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The Great Tours: Experiencing Medieval Europe

Go on a fascinating expedition to 12 spectacular examples of medieval European cities, including Prague, Siena, Barcelona, Bruges, and more, in this eye-popping course.
The Great Tours: Experiencing Medieval Europe is rated 4.3 out of 5 by 90.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Next best thing to being there I found this course to contain substantial historical and cultural information presented clearly and with enthusiasm by Professor Bartlett. I have other courses by this professor and this one did not disappoint. I wish I had a professor like Dr. Bartlett when I studied at university. I am a bit perplexed at those who are highly critical of the professor's gestures as he delivers these lectures. I find them helpful in not only showing enthusiasm for the subject matter but also emphasis on key points. I found that his manner of delivery helped me stay engaged in these lectures. If he did not use these gestures I am sure negative reviews would follow about him being too "wooden" in his presentation. I guess you can not please everybody. I truly enjoyed this course.
Date published: 2023-12-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course in so many ways Thank you for this wonderful way to experience beautiful cities and learn more about their rich history. Professor Bartlett provides a clear easy going style while taking to a “walk”around each cities highlights. As an armchair traveler these days, it was a perfect antidote to winter!
Date published: 2023-02-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course I really enjoyed this course. The teacher reminded me of a very cool, smart grandfather showing me around.
Date published: 2023-01-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very good for its purpose. I've seen only four of these lectures, but that's enough to get a good feel for the whole course. It is very good for people interested in this area, i.e., historic cities in Europe, with plenty of pictures and lots of narrative information. Apparently however I am not solidly in that group, because by the time I got through the lecture on Mdina and Rabat on Malta, I was "historic buildinged out". Yes, they were beautiful and historic, but how many can you look at and hear historical information on? It starts to wash over you. But again, I guess that for people with interests in this area, it should be satisfying.
Date published: 2022-09-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good course with some inaccuracies This course is quite enjoyable on the whole, but has a number of issues. I have a degree in History myself and began watching this course after visiting a number of the places he describes and, as a history-focused tour experience, I think this is quite good. However, the problem is that not all of the information is accurate and some of what he presents is exaggerated greatly in the same manner that an average tour guide might do. For example, the professor repeats the anti-Catholic "black legend" trope (that the Catholic inquisition led a reign of terror over everyone in Spain and other places) over and over again as he goes through the history of various places, but this trope has been more or less debunked as inaccurate in recent years. While it is perfectly normal to see this in your average textbook today, a professor working in this field ought to know better at this point and not repeat such a trope. Similarly there are other points throughout the series where he might present a story as either completely factual or legendary whereas it is actually theoretical or possible. On the whole, this series is good and worth a watch, but there is no excuse for the inaccuracies presented.
Date published: 2022-09-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Guided Tours Plus Time-Travel Dr. Kenneth R. Bartlett’s lectures should provide very useful preparation for a visit to one or more of the renowned cities he describes. Though long-distance travel jaunts outside of North America are probably no longer “in the cards” for me, I still appreciate the historical information and the abundant illustrations of architecture and artistry that his course provides. Please note that, since each lecture is organized like a walking tour, prompts for commentary are encountered in a largely chance order, so the presentation of history is not strictly chronological. The professor is a pleasant, erudite, and personable speaker. Though I had at least heard of all the cites he discusses, I now realize that details about some of them had been rather neglected in the coursework I’d previously done re: Medieval Europe. I appreciate that, besides presenting objective data about each city back in its heyday, Dr. Bartlett delves into legendary material and probable spiritual motivations relevant to how life may have actually felt for the citizenry centuries ago. Accompanying illustrative material, including photographs, drawings, maps, and video clips, is both the “joy and the sorrow” of this course, though it comprises an amazing total of images. Frequently, multiple images are displayed together, almost as a collage or as a scattering of up to seven photographs at a time, each smaller than ideal and with insufficient on-screen time. Aids to viewers, such as cursor arrows, highlighting, selective colouring-in, and appearances by the lecturer in an inset while describing a detailed scene, are all techniques occasionally put to good use, though not nearly often enough. Transitions between illustrations involve startling flickering motions or wash-outs resembling flashbulbs going off. On a few occasions, what is displayed seems to contradict, or at least to be out of synch with, what is simultaneously being said by the lecturer. Notably absent from the provided illustrations are glimpses of some wonderful sights which Dr. Bartlett describes with the most passion (e.g., the exquisite lace still made today in Bruges). Also, although many castles and palaces are shown in outside views, more footprint diagrams and/or floor plans would have been helpful. I do not hesitate to recommend this good course, though I believe it could have been better. I learned a lot from it, and I would have liked to feel able to give it the top rating.
Date published: 2022-09-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Easy watching As someone who is interested in other cultures and the Middle Ages, I thought this would be a good course to start my Wondrium journey on. I wasn’t disappointed as I enjoyed ‘visiting’ a variety of European towns and cities and going back in time with Prof Bartlett, a keen and informative presenter. I’ll probably not get to see most of these places so ideal course for an armchair traveller like me.
Date published: 2022-05-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Great Tours: Experiencing Medieval Europe. Overall, just an outstanding course. Dr. Bartlett is excellent in his presentation as he speaks with clarity and looks directly at you the student, instead of a camera off stage. The graphics help put everything together, maps, photos, etc. I also liked the fact that he included the average person and not just Kings, Queens. or generals.
Date published: 2022-01-24
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Travel through time to the golden ages of 12 of Europe's most beautiful medieval cities in Professor Kenneth R. Bartlett's The Great Tours: Experiencing Medieval Europe. 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. 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.


Kenneth R. Bartlett

In short, and in almost every way that matters, historical Europe was the laboratory in which the world you now live in was conceived and tested. And you'll be living with the consequences of those experiments for the rest of your life.


University of Toronto

Professor Kenneth R. Bartlett is a Professor of History at the University of Toronto. He received his Ph.D. from the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto in 1978. He was the first director of the University of Toronto Art Centre and founding director of the Office of Teaching Advancement at the university, a position he held until 2009.

Much of Professor Bartlett’s career has been devoted to bringing the culture of European history into undergraduate and graduate classrooms. He has taught regularly in the University of Toronto Summer Abroad programs in Europe. He has been the recipient of numerous teaching awards, most notably, the 3M National Teaching Fellowship, awarded by the Canadian Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, and the inaugural President’s Teaching Award from the University of Toronto. In 2007, Professor Bartlett was one of the 10 finalists in TVOntario’s Best Lecturer Competition, which pits students’ favorite instructors against one another in a battle of charisma, clarity, passion, and conviction. That same year, the professor was recognized with an inaugural Leadership in Faculty Teaching Award by the government of Ontario.


Professor Bartlett is the author of The English in Italy, 1525–1558: A Study in Culture and Politics; The Civilization of the Italian Renaissance: A Sourcebook; and most recently, A Short History of the Italian Renaissance. He is also coeditor or translator of five other books, including Humanism and the Northern Renaissance (with M. McGlynn), and author of more than 35 articles and chapters on European history and culture. He has been the academic consultant and occasional on-camera commentator for the Illuminated Filmworks videos about the Vatican Library and for such television series as The Naked Archaeologist and Museum Secrets.


Together with his wife, Gillian, who herself holds a Ph.D. and is the author of seven books, Professor Bartlett regularly leads tours to Europe for major museums, universities, and cultural organizations.


Professor Bartlett’s other Great Courses include The Development of European Civilization, The Italian Renaissance, and The Italians before Italy: Conflict and Competition in the Mediterranean

By This Professor

The Great Tours: Experiencing Medieval Europe
The Development of European Civilization
The Great Tours: Experiencing Medieval Europe


The Medieval City-A Feast for the Senses

01: 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.

32 min
Rothenburg-Jewel on the Romantic Road

02: 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.

30 min
Mdina-The Silent City

03: 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.

30 min
Mdina and Rabat-In the Steps of St. Paul

04: 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.

30 min
Palermo-A Mosaic of Cultures

05: 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.

31 min
Palermo-Celebrating Throne and Altar

06: 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.

29 min
York-Wool and Prayer

07: 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.

30 min
York-Vikings and Merchants

08: 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.

30 min
Avignon-The Babylonian Captivity

09: 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.

30 min
Avignon-Papal Splendor

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.

31 min
Carcassonne-Fortress of the Languedoc

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.

29 min
Carcassonne-Cathars and Crusaders

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.

31 min
Barcelona-The Gothic Quarter

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.

31 min
Barcelona-Imagination and Inspiration

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 Gaudí.

31 min
Dubrovnik-Pearl of the Adriatic

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.

29 min
Dubrovnik-City of Seven Flags

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.

30 min
Krakow-The Royal Way

17: Krakow-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.

30 min
Krakow-Crossroads of Europe

18: Krakow-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.

30 min
Prague-Freedom of Mind and Spirit

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.

31 min
Prague-Castle Hill

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.

30 min
Bruges-Built on the Sea and Trade

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.

30 min
Bruges-Commerce and Community

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.

31 min
Siena-Good Government

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.

31 min
Siena-The Gothic Dream

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.

34 min