Florence Archives - St. Stephen's University

The Language of Art

By | 2016, Europe | No Comments

Over a dozen museums and hundreds (probably thousands) works of art later, I finally found a piece of art that I somewhat connected with.

Hi, my name is Lucinda Kollenhoven and I am here to tell all you left brained, logistically programmed, realistic thinkers out there that there is hope for you. There is hope for you to experience a piece of art emotionally and for a moment, perhaps a very brief moment, put aside your analytical tendencies and get wrapped up in the story.

My connection to a piece of art came through a statue by Giambologna, an artist I had never heard of previous to my travels to Florence. The statue depicted a story of the ‘Rape of the Sabines’, the abduction of Sabine women from their neighbours (the Romans). Giambologna’s statue showed an old man defeated by a younger man who grasps a young woman with quite the forceful gesture. The young man’s hands on the woman’s thigh and shoulders were clenched and his muscles were strong.  The characters were positioned in a way that made it impossible to see their expressions from one angle, causing me to walk around the darn thing over 10 times just to be able to examine it.

Now I’ve given you an idea of what the statue looked like, the piece of art that finally made me have an emotional connection, but I cannot describe to you what that connection was. Where did this intrigue come from? I don’t know. Why did I feel curiosity, pain, confusion and joy simultaneously? I don’t know. How do I express these thoughts? Maybe I can’t. Maybe art is so difficult for me to understand because it is its own language and I barely know the basics. Maybe.

My apologies to my fellow left brained folks out there for a lack of conclusion to this story. Keep hoping. Persevere. You too may soon experience the difficulties of expressing yourself after interacting with the language of art.

Positive Encounters Through Negative Space

By | 2014, Europe | No Comments

Last year I purchased a film camera in an attempt to expand my hobby of photography and to become intentional about the images I capture on film. Throughout this year I have learnt much about the technical side of photography such as composition and balance, shutter speed and rule of thirds while also learning about my unique style coming through each roll of film. This trip was meant to use those technical skills to explore the underlying emotion of photographs.

My game plan has been to break up my 3 rolls of film between the 9 countries we are visiting resulting in only 8 exposures per country. I have found this approach to be quite frustrating at times. There is so much to see, so much to capture in a tangible memory, how do I possibly choose what is worth my precious negative space?! I don’t want to be just another tourist snapping photos of Pont Du Gard or the statue depicting the Rape of the Sabines. Instead, I want to capture the emotion behind what I am seeing, what I am experiencing. A quote I found in a bookstore in Florence describes my intention perfectly,

“In my photography I have tried to press what I aim to express in all that I do. The photo should hint at things beyond its actual contents the divine reason, as Meister Elkhardt would say, the beauty of an “ugly” face. The essence of things… I want the dignity and the hope that lies beneath to shine through in even the most inconspicuous, the most ordinary, the most humble subjects.” -Ellen Auerbach, 1985

Although my intentional photography seems good in theory I never know what the actual photo will look like until it gets developed. This takes patience and accepting the unknown results of new techniques. This has forced me to slow down even more on my journey through Europe, desiring to capture that perfect expression. What is it about the architectural digging site at the Matisse museum that moves me? What angle do I capture these ancient Florentine cobblestones where so many influential people have walked down? I have thought about the photos I taken from a variety of angles before I even open the shutter and still my hands hesitates, consciously choosing not to burn this image on the negative roll. Why did I not take a photo of the trees in Barcelona that inspired Gaudi in his art? I’m still figuring it out. M.

A road leads a visitor gently in.

By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

A recurring thought and a prayer that has been on my mind and heart has been of city walls.  I’ve seen all manner of self protection and governance, from the walls and Papal power of Avignon and Rome to the Medici dynasty and walls of Florence.  From the trenches and tunnels of Vimy Ridge to the high house and bunker of Adolf Hitler at Eagle’s Nest.  All of these methods are used to keep beauty and life in, and safe; to keep “others” out.
We each experience things in our lives that we believe no one could understand or appreciate.  We build walls and trenches to keep our hearts safe.  The more in depth, the thicker and higher our walls get.  But the beauty of our lives still deserves to be seen and heard.  If we let visitors in, though the line might be long and trying, they will see beauty beyond compare.   
This applies, too, to a bus full of people that call themselves community.  
I see high walls in people, fortified with standing armies.  
I am no exception.  
Yet I pray for true community, when the walls come crashing down and the treasure of life and the tombs of experience are opened, when all of that wonder seeps through the cracks and holes in the walls, and, like so many of the cities I have seen, a road leads a visitor gently in, and is not stopped for fear of an imaginary foe. 
When this is shared, and the “others” allowed in to see and experience wonder, it is called LOVE.  And that relationship is called community.


From Florence to Rome

By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

Whether Florence, Italy was an anticipated stop for us or not, many
were quickly enchanted by this city and its rich history, culture and
scenic and architectural beauty. One of our first stops, and arguably
one of the most memorable, was the Accademia, the museum that houses
one of the world’s most famous sculptures, Michelangelo’s David. This
sculpture, as well as other pieces we saw at places like the Uffizi
Gallery and Opera del Duomo, reminded us, as we often have, that
pictures in text books just do not do justice to these works of art,
and it really is a gift to be able to learn on the road as we are
right now. Also during our stay in Florence we made a day trip to
Sienna before stopping at a three century family owned winery where we
had the chance to taste some Chianti Classico wines and organic olive
En route to Rome we made a short stop in Orvieto, a quaint city atop a
mountain with spectacular views that stretches for miles.
Rome was another ‘long’ stop (4 nights!), but filled with planned and
unexpected adventures! Our stop coincided with the 150th anniversary
of Italy liberation. The streets and transit, as well as many of the
sites were bussling with people who had come to the country’s capital
to celebrate.  A stop to Rome would not be complete with out a trip to
the Vatican museum, Sistine chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica,
interestingly the same morning as the Pope’s address from that very
location. Other highlights included the Capitolini museum (which over
looks the ancient Roman Forum), the  Collusium (a AD 72 arena still
intact enough to catch a glimpse into what ancient Roman life might
have been like), the Pantheon (a temple built around the of Christ and
boasts one of the Roman’s most impressive architectural achievement,
the dome), the Trevi Fountain, Spanish steps, and the Catacombs (said
to have been the burial ground of Peter and Paul for some time).
Our stop in Rome has led many to wrestle through the connection
between tourism and pilgrimage, causing many to realize the importance
of creating intentional spaces to interact and engage with what we see
both mentally and spiritually so as to not get discouraged or
overwhelmed with the tourism around us.

Angela Berry (for the 2011 Europe Leadership Team)


By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

Tonight, in Assisi, I am contemplating peace and am overwhelmed by a sense of blessing, a new realization of the incredible gifts that God gives us, ones we are not deserving of in the least. Here is a little cross-section of my trip so far in poetics:


Triangles and tree trunks,
The perspective of a lifetime.
Tomorrow will be just like today,
except not at all the same, and quite thrilling.
Speedos on the beach,
It’s sunnier than it has been.
Everyone’s chillin.
Beers, frisbee, the roar of the nearby waves
breaking onto the beach
The Spaniards Dream


No self-respecting exploration of Italy is complete without ?Gelato, and we were fortunate enough to be in town for the Florence Gelato Festival!!! Madi, her friend Priscilla, and myself all loaded up our gelato sampling cards and went to town on those little guys!!! The flavors were exotic, and every bite as rich and fresh as the first. We discovered such whimsical flavours as mushroom, rosewater, ginger-pineapple (excellent), pear and red pepper, almond biscotti, and red wine! Delicious, one and all, but our collective favorite was a white wine and florentine cream, which was positively sublime. Food is one of the best ways to experience a country’s culture, and the Italians have stolen my heart by way of my tastebuds.


The Pantheon is currently an active church, and the following is a blessing that was displayed at the entrance as I was toured around Rome by Greg and Dan:

“I beg you, Mary,
Throw me a flower,
So that I may scent it’s perfume.
This is like the token of love
That made me suffer so.
Throw me your bouquet;
Not now and not ever
Will I be satisfied with you.”


I led a “gathering” time, in which a lone white bird made a conspicuous appearance, and Madi and I played and sang the song Falling Slowly by Glen Hansard. We added a verse, turning it into a prayer, and this remains my constant creed:

“Lord please meet us
We invite you
Let your will be done

Here today and
in tomorrow,
Keep and cover us”

This I also pray for you, dear reader.
Until next time,

Rich Travel

By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

Florence, Italy has captured a piece of my heart, as cheesy as that may sound. There is something magical about this city, I felt it in my first moments of wondering the streets. I was awestruck and overwhelmed right away, in the best way possible! This city is filled with so much history and character, it has a story to tell of the people who have gone before us. It is bits of this story that I’ve learned through doing my prep work, bits I’ve learned while here, bits that are still to be learned and bits that are a mystery and may always remain a mystery.

Walking through the streets and coming into the Piazza D. Signoria for the first time was striking, as it’s continued weaving lead me to the bottom steps of the Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo). I was so awed by this that it was a while before I turned around, once I did I was facing the East Baptistry doors of the Battistero Giovann. The next day my amazement continued when I found myself standing, quite literally, at the feet of Michelangelo’s magnificent David– this experience was so unique and rich, there are no words to describe it.

It has been quite incredible to see and experience so much history; history that I’ve known about for years and have recently researched more in depth for this term. What a rich experience I am in the midst of, an experience of a lifetime.


The Creative Soul

By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

I believe that creativity spurs creativity. One of the reasons I love art is because it stirs something within you; not only an emotional response to the piece but something that goes beyond that, to the place where you are inspired to create your own. I feel that the best art is this kind, when you are in awe yet inspired. This response takes on different forms; whether you want to take a bit of Park Guell’s mosaics and incorporate that into your own home, or are so inspired by Michelangelo’s David that you write a piece of poetry in response, it would seem that art begets art. We are designed to create, and when we are inspired by a piece of art, the result is more creativity.
I think that this is part of why cities such as Florence draw so many people. This place was the heart of the Renaissance -a “rebirth” of creativity – and today when you visit there is evidence of this everywhere. Not only are there historical art pieces -architecture, paintings, sculptures- but everywhere you go there are street artists and musicians creating art. Art draws the artist within people, awakening creativity and bringing it to the the surface. In whatever form it may take, we all have creative souls.


Sunrise Over Florence

By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

A sunrise takes you to a place almost outside of time and space. To see a day born is a deeply moving experience, and I have seen few enough to remember most of them, but there have been two on this trip that I think I would remember – even if I drank of the mythological “waters of forgetfulness”
The first was in a field of poppies beneath the medieval walls of Carcassonnne, watching as the sun turned the walls into burnished gold and the poppies unfolded into translucent red silk. The second morning was on the steps of a 10th century church on a hill above the city of Florence. In that quiet and sacred space Janell and I watched the rays light on the Duomo and gradually waken the sleeping city.
Our dean Gregg Finley loves to use the phrase “thin place” to identify those times and places where the gap between heaven and earth is narrowed or closed. I can’t help but think, in the midst of man-made sculpture, painting, and architecture, that the most powerful beauty of all – the kind which creates such “thin places” – is the beauty of the natural world God created. In the midst of which are those moments when He lets us see it in all its glory. At the same time, I have to add that I am becoming more and more amazed as our trip goes on, at how He is so gracious as to share His beauty-making capacity with mankind. I see this gift in the beauty of Michelangelo’s “Pieta” or in the collaboration the Duomo of Florence and the walls of Carcassone with the light of His sun.

– Kate

The Euro Food Trip

By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

I have come to realize on this trip (more so than I had before)  just how important food is to me?.  When people asked me what I was looking forward to most about the trip, I would say the food.  I always thought that seemed like a trivial thing to be looking forward to but not anymore.  I just really like food, and I like eating local dishes.  Nothing wrong with that, right?  One of my favourite and most memorable experiences on this trip so far was in Florence at a small hole in the wall place.  We had just spent a few hours in the Uffizi and were hungry, so we went to a small restaurant that we had seen the other day.  It was run by an old Italian couple and their son, and the food was delicious.  We were only going to have a light lunch, but a light lunch turned into a 4 course meal.  I found out that Florentines are very well know for their steak (which I must say, was one of the best steaks I have ever had), and that they make mille-feulle almost as good as the French.  It was also just really nice to sit for 2 and a half hours relaxing and talking with friends.  The way Europeans eat is something I want to take back to Canada with me.  Meals should take some time to prepare, and take even longer to eat.  In North America we are so fast paced that we toss something in the microwave, sit down for 10 to 20 minutes, and then move on to the next thing.  Sitting and eating shouldn’t feel like a waste of time, but a perfect way to enjoy yourself and spend quality time with friends and/or family.  Food is a passion of mine, I realize this now.


An Olive Tree Grows in Florence

By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

Recently on a side street in Florence my attention was caught by a memorial in the form of an olive tree. The tree stood beside a building which was the site of a bombing in 1993. The plaque at the base of the tree describes how the olive tree was specifically chosen because it symbolizes holiness, good values, generosity and regeneration. Those who erected the memorial in 2004 had a vision to bring healing, a goal very evident in the tree they chose to embody their cause.

This restoration mentality is also evident in the building itself. It has been rebuilt, with a deep obvious scar dividing old and new brickwork. I think the fact that the people chose to keep the damaged part of the building speaks volumes. By choosing to meld the old and new, two pieces incomplete on their own, the people created something new, something whole.

Lessons we can glean from this memorial and the olive tree include the decision to move toward peace rather than seeking revenge. Those who chose the olive tree (and all it represents) as the memorial, chose to remember the past, while choosing a peaceful approach. Passersby are caught by the tree, drawn to read about it, look up at the building scarred from the bombs. These people then walk on, a small seed of reconciliation over revenge planted in their minds.

It helped me to reflect on how I could approach situations of difficulty and difference with an attitude of regeneration, providing healing and hope for relationships and peace.