middle and upper classes so there will, naturally, be a concentration on these women. We will also look at how women were seen by their male contemporaries. We’ll look at what was written by men (and most writers were men) about women during this period. How were women presented by church men such as Thomas Aquinas or the Bolognese jurist, Gratian? What did writers such as Dante, Boccaccio and Shakespeare have to say about women? By the end of the week we should have come to some conclusions about just how accurate these writers were.

Overview: Warriors and Rulers Today we will concentrate on a number of women, some well-known in their day but now largely forgotten, who ruled (or should have ruled) significant territory. Some even led their armies into battle.

Aethelflaed, Queen of Mercia
Matilda, daughter of Henry I of England
Eleanor of Aquitaine
Margaret of Anjou
Isabella of Castile
Katerina Sforza

Overview: Artists Women painters during this period had a difficult task being accepted or recognised. Women were not expected to be painters and were excluded from most forms of official training. Painting was considered a “manly pursuit” and most women artists were trained at home by their fathers. Life drawing, involving, as it did, the depiction of the naked body, was particularly frowned upon. And yet, some women, particularly during the Renaissance period, managed to make a name for themselves. Among others, we will look at the life and work of painters such as:

Sofonisba Anguissola
Artemisia Gentileschi
Levinia Teerlinc
Lavinia Fontana
Fede Galizia

Overview: Writers and Composers Once again women writers and composers were far outnumbered by their male contemporaries in the Medieval and Renaissance periods. Only a handful are remembered today but a number of these were well known in their time and made significant contributions to their field. Important musicians and composers included:

Kassia of Constantinople, 810-865.
Hildegard of Bingen, although long ignored in the centuries after her death, is one composer and mystic who has been rediscovered and now takes her place in the recognised musical canon. (The names of many other composers in abbeys and monasteries will probably never be known.)
Francesca Caccini, Vittoria Aleotti and Barbara Strozzi were well known composers and musicians in the late Renaissance.

Writers under discussion might include:

Christine de Pisan
Vittoria Colonna
Veronica Gambara
Margery Kempe
And Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke.

Overview: And then some of the others… The morning of the final day will be devoted to a brief look at some of the other women who don’t fit into the above categories but were women of extraordinary ability in a number of other fields. We will look at the achievements of builders such as Bess of Hardwick, Italian academics (including the first female professor of law at Bologna University in 1237), collectors of art, business women and craftswomen. In the afternoon we will try to come to some conclusions about the very varied lives of women across this vast expanse of time. Though many were suppressed and oppressed by the male dominated society of the day, others, through accident of birth, talent and determination were able to rise above the limitations placed upon them by their age.

Overview: The tour will end after breakfast.

Examine how women were presented by contemporary male writers
Look at the reigns of monarchs such as Isabella of Spain and Eleanor of Aquitaine
Explore the life of the mystic and composer Hildegard of Bingen, a women whose music is popular almost a 1000 years after her death
Discover the work of artists such as Artemisia Gentileschi and writers such as Christine de Pizan
Enter into the world of many other diverse characters such as Katerina Sforza, Catherine de Medici, Vittoria Colonna, Felice Della Rovere and Margaret of Austria.

What’s included in our Tour

  • 6 nights in full en suite accommodation
  • 6 breakfasts, 5 lunches, and 2 dinners.
  • Lectures and handouts as indicated.
  • Services of a study leader and lecturers.
  • Complimentary wifi.

What’s not included in our Tour

  • Comprehensive travel insurance.
  • Costs of a personal nature.
Medieval and Renaissance Women