The Great Tours: Experiencing Medieval Europe

Course No. 3021
Professor Kenneth R. Bartlett, Ph.D.
University of Toronto
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Course No. 3021
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What Will You Learn?

  • Discover Mdina and Rabat and learn about the historical events of the Great Siege of 1565.
  • Explore York's bright side (like its gorgeous cathedrals) and dark side (like its historical treatment of Jews).
  • Travel through Krakow's culturally rich Jewish quarter, and walk the ceremonial route of Polish kings.
  • Witness a marvel of engineering in Siena's complex medieval water system.

Course Overview

Travel to the mystery, drama, and splendor of the Middle Ages—to the times of great royal dynasties, intrepid knights, religious passions, merchant empires, and towering art … Tucked away within the romantic landscapes of Europe, a remarkable range of beautifully preserved medieval cities and towns invites discovery—time capsules of history where you can stroll the cobbled streets of another time; savor the treasures of palaces, stately mansions, soaring cathedrals, and grand civic centers; and walk the mighty bastions and ramparts that once defended them.

In this extraordinary cultural adventure, you’ll visit unforgettable places such as

  • Mdina, on the palatial island stronghold of the legendary Knights of Malta;
  • Bruges, lovingly preserved, and one of the world’s most hauntingly beautiful cities;
  • Palermo, home of stunning medieval palaces and ecclesiastical architecture;
  • Prague, a magical blending of the medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque, and one of the jewels of European civilization; and
  • Avignon, the resplendent 14th-century seat of the papacy.

In these powerfully evocative sites, royal armies went to war, Christian faith clashed dramatically with politics, sublime architecture and art flourished, great economic empires were built, and Western civilization came of age.

Astonishing in their preservation and historical authenticity, these open-air museums offer one of the world’s great cultural travel experiences, revealing not only the culture, rich history, and daily realities of medieval life, but the ways in which the medieval city contributed to so many aspects of our contemporary world.

From our very conception of beauty and our models of art and architecture to the tensions between the commercial and political, the secular and spiritual—the medieval city speaks compellingly to all of these and more. As keys to our civilization, the sites you’ll visit bear witness to numerous pivotal moments in Western history, even as they illuminate our culture, religious traditions, political and economic systems, art, and science.

To know these places and to delve into their unique treasures is to deepen your insight into the Western mind and worldview, to uncover some of the greatest creations of human culture, and to enjoy the remarkable richness of one of history’s most fascinating eras.

Now, in The Great Tours: Experiencing Medieval Europe, award-winning Professor Kenneth R. Bartlett of the University of Toronto invites you to travel through time to the golden ages of 12 of Europe’s most beautiful medieval cities. In 24 lectures that use extensive location footage, you’ll discover the sights, sounds, and smells of teeming markets and mercantile centers, royal feasts and ritual, dramatic military engagements, magnificent religious pageantry, and the many colorful layers of daily medieval life.

Highlighting in-depth exploration of the architectural and artistic gems of these great cities, these visually sumptuous lectures bring medieval Europe alive in rich detail through the perspective of an expert historian with a deep and seasoned knowledge of the 12 sites.

Wonders of a Dramatic and Tumultuous Era

Going far beyond any conventional travelogue, you’ll look not only at the “what” of the locations visited, but at the “why” and “how”—why they were built, how they were used, and how they fit into the larger picture of medieval culture of the city, the country, and the time itself.

Your journey includes these magnificent sites:

  • York: Walk into the middle ages in this living museum and wander the “ginnels” (medieval passageways), the streets of the butchers and printers, and visit the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall with its vivid view into the life of the wealthy mercantile class.
  • Barcelona: Delve into Barcelona’s turbulent past and its era as a great maritime power as you explore the Royal Palace complex and stroll the arched lanes and squares of the city’s beautifully preserved medieval center.
  • Carcassonne: Discover the dreamlike beauty of this fortified citadel and the brilliant engineering of its defenses, and trace the dramatic history that unfolded in the great cathedral of St. Nazaire, the Inquisition Tower, and the monumental Castle of the Counts.
  • Dubrovnik: Savor Dubrovnik’s breathtaking setting on the Adriatic and its architectural majesty, and learn about its singular system of enlightened government, reflected in the Rector’s palace, merchants’ hospice, and 15th-century orphanage.
  • Kraków: In one of Europe’s most enchanting cities, walk the ceremonial route of Polish kings, from the Wawel Royal Castle to the largest medieval square in Europe, and trace Kraków’s long history of foreign domination and ultimate survival.
  • Siena: Grasp the deep significance of Siena’s ritual horse race, the palio, a direct survival of medieval times, and explore the city’s great fortress-palaces, superb civic buildings, and artworks that number among the marvels of Europe.

Step into a Vanished Age

Aided by detailed footage of each site, Professor Bartlett reveals striking details of life as it was lived centuries ago:

  • Stand on the site where Christopher Columbus unveiled the riches of the New World before Spanish royalty.
  • Experience the evocative sounds of cathedral bells, carillons, clock towers, and monastic chant.
  • Soak in the medieval atmosphere of the winding Moorish streets of Mdina.
  • Explore Siena’s subterranean water system, dating to the Middle Ages and still in use today.
  • Visit a home for the elderly that has operated for 850 years, lace-making workshops practicing traditions from the 15th century, and a monastery pharmacy that has functioned continuously since 1317.   

A Medieval Tapestry of Art and History

At the heart of this journey, you’ll explore the masterworks of medieval architecture and art, and the ineffable beauties of historic cityscapes. In the Norman cathedral of Palermo, you’ll study the vast cycle of biblical mosaics that comprise one of Europe’s greatest treasures. Among the splendors of Prague, you’ll walk the royal road to the majestic courts and regal interiors of Hradcany Castle. You’ll enjoy some of the greatest examples of medieval sculpture—by Donatello, Peruzzi, and Pisano—in the Duomoof Siena, a building where even the polychrome marble floor is a phenomenal work of art.

For each site, you’ll study defining historical events as you visit the very places where they unfolded. On Malta, you’ll relive the Great Siege of 1565, where the invading Ottomans mounted the largest military force assembled since ancient times. In Avignon, your visit to the opulent Palace of the Popes conjures magnificent papal banquets, coronations, and lavish religious ritual. In Bruges, you’ll envision the great wedding ceremony of Margaret of York to Charles the Bold, with its royal pageantry, wine-spouting fountains, and tournament of dazzlingly arrayed knights.

Along the way, you’ll learn where to drink Spanish cava, enjoy fine French provincial food, and taste arrancini, a Sicilian treat dating from the 10th century.

In The Great Tours: Experiencing Medieval Europe, you’ll discover the many rich and layered survivals of medieval life that are still there to see, touch, hear, and enjoy. Take this incomparable journey and experience the glorious legacy of culture, architecture, and art that connects us so deeply to a seminal epoch.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    The Medieval City—A Feast for the Senses
    Begin with an immersion into the sights, sounds, and smells of the medieval city. Explore the rich sensory details of markets, monasteries, churches, and religious and civic events. Learn about life in the townhouses of the rich, the tenements of the poor, and the diverse daily activities of medieval societies. x
  • 2
    Rothenburg—Jewel on the Romantic Road
    In this beautifully preserved German medieval city, explore the imposing mansions of the city’s former elite, the grand fountains, and the market square with its remarkable gothic Town Hall. Also visit St. Jakob’s Church, a treasury of medieval and early Renaissance art, and walk the powerful bastions of the city walls. x
  • 3
    Mdina—The Silent City
    Discover Malta’s Mdina through the history of the legendary Knights of Malta, who ruled the island for nearly 300 years. Visit the great palaces of the knights and Maltese nobility, with their striking Gothic and classical architecture, and the sumptuous cathedral, and find the city’s medieval atmosphere in the winding Moorish streets. x
  • 4
    Mdina and Rabat—In the Steps of St. Paul
    Learn about the Roman history of Malta and St. Paul’s internment on the island. In Rabat, experience key sites such as the splendid Roman villa, the Grotto of St. Paul, and the remarkable catacombs where Christians sought refuge. Visit rich gardens and palaces, and study the historical events of the Great Siege of 1565. x
  • 5
    Palermo—A Mosaic of Cultures
    The sumptuous interiors of the Norman Palace are your entry point to Palermo and its rich multicultural history. Grasp Norman Sicily’s historical role as the richest and best-governed state in the West. Explore the complex architecture of the city’s churches, cathedral, and Palazzo Abatellis, and the cosmopolitan past of the seaport. x
  • 6
    Palermo—Celebrating Throne and Altar
    Visit the most magnificent of the city’s medieval palaces, the Palazzo Chiaramonte. Learn about the eras of German, French, and Spanish rule, and explore the Zisa Castle, richly decorated churches, and the Norman summer palace. Finally, ascend Monreale, overlooking Palermo, to enjoy the finest Norman ecclesiastical architecture in the world. x
  • 7
    York—Wool and Prayer
    In the living museum of York, stop first at the romantic ruins of the abbey of St. Mary’s, the Abbot’s palace, and York Minster cathedral with its stunning stained glass and splendorous interiors. Savor the atmosphere of York’s old historical center, the streets of the butchers and printers, and the still-inhabited 14th-century houses. x
  • 8
    York—Vikings and Merchants
    Taste medieval life in York’s “ginnels,” narrow passageways offering shortcuts through the town, and in the Barley Hall mansion and Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, with their views into the lives of wealthy citizens. Delve into the Viking and Norman history of York, and the latter era’s dark side in its treatment of Jews. x
  • 9
    Avignon—The Babylonian Captivity
    Traveling now to France, contemplate the unusual history of Avignon as the 14th-century seat of the papacy—an era that created the medieval city we see today. Visit the extensive circuit of medieval walls, the great Romanesque cathedral with its splendid papal tombs, and the imposing buildings of the Palace Square. x
  • 10
    Avignon—Papal Splendor
    Continue with an in-depth visit to Avignon’s Palace of the Popes—one of the most elaborate and luxurious palaces of the Middle Ages—highlighting the sumptuous private apartments and the settings of dazzling papal ceremonies. Also learn about Avignon’s Jewish history, and walk the evocative, cobbled medieval streets. x
  • 11
    Carcassonne—Fortress of the Languedoc
    The fortifications of this exquisite, romantic city were considered virtually impregnable. Study in detail Carcassonne’s complex military defenses and the brilliant strategy behind their use. Then visit the monumental Castle of the Counts, with its dramatic towers, portcullises, and layers of defense—a stronghold of the French crown in an unstable region. x
  • 12
    Carcassonne—Cathars and Crusaders
    Here, encounter the heretical Cathars, who opposed the Roman church, and the resulting Albigensian Crusade, called to destroy them. Follow the response of the church in the grim events of the Inquisition, and visit the Inquisition Tower, the great cathedral of St. Nazaire, and other sites linked to the conflict. x
  • 13
    Barcelona—The Gothic Quarter
    Walk the streets of Barcelona’s beautifully preserved medieval center, reflecting on the remarkable Palace of the Generalitat and the calm elegance of the Catalan Gothic cathedral and cloisters. Delve into Barcelona’s turbulent history under the Visigoths, Moors, and Franks, and its flourishing as a great maritime power. x
  • 14
    Barcelona—Imagination and Inspiration
    Continue with the jewels of Barcelona, among them the Royal Palace complex, richly decorated Gothic and Romanesque churches, the 15th-century hospital, merchants’ mansions, and craftsmens’ shopfronts. Visit the Maritime Museum; stroll the narrow, arched lanes and squares around the cathedral; and learn about Barcelona’s mystical architect, Antoni Gaud'. x
  • 15
    Dubrovnik—Pearl of the Adriatic
    In its construction, this lovely medieval city and former maritime republic was intended to rival Venice. Enter through the perfectly preserved city walls and study the elaborate fortifications. Trace Dubrovnik’s history of enlightened government as you visit elegant civic structures, churches, and the Sponza Palace, one of Dalmatia’s most beautiful buildings. x
  • 16
    Dubrovnik—City of Seven Flags
    Probe deeper into Dubrovnik’s remarkable political system, highlighting its ingenious diplomatic strategies and progressive policies, such as a free public health service. Visit the sites connected to this history, including the Rector’s Palace, the 15th-century orphanage, and the still-operating pharmacy founded in 1317, and enjoy the majesty of the city’s diverse architecture. x
  • 17
    Kraków—The Royal Way
    Enter this great Polish city through the historic Wawel Royal Castle with its Gothic towers and imposing Room of the Envoys. From there, walk the ceremonial route of Polish kings, stopping at the 14th-century cathedral, great town mansions, Romanesque and Polish Gothic churches, and the architectural riches of Jagellonian University. x
  • 18
    Kraków—Crossroads of Europe
    Now enter Kraków’s Market Square, the largest medieval square in Europe. Visit treasures such as the 16th-century mercantile Cloth Hall, the historically significant Church of St. Mary, the remaining medieval fortifications, and the culturally rich Jewish quarter, and contemplate Kraków’s long history of foreign domination and ultimate survival. x
  • 19
    Prague—Freedom of Mind and Spirit
    In this famously beautiful city, travel the royal road from the ceremonial Powder Tower to Prague Castle. Pause at the Courtyard of the Merchants and the spectacular Old Town Square, with its medieval city mansions, Town Hall, and extraordinary astronomical clock. Savor the magical atmosphere of Prague’s rich architectural landscape. x
  • 20
    Prague—Castle Hill
    Prague’s political and religious history comes alive as you climb Hradcany Hill to Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral. Explore the castle’s large medieval complex, noting historical sites such as the Chancery and Imperial Court Council Rooms. Study the stunning interiors of the cathedral, and visit Prague’s great monasteries. x
  • 21
    Bruges—Built on the Sea and Trade
    Begin at the Markt, the medieval commercial center of Bruges, and learn about the city’s great mercantile empires and valiant 14th-century uprising against the French that established civic liberty. Visit architectural masterpieces such as the magnificent Town Hall, the Old Recorder’s House, the Basilica of the Holy Blood, and splendid mansions. x
  • 22
    Bruges—Commerce and Community
    Visit the sublime Church of Our Lady, with its Baroque interiors and masterworks of art, paramount among Bruges’s riches. Then enjoy vivid glimpses of medieval life in the 12th-century St. John’s Hospital, the Beguine House, a lace-making workshop, the 13th-century hospice for women, and the site of Europe’s first stock exchange. x
  • 23
    Siena—Good Government
    Siena’s turbulent medieval history is vividly represented in the city we see today. Trace the republic’s defining 13th-century victory over the Florentines, visit the fortified palaces of the great feudal families and the monumental buildings of the beautiful Piazza del Campo, and marvel at the city’s complex medieval water system. x
  • 24
    Siena—The Gothic Dream
    Learn about the significance of the palio, the Sienese ritual horse race of absolute medieval authenticity. Explore treasures including the Baptistry, and the spectacular interiors of the Duomo and the Hospital of Santa Maria della Scala. Finally, contemplate the spirit of the Sienese— their reverence for their beloved city and core conception of liberty. x

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  • 24 lectures on 4 DVDs
  • 216-page printed course guidebook
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Course Guidebook Details:
  • 216-page course synopsis
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  • Suggested readings
  • Insider tips

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Your professor

Kenneth R. Bartlett

About Your Professor

Kenneth R. Bartlett, Ph.D.
University of Toronto
Dr. Kenneth R. Bartlett is Professor of History and Renaissance Studies at the University of Toronto, where he earned his Ph.D. and has taught for the past 30 years. A distinguished teacher, Professor Bartlett has received numerous teaching awards and honors. These include the 3M Teaching Fellowship-awarded by the Canadian Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education-and the inaugural President's Teaching Award from...
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The Great Tours: Experiencing Medieval Europe is rated 4.2 out of 5 by 63.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Bring that tiime to life I really enjoy the commentary. The presenter has a wealth of knowledge to go along with the photos. It's like a guided tour of the cities with the street maps and then the descriptions.
Date published: 2018-03-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fully reveals the actual feel of the cities/towns I can understand the throb of the places and how the citizens lived their daily lives, during the olden days. Prof Bartlett conveys the feelings with correct English and not interjected with "Americanism" Never a dull moment.
Date published: 2017-10-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Great Tours...Medieval Europe Great you are there. Very professional presentation too
Date published: 2017-08-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Well presented, Informative Thoroughly enjoyed visual presentation, information contained within lectures. Good presenter
Date published: 2017-07-06
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good info, but graphics interrupt flow The information given is great. However, the new format with the lecturer on a small disc that flies in and out is disruptive. And many of the pictures are at a slant behind the speaker. We don't need to see the speaker, we need the visuals. Also, the maps are not all well done. Some are, but for example, the map at the beginning of the Malta segment doesn't do a good job of showing where Malta is in connection to everything. Later, a map does that, but that map should be used at the beginning. I hope the format change is not one for all the courses that deal with places. I like the information, but the graphics are not up to the same level as in past courses.
Date published: 2017-05-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very enjoyable! I enjoy medieval history and so seeing what the towns looked like was very interesting. The tours of each town and descriptions were very interesting and informative. I may never get to these towns in person, so I really enjoyed viewing them. Plus, on video the weather is always lovely, and the attractions are always open!
Date published: 2017-03-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Enjoyed the course with a minor 'but'... I have purchased several of Professor Bartlett's courses (as well as other Great Courses).. I have enjoyed following the professor through all of his courses. In this course, I had the opportunity to re-visit several cities that I have seen in person. I found that I would like to go again to these as well as the previously undiscovered ones. The professor provided a good overall view of the cities highlighting places not to be missed. For those who like to actually visit these places or just armchair travel, this is time well spent on this course. The minor 'but' comes from some gimmicky production items. Having the professor appear to be flying over the city on a compass? platform was distracting. Some of the picture transitions used a high-speed blurring technique - totally distracting and unnecessary. I hope that the Great Courses does not succumb to gimmicks that distract from the normally high production values of all the past courses that I have bought. Overall, I would still purchase this course.
Date published: 2016-12-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Touring old Europe The class is well done and very interesting. Graphics and descriptions are excellent.
Date published: 2016-10-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from We loved this! Great information to discover new cities to visit. We love history and travel so it was perfect for us. We will put several of these cities in our future travel plans. Having the knowledge that this course provided is a huge bonus. The professor was wonderful and kept our attention perfectly. We recommend this course 5 stars!
Date published: 2016-08-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A wonderful series This is a wonderful series that is both informative and useful for trip planning. For me, it threw up some new places to see and some new perspectives on places I had already experienced. Prof Ken Bartlett provides a most interesting and relaxed presentation and one that is easy to listen to and absorb. I enjoyed every lesson and found them to be well structured and with the right level of detail and content Highly recommended
Date published: 2016-08-01
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Poor visual material I live in Germany and I have visited many towns in Europe. The information you get is great but if I watch a Tour I want to SEE the towns. Extremely poor visual material and I have lots of courses already. I don't want to see the professor all the time when I could look at the beautiful towns. I habe a big screen but why don't they use the full size of the screen? Why do they show up to 3 pictures with big margines at the same time? Why do they show movies and you only recognize it's a movie because a pidgon is flying across a street? Why do they use a town map which has the North at the bottom (if you are able to see it because it's so small)? So I exchanged it. BUT: If you f.e. live in Germany you get a bill for the new DVD from Fedex, charging a second time VAT (16,66) plus a fee (12,60) (plus the original postage you paid to send the DVD to the US, making it 38,00). Result: You have to claim the VAT back within 3 month after you received the first(!) DVD. No need to pay the 12,60 if you pay with 30 days, just call FEDEX. So, I paid 24,00 . The Teaching Company doesn't pay any of this. So really make sure you buy the DVDs you want.
Date published: 2016-06-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Visual & Sensual Medieval European Great Tour Visualize and experience with EYE and EAR, the European medieval world from 500 to 1500 A.D. while you explore 12 of its most treasured medieval cities. Professor Kenneth Bartlett’s course: The Great Tours: Experiencing Medieval Europe reaches from England to Malta (North -- South), and from Spain to Poland (West -- East). The geo-history, archaeology, architecture, institutions, social characters, legendary myths, literary and scientific authors, street names, etc, are all brought into an acute URBAN FOCUS portraying the TERRESTIAL and CELESTIAL dynamics of the inner medieval soul -- both its civilization and its discontents -- reaching back to creation and the fall toward the future hope of salvation and immortality. See SECULAR POWER manifested in castles and fortifications, noble palaces, merchant mansions, animated town clocks and public market squares, while RELIGIOUS AUTHORITY expressed itself in its sacred cathedrals, the sounding of bells, sculptures, paintings, mosaics, stained glass windows, holy relics, preaching oratory etc. The professor’s delivery is historical, artistic, and pragmatic with its insider tips while touring these medieval gems. The STORY-TELLING connects the political and cultural history of each unique MEDIEVAL WALLED CITY to ancient myths and legends reaching back to Troy, Rome, and Charlemagne, and forward toward the Reformation, Age of Science, Napoleon and the French Revolution. The cities and its public architecture are presented as mainly a layered CACOPHANY of various civilizations, cultures, and religions, each extending and at times devastating structures of the urban landscape and its treasures. The range of HISTORICAL EVENTS and the extent of MEDIEVAL ARCHITECTURE and cultural artifacts presented is mind altering and emotionally rewarding: from emperors, kings, and counts, to popes, monastic orders and knights; from pilgrimage, inquisition, heresy, and crusade, to trading merchants, hydraulic engineers, architects, and navigators of the new world; from Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, and Romans, to Vikings, Normans, Turks, and Arabs; from Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and pagan ritual practices, to the sacred beliefs, religious rituals, social prejudices, and expulsions of the early modern period. The professor raises two important SCHOLARY QUESTIONS arising from his historical research and travels which are worth quoting and reflecting upon: (1) “Why do so many modern cities destroy and build new rather than repurpose?” (2) “Can you think of any other cities in which you can follow the historical development through the major public monuments?” Here one can answer that history, myth, legend, literature, architecture, and the sciences in the widest sense are various manifestations and an integral gestalt of universal human nature. This human nature is evolving through time-space while being continuously sculptured by war-peace, self-other, sacred-profane, etc. clearly documented by the professor’s presentations concerning medieval urban life. The social construction and meaningful repurpose of PUBLIC MONUMENTS elevates HISTORICAL communities to navigate the EXISTENTIAL abyss -- they are moral COMPASSES of thinking, feeling, and devotion without which the future appears much more uncertain and bland. I would enjoy hearing the professor’s comments on the Arthurian legends and the Pirenne’s thesis so central to medieval history which was only implicit in his commentaries on Rome’s withdrawal from 5th Britain and the Mediterranean trade. *** Very Highly Recommended to Travelers, Historians, Social Scientists, & Philosophers of History ***
Date published: 2016-05-26
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Returning This is the first course I have returned out of something significantly more than 50 I have purchased over the years. The lecturer is almost impossible to watch and this is a course that needs to be seen, not just heard. I was quite pleased with this guy's "Italians Before Italy' course in audio, but someone needs to just TIE HIS HANDS TO HIS SIDE. He constantly gestures with both hands and the gestures have little to do with what he is saying. In addition, like some other reviewers, I was quite disappointed with the visuals--too few, mostly still photos rather than videos and in many instances, the lecturer talks about things for which there are no visuals at all. The affiliated course on Greek and Turkish cities is much better.
Date published: 2016-03-09
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Very Disappointed We had high expectations after viewing The Great Tours: Greece and Turkey, which was wonderful. This one, to put it bluntly, was boring. We always order DVDs to view the marvelous visuals that go with the presentations. However, with this course the visuals were severely lacking. This was especially disappointing in that the course was supposedly a Great Tour. On a tour one would hope to see many wonderful sights, not just the professor and minimal tiny maps and pictures. We wanted more than to hear about these interesting places, we wanted to see them, to experience them. I hope the next TGC Great Tours go back to the way that the Great Tours course on Greece and Turkey was presented. It was very much superior.
Date published: 2016-03-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Experiencing Medieval Europe I bought this set as a gift for my parents. They have taken several trips to Europe, but are no longer able to travel. They have raved about how much they enjoyed it. The set was a fabulous presentation for them. Some of the cities they had visited, some they had not. All were presented very well in an easy to understand, intellectual manner. They said it was an educational experience, as well as a pleasant process to be able to "travel" and learn more about these great cities and their histories. Highly recommended for others to enjoy.
Date published: 2016-02-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Experiencing medieval Europe I have not finished watching the entire course yet, but so far I find it to be captivating, informative and well worth my time. I do wish though that the tour was far more visual than it is. I would have personally liked more slides or photos complementing the narrative, after all this is a history course not a travel guide.
Date published: 2016-01-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Vicarious Sightseeing I have read a great deal about Medieval European history (particularly English history), but I have never had the opportunity to visit Europe. This course was a wonderful vicarious tour of many of the places I would someday like to see. A significant positive of this course was the way it visited locations throughout Europe, not just focusing on Northern or Western Europe. The professor had a great stage presence and seemed like a confident tour guide as he virtually walked through the various cities and presented major and unusual sights from the medieval period. The professor also did a great job mixing in the history of each city and Medieval Europe in general. This course could very easily be classified as a history course and not just a tours course. I was particularly fascinated by the various locations that he identified where the wars of the French Revolution or World War II resulted in the destruction of the artifacts that once existed. It was interesting to hear how locals succeeded in hiding some artifacts from the destruction and how others were replaced with more modern versions. I feel both educated and entertained.
Date published: 2016-01-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Great Guide I recently completed viewing all 24 episodes of this series on Medieval cities of Europe. I found that serial watching of these episodes was a little too much for me, but if I took the time to absorb each episode I was able to better appreciate all the interesting information about the place being featured. As is noted in the other reviews, this isn't a Rick Steves type of travelogue, but on the other hand, watching these episodes prior to visiting these places should be most valuable. By the same token, if you watch some of the episodes following your visit, you will no doubt find that your viewing will add some depth to your experience. The series covers about a dozen European locations and clearly it would not have been difficult to include dozens more. I am sure that a great deal of preparation time and effort went into this series and I think that it sets a new standard for the Great Courses. I have previously viewed the Greece and Turkey series by Professor John Hale and while I found that series to be a little more dry than this one, it also is well worth watching. I note that a new series on Italian cities and towns has just been released also.
Date published: 2015-08-21
Rated 2 out of 5 by from multiple windows at once? Professor B is excellent, as I expected, but the graphic design is very disappointing. The screen often shows several videos running in different boxes at the same time. I really dislike this. When you go to a movie, do they do stuff like this? No, of course not, because you are concentrating on a scene. Why show two or three screens running at the same time. Please do NOT fire the graphic designer, just ask her to talk to some older folks to get feedback. The root cause of this issue is that the people watching your videos are much older than the people who are doing the graphic design. I do not want to "multitask" when I am watching one of your videos. For that matter, I do not want to every multitask, but that is my problem.
Date published: 2015-08-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from outstanding presentation I loved this course, the information presented and the visuals were outstanding.I felt as if I were right there in each city. I loved learning about the history and buildings of the each city. I have been to a couple of the cities covered in the course and I now want to revisit. Other cities have been added to my bucket list. I would love to see this presentation done for other cities
Date published: 2015-06-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Exceptional I often feel sorry when a good course ends. I wish that it could last longer so I can continue the journey along a good teacher. When Prof. Bartlett was finishing his last lecture, on Sienna, I had tears in my eyes. I did not want to say goodbye. I had seen most of the places he presented. Most of them, without having previously had the benefit of his insightful commentary. Some, like Brugges, after following his course. Going with him provides a much richer experience. While some other courses are formal presentations of a clearly defined, chronological, development in history, this one is closer to "history as a big puzzle" presentation, where an erudite professor pieces together many disparate parts into an unforgettable tableau. John Hale's Great Tour from Athens to Istanbul was another such gem. After many "issue specific" courses, a wide-ranging travelogue next to a fine historian feels like the trip of a lifetime. Thank you, Professor Bartlett for taking me along this wonderful journey!
Date published: 2015-06-08
Rated 2 out of 5 by from A disappointment I was disappointed by “The Great Tours.” The content is reasonably interesting and informative, but the presentation leaves much to be desired. Too often, the visuals failed to support the narrative. As other reviewers have commented, too much of the time we saw only the professor. Surely, it would have been satisfactory to show him once at the start of an episode and once at the end. Why must he be shown continuously? Often he would describe something for us to look for, but there was no accompanying picture, or maybe an inappropriate picture, or maybe a tiny picture of the object next to the professor, or perhaps multiple pictures with no indication of where we should be looking. (A split screen might make for stylish movie making, but it’s out of place when the goal is to provide information.) I would have wanted for the item being described by the commentary to be highlighted in a picture that fills the screen. And hold the view for the entire discussion. Often important names, dates, and terminology were written out for us, but the service was inconsistent; a better policy would have been to provide the information EVERY time a new person, place, or idea was introduced; and why not display it more the once — certainly getting the information spoken, written, and pictured serves to reinforce the message. Each episode could have been improved in dozens of places. In short, the planning and editing were inadequate. This was my first and last course from THE GREAT COURSES — I can get more and better information from a book.
Date published: 2015-03-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Wonderful Course We are truly enjoying this course and the presenter. Even though we have visited many of the places ourselves, there are many aspects and facts we were not aware of, Professor Bartlett has a good and very clear speaking voice and the fact that not only photos but also video clips are included makes this course come to life.
Date published: 2015-03-09
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Disappointing course The professor was knew lots of facts, and the slides of the cities were very interesting. The big downside to the course is that the professor is videoed as he lectures and is on the screen a great proportion of the time. He constantly waves his hands around in a meaningless manner. These constant gestures are very distracting. I would not buy another course in which he lectures, unless I was assured that his picture would not be on the screen. The pictures of the cities, accompanied by his voice, would be an interesting and informative course. If you must have his picture on the screen as he lectures, please get him some lessons on how to keep his hands still.
Date published: 2015-02-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Unique Perspective The Great Tours: Experiencing Medieval Europe This is an eye-opening series—for the history buff, for the traveler, for anyone wondering what the European past was like. For the history buff, this is a series which succeeds in tying up the multitude of bits and pieces we know about medieval history. The “tour” takes us to Mdina, for example, where the Knights of Malta lived. Everyone has heard of the mysterious Knights of Malta—but who knows how and where they lived? The “tours” of cities from Rothenburg to York, Mdina to Avignon give us a common thread to pull together the cultural, artistic, architectural, and political history of the Middle Ages in Europe. For the traveler, Professor Bartlett gives specific advice for travelers as he tours each city. You will know where to have a rooftop meal in Mdina and you will know whether to see—or not to see—the torture chamber of the same city. You will know where to find a cool garden and where to find the entrance to hidden crypts. If you are a virtual traveler who prefers to see the world from your favorite chair, this series will take you down ancient streets and into ancient buildings where Dr. Bartlett will make sure you get the best long views as well as the best close-up shots. There’s plenty of explanation about the architecture and art and background of any particular place without overwhelming you with information you can’t process. You won’t have to take notes. For the person with a curiosity about life in the past, Dr. Bartlett will let you hear and smell as well as see what ordinary life in a medieval town was like. His visit to a town market, for example, will become your own unforgettable visit. This is an excellent course. Dr. Bartlett’s manner and personality do not get in the way of the information as so often happens in similar courses, and his knowledge of details soon earns your trust in what he says during the tours. The series inspired me with a great desire to see again cities I thought I already knew—and to see for the first time cities I’ve never before considered visiting. More important, it inspired me to re-evaluate what I knew about medieval history by giving me a far great understanding of life at that time.
Date published: 2015-01-24
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Middling "The Cathedral" was terrific. "The Conservative Tradition" also very good. I recommend both courses above "Experiencing Medieval Europe".
Date published: 2015-01-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A fun course, well worth the price. I really enjoyed this course. It was fun. The professor was very personable and I liked the history he gave to go with the medieval cities. I just wish more time had been spent on pictures of the actual cities. I found myself rewinding and pausing so that I could linger over some of the cathedrals and palaces. Although I really liked the professor I would've preferred more cities and less professor.
Date published: 2015-01-07
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Almost REALLY Good The topic is excellent. The lecturer is excellent. A lot of information was conveyed. The course fell short in one important area--visual presentation of the cities it covered. Too much time is spent watching the lecturer. There should be more still or film clips of each city. It would be OK to listen to the lecturer in the background. SEEING the city is just about as important as learning facts about it. This course could get an "excellent" by improving the visuals. I would love to see more themed "tours" of various cities of the world.
Date published: 2015-01-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Blend of History and Travel Guide I thoroughly enjoyed, and am still enjoying, Prof. Bartlett's presentations of each of the cities in their historical context. Four of the featured cities were familiar to me from fondly remembered vacations so those lectures brought back pleasant memories in addition to adding greatly to my knowledge. The entire course was so much fun and so engaging, I've had it for only a few weeks and have already watched several of the lectures again. Prof. Bartlett is excellent and I will order more of his courses.
Date published: 2014-12-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from What a fabulous trip! I have been to more than half of the cities covered in this lecture, but with each city I had previously visited, sometimes more than once, I was busily making notes of new, must see sites when I return. Professor Bartlett presents all these cities passionately, providing engaging and intriguing historical stories to engage us. I continue to dream about a fantastic trip encompassing all 12 of these cities. I purchased the DVD with the printed guidebook. I wished the guidebook included the maps used for each city.
Date published: 2014-12-22
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