Architecture & Augustine

Location: Siena & San Gimignano, Italy


Pre-program VU Coursework: May 27 - 30, 2014
In-country: June 1 - 29, 2014
*Departure USA on May 31
*Tentative, see itinerary, below.


Italy will serve as the backdrop for design and devotion, yet again, due to popular demand. Two courses have been developed specifically for this program by David Dinehart, PhD and Fr. Joseph Mostardi, OSA, in order to fully explore Tuscany within the context of architecturally significant structures and the life of St. Augustine.

On Saturday, May 31st students will depart for a one-month adventure of study that will commence at the University of Siena. Students will spend two weeks (June 1 – 15) learning about architecture with local experts and practitioners. The basics of Roman architecture will be introduced and students will tour the many architectural treasures of Siena and conduct a one-day field trip to Pisa. The class will see, first-hand, the styles discussed in the classroom.

The group will transition from Siena to San Gimignano, where they will spend the following two weeks immersed in a learning community with Villanova instructors and Augustinian friars at the Sant’Agostino Convento.

San Gimignano is a small, walled medieval hill town in the province of Siena, Tuscany that will serve as our home town on this adventure. It is famous for its medieval architecture, especially its towers, and is home to Sant’Agostino, a 13th century structure, that houses a seventeen panel fresco cycle on the life of St. Augustine around the high altar.


Students are required to enroll in both courses for a total of six credits:

CEE4607: Special Topics in Civil Engineering - Italian Architecture and Engineering

Qualitative and quantitative study of architectural structural systems, including buildings, domes, arches, and towers; historical review of architecturally significant structures, many related to St. Augustine insights of structural analysis, comparative structural types, force flow, and structural and architectural use of building materials. This course is intended for civil engineering students entering their junior or senior year.

This is a three-credit course that can be counted as a technical or free elective. Pre-requisite: Mechanics II, CEE2103 Mechanics of Solids, or equivalent.

THL2790: Augustine and the Tuscan Hermits’ of the Order of St. Augustine

An investigation into fundamental themes in the thought of the 4th century North African Bishop, Augustine of Hippo, and how those themes developed through the centuries. Emphasis will be given to the 13th century Mendicant Movement and the establishment of the Order of the Brothers of the Hermits of St. Augustine. Particular attention will be paid to Augustine’s Monastic Ideal, The Rule of St. Augustine, The Mendicant Movement, The Tuscan Hermits, and Augustine’s influence in contemporary issues of Spirituality.

This is a three-credit course that can be counted as an upper level Theology or free elective. Pre-requisites: THL1000 and ACS1000, or their equivalent.

Coursework will begin via Distance-learning on Tuesday, May 27 and will proceed through the week. Students will complete the remaining coursework in Italy.

For the time spent in Siena, students will do an indepth study of Italian architecture at the Universitá degli Studi di Siena.

During the time spent in San Gimignano, Dr. Dinehart and Fr. Mostardi will lead the students in Augustinian ritual prayer, readings, discussions, class meetings, and field trips to local communities, including Florence, and Rome.


The program will spend the majority of time in Siena and San Gimignano. During this time, students will explore educational day trips to Pisa and Florence. Previous visits included an Augustinian church frequented by Michelangelo, a climb to the top of Brunelleschi's famous dome (both in Florence); a visit to an Augustinian convent in Tuscany and other structures with historic significance to the Order of St. Augustine.

The program concludes with a three-day stay in Rome where students will visit the Pantheon, the Coliseum, the Vatican and St. Peter's tomb, and have Mass with the Pope (based on availabilty).

San Gimignano, Italy

Faculty Coordinator

San Gimignano Italy

Dr. David W. Dinehart
Professor, Chair
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Tolentine 146

Apply Now!
Applications are due no later than February 15, 2014; the non-refundable commitment fee of $450 is due upon receipt of acceptance letter. Final payment due prior to the departure of program.

Total: $7,300 Includes tuition, housing, orientations, various receptions and excursions, airport transfers, and fees.
All programs will have a $15 VU fee added at time of billing.
*Airfare not included

Application can be found on Forms section of website


Our hosts will be the Augustinian priests living at the Sant’ Agostino Convento. We will be living with other pilgrims at the monastery during most of our stay. We will have daily classes, meals, and Mass together. Our itinerary includes educational excursions to Siena, Florence, Pisa, and three days in Rome. 

Daily Schedule in San Gimignano:

8:30 - 8:45 am: Daily Prayer
9:00 – 9:30 am: Breakfast
9:45 – 11:30 am: Engineering Course
12:30 – 3:00 pm: Lunch & Group Homework
3:00 – 5:00 pm: Theology Course
5:00 – 7:45 pm: Break/Group Work/Homework
7:45 – 8:00 pm: Evening Prayer
8:00 – 9:00 pm: Dinner

Itinerary – 2014

Tuesday, May 27-Friday, May 30: Pre-session, distance learning coursework
May 31: Depart for Italy
June 1: Arrive Italy (Rome Fiumicino), transfer to Siena
June 2-June 13: Program in Siena
    June 7-8: Free Weekend
    June 11: Excursion to Pisa
    June 14: Free Day
    Sunday, June 15: Transfer to San Gimignano
June 16-25: Program in San Gimignano
    June 18: Excursion to Florence
    June 21-22: Free Weekend
June 26-28:
Transfer to Rome, Rome excursion begins
Sunday, June 29, 2013: Depart Rome for USA