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Franciscan Art and Icon Painting

2021 UPDATE: This fantastic retreat course will resume in Assisi when it is possible to do so.
Please note an online version of this Assisi Course will be offered in 2022, enabling more people to meet in the Spirit of Assisi! Contact Helen to be added to the advance mailing list.

‘THANK YOU for such a wonderful experience in Assisi. It was a privilege to be there and be cared for by the Sisters and it was an especial privilege to receive your guidance and generosity in sharing your experience and expertise with us.’ (B.S. Powys. Assisi 2019)


The only course in the world to offer a practical course of Icon & Italo-Byzantine panel painting with art history and Franciscan pilgrimage based in central Assisi.

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This residential retreat is uniquely focused on the masterpieces of late medieval painting produced in the influential art centres of Umbria (Assisi, Perugia, Spoleto) in the 13th-14th centuries and the fascinating fusion of Byzantine iconography with the Italian Gothic and Romanesque Schools of central Italy.

Franciscan spirituality underpins the retreat element with accommodation in a long-established Franciscan Guesthouse.

The painting course offers icon painting with a difference – the chance to reproduce one of the early ‘icons’ of St Francis, St Clare or the Madonna & Child from this period, using traditional materials and historically-sourced methods. Exclusive use of panoramic studio and specialist materials included.

‘The course was just the right length of time in Assisi with an excellent balance of painting and leisure time. Helen’s tuition was thorough with just the right amount of supervision without seeming to interfere in the process of each individual’s learning. I’ve been given so much this retreat, I feel so blessed! I honestly can’t think of anything which has struck me as a negative!”
  Anon (Assisi 2016)

The retreat is designed and delivered by professional British iconographer and experienced teacher, Helen McIldowie-Jenkins of Elenis Icons. Click here to view Helen’s work and biography

Assisi Highlights

Assisi is the perfect place to escape to and with 11 days in the City of Peace there is plenty of time to immerse oneself in the art and culture of this world famous beautiful medieval Italian hill-town.

Discover the masterpieces of late medieval art in the UNESCO world heritage site of the Basilica di San Francesco
Learn about the influential sacred art produced in the Umbrian region during the late medieval period and its socio-religious context.

Visit, as often as you like, the nearby churches and sites of Franciscan significance; San Damiano, Santa Chiara, Santa Maria degli Angleli and San Rufino and the Carceri d’Eramo.

Explore the picturesque medieval streets of Assisi with a postcard view around every corner.

Enjoy the superb local food and regional wines of Umbria and relax in one of the piazza café bars. Share a ‘Canticle of the Sun’ picnic of locally produced food and opt for a wine tasting tour of a local vineyard.

‘This has been a life enhancing experience. Writing my icon was quite amazing and wonderful. Our group was delightful and supportive. A wonderful way to experience Assisi, Franciscan Spirituality and ultimately Christ himself. A profoundly spiritual experience, accessible to all.’  
  P.C. Leamington Spa (Assisi 2014)

Browse the local artisan shops for leather goods, marbled notebooks, art and crafts.

Spend a peaceful day at the mountain sanctuary of La Verna (where St Francis received the stigmata in 1224).

Feel at home in a peaceful convent guesthouse in the heart of historic central Assisi, have your own ‘room with a view’, just a short walk from the main piazza.

Make the most of this peaceful, prayerful environment for contemplation and meditation

Painting Course Highlights

Work with historically referenced medieval panel painting techniques as well as other related icon painting techniques to develop your art practice and skills.

Study and paint the early devotional images of Saints Francis and Clare and the Virgin Mary and discover Italo-Byzantine art at the intersection of East and West.

Complete your own panel painting using egg tempera, genuine gold leaf on a high quality natural wood gessoed board.

Receive step by step tuition and support.

Key Info

  • 10 nights B&B with single en suite shower room as standard.
  • No single room supplement. (N.B upgrade to large single at £95 extra subject to availability)
  • Minibus transfer from Rome Fiumicino (subject to timed group rendezvous)
  • Painting course is open to Beginners and Improvers (no previous experience required)
  • Small group of 7 participants (max) plus tutor
  • Mobility: some gentle daily walking around the town will be required
  • Pre-Travel info with full itinerary sent in advance

What’s included?

‘Helen combines a sound technical and artistic grounding with a delightful, contagious enthusiasm for Late Medieval Italian panels to provide an unmatched icon painting experience for participants and partners. Her expert tuition displays a keen sensitivity to each student’s ability and temperament. The atmosphere in the class is peaceful and meditative and the view from the painting room of the magnificent Basilica of Santa Chiara intensified the spirituality’
  Anon (Assisi 2015)

  • Arrival and Departure group minibus transfers
  • Exclusive day pilgrimage to La Verna inclusive of lunch
  • All accommodation (B&B)
  • 7 day painting course (over 37 hours) in private garden studio
  • Individual tuition from experienced teacher with specialist background
  • Icon panel, gold leaf and specialist materials
  • Bespoke Tempera pigment sets available for loan or to buy
  • Detailed course handouts
  • Art history seminar and presentations on Late Medieval Art in Assisi and Umbria
  • Visits to the Basilicas di S Francesco & S Chiara, S Damiano and S Maria degli Angeli
  • Umbrian ‘Canticle of the Sun’ picnic

What’s not included?

  • Flights are not included and must be booked independently. Please see the ‘More Info’ travel advice section for help planning your trip.
  • Travel insurance. Please ensure you are adequately covered.
  • Lunch, evening meals and all refreshments are not included. (Continental breakfasts, the Umbrian picnic and 3 course lunch at La Verna are included)
  • Basic art equipment, brushes etc (‘what to bring’ list sent in advance)

How do I book?

S D Window

Please pay a deposit of £100 GBP by one of the following methods:

Online via Paypal:
Go to the ‘Prices Dates & Bookings’ page on this website, select your trip and use, if shown, the ‘Pay Now’ button. If no button shown, please either check back in a few days (due to website updates) or email: email hidden; JavaScript is required to book.

By Bank Transfer or Cheque: Please email email hidden; JavaScript is required for bank details and the address to send cheques to, along with your contact details

N.B. The balance can be paid any time up to two months before departure

Booking Confirmation

On receipt of your deposit, confirmation of your booking will be sent to you via email (or post if you do not use email).

Insufficient Numbers & Flight Booking

A minimum number of participants is required for the retreat to go ahead. Therefore the retreat will only be confirmed two months before departure. Please wait for confirmation before booking flights.