Bicentennial Grand Expedition Program: From Pilgrimage to Grand Tour: The Via Francigena

MEST-M 390, or ENG-X 395

Days and Times
June 14 – July 5, 2020
Course Description

Pilgrimage is experiencing a modern resurgence, as travelers rediscover the art of slow travel, exploring the world on foot and bike. This course is an introduction to the long and fascinating history and art of pilgrimage, and provides an opportunity for you to experience and write about pilgrimage.

Over the course of three weeks, you will travel from Canterbury to Rome, walking over 200 km (120 miles) of the pilgrimage route, the Via Francigena, reading poetry and stories by travelers who have walked the way before, and gathering each day for lectures on and discussion of the history, art, and cultural sites you encounter along the route. The approach is interdisciplinary, and includes reading literature from the Middle Ages through the Romantic period, and learning about medieval art and architecture. The Via itself will be our primary classroom, providing much of the content for shared reflection on the experience of pilgrimage in both the past and in our own world.

The Via Francigena starts in Canterbury, England, where you’ll visit a Pilgrim’s Hospital and the St. Augustine Abbey, then winds down to Paris before heading to Switzerland. You’ll hike over the Alps through the St. Bernard Pass and into Italy, where you’ll travel by train through Florence and Sienna. You’ll walk the last stretch of the pilgrimage into Rome and end your journey at the seat of medieval pilgrimages: the Vatican.

This course is part of IU’s Bicentennial Grand Expeditions program

Faculty Leader

Shannon Gayk, English


3 credits of MEST-M 390, or ENG-X 395


You may apply if you:

  • Have had at least one semester at IU
  • Are an undergraduate degree candidate making normal academic progress
  • Have a 3.0 cumulative GPA
  • Are able to walk 10-20 miles daily in sometimes rough terrain

Note: Some familiarity with French or Italian will be useful but not required.

Estimated costs

$2,200 + 3 credits of IU summer tuition at your usual residency rate

These fees include lodging, some meals, excursions, and health insurance.
Note: Airfare and personal expenses are not included in the fees.

Fees include special subsidy provided by the Office of the Bicentennial

Departmental scholarships are available, including the Cox scholarships available from the Medieval Studies Institute.


Contact the College’s Office of International Affairs (OIA) with questions about this program.

Application due date

February 15. Applications received after that date will be reviewed as space allows.

Apply for this program