Classical and Medieval Historical Tours and Educational Activities

medieval tour at wam

The Worcester Art Museum recently acquired the John Woodman Higgins Collection of Arms and Armor in 2014, providing exciting new learning opportunities for students. Enhance your student's tour of the Classical and Medieval Galleries by adding an arms and armor presentation and/or hands-on workshop to your visit.

Classical and Medieval Tours

The Worcester Art Museum has an encyclopedic collection of art from all over the world that covers fifty-one centuries. This includes Greco-Roman, Medieval, and Renaissance Art.

We offer a Classical tour and two Medieval focused:

  • Ancient Impressions, This tour brings to life the cultures of the Near East, ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome using ancient art and architecture. Come explore the impact of those civilizations on cultures today!
  • The Medieval/Renaissance Tour, highlighting the history of the Medieval World through art with emphasis on the roles of the church, the knight, and the common man, woven together with influences of both past and contemporary cultures;
  • The Story of Armor and the Knightly World Tour, focusing closely on the subject of knightly arms and armor using both art and artifact to tell the story of the influences that changed the knight and their weaponry.

Both Medieval tours use the following themes for the different parts of the tours listed below but in different ways. Note: The Medieval/Renaissance Tour does not use part 6.

Part 1: The Ancient Heritage

(Near East, Greek, Roman Galleries and the Renaissance Court) Over a period of millennia, the peoples of the Mediterranean built a cultural heritage that reached its height in the Roman Empire-a vast, multicultural state with a remarkably modern infrastructure of administration, commerce, and military organization. The wealth and sophistication of this society is visible in its material remains. In the 15th and 16th centuries, these material remains from the Roman Empire would inspire the Renaissance in Europe.

Part 2: Those Who Pray

(Chapter House and Medieval Galleries) With the collapse of the Roman Empire, Europe fell into a period of political and economic chaos. In the Museum's Chapter House, you stand in the heart of one of the monasteries that preserved Roman culture through the Dark Ages. In medieval culture and society, the Church played an important central role.

Part 3: Those Who Fight

(Medieval and Renaissance Galleries) The armored knight was the superstar of medieval culture. For over 500 years the armored horseman dominated the battlefields of Europe. Here you will see in person the arms and armor that he wore on the battlefield and in courtly celebrations. Discover how the armor's appearance and fashion were as important as its protective function.

Part 4: Those Who Work

(Medieval and Renaissance Galleries) Nine out of ten people in the Middle Ages were peasants, whose labor supported both clergy and knights. For most of the Middle Ages the role of the church was to protect the souls of the people, while knights protected their physical well-being. All served the Sovereign. However, the common folk often lived under the thumb of both classes, clergy and knights, who took advantage of their higher social status. As the Middle Ages gave way to the Renaissance, the role of the common people gained importance.

Part 5: Rebirth and Globalization

(Renaissance and 17th-Century Remastered Galleries) Inventions like the printing press and oceangoing ships brought new dynamism and wealth to Europe. Also with the rise of Humanism, art became both more realistic and more inclusive of scenes of everyday people and life. Art was not just focused on the religious or on the wealthy anymore. Gunpowder weapons brought new potential for power, while also undermining the old feudal order and recalculating power equations both in Europe and around the globe. On the battlefields of Europe, the common infantryman came to dominate, overshadowing the armored cavalryman. The old titled nobility mixed with the new mercantile aristocracy to become the leaders of this new world both on and off the battlefield.

Part 6: Traveling the Silk Road

(Asian Galleries) At the eastern end of Eurasia, China maintained a rich and powerful culture throughout the Middle Ages, having survived the same invasions that brought an end to the Roman Empire in the West. Caravans of horses and camels brought Asian silks and spices to an eager market in Europe, eventually drawing men like Marco Polo to visit the Far East.

Additional Historical Educational Activities

Complement your tour with one of these great activities:

Gallery/Studio Workshops

A hands-on experience guided by Museum instructors, students can work in clay, paint, collage, printmaking, or other materials. Our amazing studio experience gives your students the chance to take their new insights into the studio and create their own artwork. We will help you select the best presentation and/or hands-on project for your students to meet your educational goals and framework objectives - and to send them home with something they can treasure forever! Suggested studio projects: Heraldic Shields, Aluminum Tooling, Greek Vases, Egyptian Cartouches, Roman Mosaics, Portraiture, and Landscape Painting.

Click here for additional information about Gallery Studio Workshops

Arms and Armor Presentations

To accompany these tours and to aid in orientating students to what they see in the galleries, we offer interactive Classical and Medieval Arms and Armor Presentations, many of which came from the former Higgins Armory Museum. The first presentation is heavily hands-on while the last five are costumed, interpretive programs with some hands-on as well. These presentations include:

  • The Knight's Tale: a general overview of armor from “chain” mail to articulating plate, with discussion of the changing role of the Knightly class and the influences that shaped the Medieval World.
  • The Viking Age: exploring the role of these raiders and traders in the formation of the early Medieval World.
  • The 14th Century Knight: focusing specifically on the development of Knightly plate armor in the Late Middle Ages.
  • The Gothic Knight: focusing on the realities of the Knight in full plate armor and the roots of its ultimate downfall.
  • The Roman Soldier: focusing on the history and development of the Roman Legions with emphasis on the Late Republic and Early Empire.
  • King Arthur: Myth versus Reality. A look at the late Medieval legend we inherited and its origin in Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages with a historic presentation of an Arthurian age warrior.

Click here for additional information about Arms and Armor Program Topics

Scheduling Your Visit

Please call 508.793.4338 at least four weeks in advance to arrange your workshop.
Fees include gallery admission for a tour prior to workshop. Faculty and adult chaperones free.

Options and Fees


$5 per student (pre-K – grade 12)

Tour + Workshop

1 - 12 students / $205
13-24 students / $245

Tour + Armor Presentation

1 - 12 students / $195
13-24 students / $235

Armor Presentation + Tour + Workshop
(90 minute to 2 hour combination)

1 - 12 students / $255
13-24 students / $295

Please note there are additional materials fees are charged for clay, mosaics, or acrylic paints.


Please contact our Tour Coordinator at 508.793.4338.

More Information

You may be able to fund your Museum experience with a Massachusetts Cultural Council PASS or Local Cultural Council grant. Contact the MCC at 1.800.232.0960 or for more information.

Click here for more information about Public Tours
Click here for additional information about Group Tours


55 Salisbury Street, Worcester, MA 01609
(+1) 508-799-4406


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Third Thursdays until 8pm
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