Classical and Medieval Studies


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Degree Overview

Gain critical thinking skills and a deep historical perspective that you can apply to any field of study. You’ll learn how the medieval period continues to shape language, religion, literature, and politics even today.

You'll view medieval culture through a wide variety of lenses, choosing courses from 13 different fields. You could analyze iconic artwork, learn about cutting-edge methods of deciphering ancient manuscripts, laugh with the pilgrims in The Canterbury Tales, or do a deep dive into the ideas and values that shaped Western culture.

You'll do all this while being guided by expert faculty who are active leaders in their fields. You'll earn a minor that complements any major, and a unique historical perspective that adds value to any career you pursue.

Program Distinctives

Hands-on - Immerse yourself in the intricacies of medieval culture. Live in an ancient city while studying off campus. Go on field trips to exciting museums, collections, and libraries. Learn firsthand how to make books and manuscripts.
Christian community - Your committed Christian professors will help you discern Christ’s presence both today and in the medieval past.
Traverse the globe - Engage with one of our many off-campus programs to take your studies to another continent. Calvin students study in Austria, Spain, Germany, Italy, Russia and more.
Personal support - Our professors know their fields, and they work to get to know you. They’ll partner with you in research, share a meal, introduce you to opportunities, and help you apply to graduate school.

Degree Information

  • Overview


    The Middle Ages was a formative period for modern culture and institutions: modern European languages and vernacular literary traditions first appeared in this period; it decisively shaped the history of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam; important political concepts such as national sovereignty, constitutionalism and representative government were born.

    Study of the ancient world through classical languages and literatures, archaeology, and ancient history is interesting for just about anybody, but it should be especially important for Christians. The ancient world was the milieu in which Judaism developed and the early Church took root and flourished. Every page of the Bible bears the marks of the earlier civilizations in which the first Christians lived. The classical languages department at Calvin University has taken on the task of teaching and interpreting the ancient world for Christian students and others who wish to understand the ancient context in which the early development of the faith occurred.

    Calvin’s minor in classical and medieval studies will inspire you to appreciate the historical roots of today’s world.


    This course will explore the history of books and book production in the Middle Ages, both in their material and intellectual context. You will explore issues of medieval literacy, the history of books, collections and libraries (including a visit to a medieval manuscript collection), and learn hands-on how to make paper, cut pens, write texts and bind books.


    Most courses in medieval studies include at least one field trip. Previous trips have included the Waldo Library at Western Michigan University (WMU) in Kalamazoo. The Waldo Library houses a great collection of medieval manuscripts belonging to the Cistercian Institute at WMU. There were given on permanent loan by Dom Edmund Obrecht, a former abbot of Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky, in 1973. Some of the highlights of their collection include a thirteenth-century copy of the sermons of Bernard of Clairvaux and two beautifully illuminated liturgical manuscripts dating from the twelfth and thirteenth century.

    Other recent field trips have also gone to:

    • The Newberry Library in Chicago
    • St. Gregory's Abbey in Three Rivers, MI
    • The Waldo Library at WMU in Kalamazoo, MI
    • The Arts Institute in Chicago


    As a medieval studies minor at Calvin University, you have the unique opportunity to study in universities all over the world, including many locations in Eurpoe, as part of our extensive study-abroad program. Even more study opportunities are available to places like Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and Russia through Calvin partner programs.

    History of the classics at Calvin

    The classics program is one of the oldest at Calvin, tracing its origins to the literary department of the divinity school from which Calvin originated in 1876. Since Calvin was established by Dutch immigrants for the training of ministers, the classical languages have always been a part of the Calvin curriculum. Even today, ancient languages play a large role in the training of clergy for our parent denomination, the Christian Reformed Church in North America.

    However, seminarians no longer constitute the majority of classics students at Calvin. Many students take Latin to fulfill their foreign language requirement; those who take Greek for this purpose often have special interests in ancient history, philosophy, or theology, or they simply seek the pleasure of reading ancient texts (including the New Testament) in their original form.

  • Courses
  • Advising

    This minor can be taken with any major, but it would make an especially good pairing for students majoring in fields such as history, literature, classics, religion, art history, or music. A medieval studies minor can also be useful preparation if you are considering graduate study in the humanities.


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