Theology in France

The Perkins Global Theological Education Program prepares Christian leaders for complex cultural experiences through seminars and significant immersion experiences in other cultures. Students learn to build intercultural relationships, resolve cultural conflicts and guide intercultural ventures.

The summer 2013 immersion course in Taize, France is led by Dr. C. Michael Hawn, University Distinguished Professor of Church Music and Director of the Perkins Master of Sacred Music Program, and Dr. Heidi A. Miller, Assistant Professor of Christian Worship. Theology students studying in Taize, France, visit sacred sites such as the Taize community, Notre Dame, Cluny and Chartres, and consider the sites’ rich contributions to Christian worship and music. For example, regarded as one of the wonders of the Middle Ages, the abbey-church of Cluny was the largest church in Christendom until St. Peter’s basilica was built in Rome. Construction on the Benedictine abbey began in 1089 and was completed in 1131. The library of Cluny was, for centuries, one of the most important in France. Sacked by the Huguenots in 1562, the abbey was almost entirely destroyed by a revolutionary mob during the suppression of 1790.

Perkins students also are blogging this summer from South Africa at blog.smu.edu/studentadventures/category/theology-in-south-africa/

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Cluny

rebecca1An update from Rebecca, a theology graduate student participating in the Perkins Global Theological Education Program, studying in Taize, France:

Our group

Our group

Today we traveled from our base of operations in Macon to Cluny, where we toured the ruins of what was once the largest abbey in the world. To give some perspective, here is a photo of the only remaining section of the building, part of the transept.

All that is left of the Cluny Abbey

All that is left of the Cluny Abbey

I’ve long been impressed with the sheer size of Notre Dame and the architectural genius that allows this structure to continue to place visitors in the presence of God after centuries of use. A film shown in the Cluny museum, which now stands just near where the doors of the once great abbey stood, compares the two buildings.

After having walked through the ruins, the images in this video took my breath away! Many of our group wanted to label the revolutionaries as unwise (my word; theirs was stronger and more pejorative) for having torn down the place.

Image of the film playing in the museum

Image of the film playing in the museum

I observed that while their actions may have been short-sighted, any group that has killed the king and the aristocracy, and hopes to maintain power, needs to take steps to protect that power. Given the church’s position on the divine right of kings, the revolutionaries undoubtedly destroyed the abbey in part for self preservation. But how sad it is to see this once powerful center of academia and church reform in ruins!

Nevertheless, we were able to explore the interior portions of the remains. These were badly damaged by the revolutionaries as well, who sold stone removed from the structure to locals, who then incorporated it into homes and businesses. Perhaps worst hit inside the remaining structure were the stone carvings of kings, prophets, and disciples.

One wall of the nave

One wall of the nave

Spiral stairway of one tower

Spiral stairway of one tower

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