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MedRen month in Prato

Monash students visiting the Medici villa at Poggo a Caiano
The period from mid-November to mid-December is sometimes known as ‘MedRen month’ at the Monash Prato Centre.

It is at this time of year that Monash students and academics and postgraduates from Monash and partner universities of the Prato Consortium for Medieval and Renaissance Studies converge on the Centre to undertake several different activities in this area of teaching and research.

Twenty-three Monash students spent four weeks immersing themselves in Renaissance Florence for the Monash Arts study tour ‘The Renaissance in Florence’. Their days were spent visiting important museums, churches and historic buildings in Florence in the morning and then reflecting on the visits back at the Centre in the afternoon. Led by Associate Professor Peter Howard, Director of the Monash Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, and assisted by two Monash tutors, this study tour has been introducing Monash students to the Renaissance in Florence for over 20 years - since before the University even established its Prato Centre.

Seven Monash Arts Honours level students were also in Prato for a month to deepen their knowledge and understanding of texts and communities in Medieval and Renaissance Italy. These students explored the extraordinary collection of the State Archives of Prato, which is housed in what was the home of Prato’s famous fourteenth-century merchant Francesco di Marco Datini and Margherita Datini, his wife. The archives have thousands of Datini papers, from Francesco’s accounts books to the numerous letters exchanged between Francesco and Margherita when he was travelling in Europe for work.

This talented group of Honours students had the rare privilege of holding their classes in the Bill Kent Library. Named in honour of the late Emeritus Professor Bill Kent, the Founding Director of our centre, the library has over 2,000 titles in the fine arts, and in Medieval and Renaissance political and cultural history, and its classical antecedents.

The library supports the research and teaching activities of the Prato Consortium for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. This consortium pools international expertise and skills to enhance teaching and research in the field of Medieval and Renaissance Studies. Both of the above groups of students benefited from the presence of these world experts who came together in Prato for a couple of days in December for a series of events including a meeting, an academic conference, and the Bill Kent Prato Lecture which was also open to the public. This year’s lecture was delivered by Professor Nicholas Terpstra of the University of Toronto who shared his research on spatial and sensory boundaries between Christians, Jews, and Muslims in Renaissance Italy. In addition to attending the lecture and conference, the Honours students also had a master class with another member of the consortium, Professor John Henderson of Birkbeck, University of London.

And yet there’s more than MedRen at the Monash Prato Centre at this time of year. Other Monash students completed the final block of the Arts Semester in Prato program, which offers a choice of five units plus a music program. Students from the Monash Business School were also here studying, European business and society, and Leadership practices and principles. You may have followed their ‘amazing race’ style activity across the cities of Prato, Florence and Pisa on our Instagram account. We also hosted two Australian secondary school groups from Our Lady of Mercy and St Bede’s Colleges in Melbourne.

It was a rich month of education and research activities here at the Monash Prato Centre, and January is proving to be just as stimulating with the launch of the Monash Arts Global Immersion Guarantee, and other programs in business and education. You can find out more about all the programs on our website.