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Summer Program at Bourbon Chateau Focuses on Art, Architecture of Medieval France

By James Devitt

Chateau de Bostz, located at Besson near Moulins, will be the headquarters for a Summer Session program in French medieval art and architecture.

Columbia's Summer Session, in collaboration with the Media Center for Art History, Archaeology and Historic Preservation, has established a summer 2002 program to document and study medieval art and architecture in France. Research and teaching will be conducted at the Chateau de Bostz, located at Besson near Moulins. The estate is the ancestral home of the Dukes of Bourbon and includes the remains of several medieval castles.

Prince Charles-Henri de Lobkowicz, a Bourbon descendant, will host participating students and faculty. Stephen Murray, a Columbia art history and archaeology professor and executive director of the Media Center, and Maurice S. Luker III, associate director of the center, arranged the partnership.

"In order to understand the great monuments of medieval Europe, you must go there," said Murray. "It is possible to bring images of the monument to the classroom, but these images cannot replace the experience of visiting and studying the buildings themselves, rooted as they still are in the landscape in which they were first built."

The Bourbonnais region contains a wealth of medieval art and architecture. Located west of Burgundy and north of the Auvergne, the area flourished in the 12th century and every village has a Romanesque church. The area also includes the great abbeys of Souvigny and Noirlac, associated with the Cluniac and Cistercian orders respectively, and the cities of Moulins and Nevers.

Faculty and students will document more than 400 Romanesque churches and their settings scattered throughout the region using digital technologies provided by Columbia's Media Center for Art History, Archeology and Historic Preservation. Four days a week, teams of students will record the plan, sculpture, masonry, furnishings and devotional objects of these buildings. Further readings and research will be provided digitally and through access to local libraries and archives. One day a week participants will visit together the great Romanesque and Gothic monuments and centers of nearby Burgundy, Berry and Auvergne. Lectures, discussions, analysis and the viewing of films on medieval subjects will occupy the evenings. Students will also be asked to visit and report back on the medieval monuments of a larger city, such as Paris or Lyons.

The four-credit program will bring together a total of 8 to 16 Columbia graduate students, undergraduates and visiting students from diverse disciplines. The structure of the program will be multi-leveled, including graduate students who might be conducting research on local objects or monuments; students working on a master's thesis, and advanced undergraduates.

Columbia will work with local authorities in Moulins, Souvigny and Besson and with faculty from the University of Clermont-Ferrand and guest lecturers. Art History and Archaeology Graduate Fellow Andrew Tallon will assist with digital media documentation.

"I want Columbia to be one of the chief places for the study of the Middle Ages," added Murray. "Having led over a dozen such field studies in the past, I can finally fulfill a decades-long dream, with the help of Prince de Lobkowicz and his Foundation Bourbonnais, of having a residential research and education center that my colleagues and I from many disciplines and our students can use and grow into in the future."

The Media Center is also involved in the structural analysis of Beauvais Cathedral in northern France and the excavation of an ancient city at Amheida, Egypt.

The Columbia Media Center for Art History, Archaeology and Historic Preservation was established in 1995 through a challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. It provides the opportunity for a distinguished faculty member to project his or her own perspective on a great work of art, building or place to a very large audience using appropriately sophisticated visual and analytical techniques: three-dimensional models, video, animation, digital imaging and databases. The Center links global fieldwork, collections study and laboratory investigation with teaching and learning both in and out of the classroom to exchange and express innovative concepts, ideas and methods developed from ongoing research and investigation.

Continuing Education, which administers this overseas program as part of the Summer Session, offers Columbia programs to a wide array of people with diverse needs. Students can tailor their education to fit their academic, professional or enrichment needs and requirements.

Published: Mar 20, 2002
Last modified:Sep 18, 2002

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