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 79.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fabulous "tour guide"! My wife and I have enjoyed this course immensely. Yes, it's partly the subject matter. But it is mostly the professor. He is someone you would want to know--extremely personable, good-humored, knowledgeable, and deeply interested in his subject matter. He clearly wants to share his excitement about it. We have visited several of the cities that are in the course, but we learned so much more from his lectures. My wife always has more energy than me when we're abroad. So I especially appreciated being an "armchair traveler." My wife's Ph.D. is in Medieval French lit, so she especially enjoyed learning more about Medieval Europe.
Date published: 2021-07-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating and Well Done, If a Bit Overwhelming! This is an extraordinary course, and if you have an interest in medieval Europe I anticipate that you will love it. As is obvious from the lecture titles, this is not an historical or geographical overview. Professor Bartlett brings us an in-depth experience of a dozen cities. And depth is the right word; the detailed description of the architecture and history of these places is wonderful, and for once there are more than enough photos to amply illustrate the lectures. (By the way, in contrast to some other reviewers, I had no trouble understanding and following the maps.) I made the mistake of watching two or three lectures at a time; I urge you to watch one every few days, and then read the corresponding chapter in the excellent Course Guidebook, to be able to fully appreciate the course without being overwhelmed. Professor Bartlett, as always, is a superb lecturer - organized, eloquent, expressive, and a pleasure to listen to. All of his courses have my highest recommendation. My only complaint is perhaps unavoidable. The course is focused on 'big history' - wars, religion, nobility and monarchs, and the structures and residual artifacts related to them. I would have appreciated far more on the lives of ordinary folk, but understandably there is far less of this remaining. So, again, an outstanding course for any with an interest in this area. Enjoy!
Date published: 2021-03-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Added must-see cities to my bucket list I have taken several Great Courses, and I have found them all to be well-constructed, very inclusive as to relevant subject matter, and therefore very informative. I found this to be one of the best, but of course I'm partial to medieval history. I highly recommend it.
Date published: 2020-12-21
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Tiring Hard to watch an entire segment without fast forwarding. I have taken a large number of Great Course offerings but this was one of the most tiring to watch.
Date published: 2020-10-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Outstanding Lecturer! Prof. Bartlett is an outstanding lecturer. Extremely interesting and even with a sense of humor.
Date published: 2020-09-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Safe Travel and Great Information I love the historical info while viewing these medieval towns. I enjoy the instructor’s presentation.
Date published: 2020-08-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A dozen selected medieval towns. Many interesting vignettes concerning the cities mentioned. The lecturer spends far too much time with prissy gushing over pretty old churches without analyzing how the capital costs affected municipal services and the quality of medieval life. To be fair, the lecture on Carcassone does provide political background on the Albigensian Crusade and the pre-Reformation Catholic church, but far more is needed for a balanced presentation. Recommended, although not as a complete overview of medieval Europe.
Date published: 2020-08-14
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Thoughtful, well presented, but often slow The presenter is super polished. His use of visuals is excellent. I’m half way through the series and he does spend a long time in places I’d be glad if he just moved along.
Date published: 2020-08-12
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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
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 Guide to Essential Italy
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