Summer seminar on the fundamental principles of democracy and current challenges to the free society

Join distinguished American and Slovak professors and students from July 25th to August 3rd 2024 in Slovakia for a stimulating, intellectual and cultural experience.

The seminar is organised by:

Faith and Reason Institute

Faith and Reason Institute is based in Washington DC. It aims at bringing both Faith and Reason to bear on all the issues that confront us.

Collegium of Anton Neuwirth​

Collegium of Anton Neuwirth is located near Bratislava. Its mission is to form young people's minds and characters by systematic education in the Christian cultural legacy and its influence on Western civilization.​

the seminar

Students from the United States and Europe gather to examine current social questions with prominent American and Slovak professors in some of the most beautiful places in Slovakia – the originally rococo château in Ivanka pri Dunaji, and the historical town of Spišská Kapitula located in the close vicinity of the ruins of Spiš Castle – one of the largest castle sites in Central Europe included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1993. 

Explore the political, economic, moral, and cultural dimensions of a free society

Seminar discussions will take you into explorations of the political, economic, moral, and cultural dimensions of a free society in the thought of Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II, The Federalist Papers, Alexis de Tocqueville, among others.

The Free Society Seminar is an ideal place for university-level students and young professionals to grow not only spiritually and intellectually, but also to develop new friendships and international perspective crucial to understanding and shaping today’s world.

Why FSS?

The seminar does much more than engage in academic activities: it is also about fun! You will experience common meals, free time activities such as excursions to Slovakia’s stunning castles, old cities, and mesmerizing natural beauties; visits to museums, sports, and cultural evenings, which all form an integral part of the seminar experience as well. 

Our alumni say

"Truly one of the best educational experiences I've ever had. Sound presentations, intellectually invigorating discussions, enlightening cultural exchange, and enriching personal encounters are only the beginning of what participants in the Free Society Seminar experience. A worthwhile workshop for any young adult!"
Debra Emery
Georgetown University
"I would attend FSS again in a heartbeat. What a unique experience, delving deeper into our Western heritage and discovering Slovakia's own beautiful traditions! It was spiritual and intellectual nourishment in the midst of a very busy summer."
Laura Cermak
Christendom College
"The Free Society Seminar was one of the most fruitful, beautiful experiences I can remember. Engaging in questions of culture, faith, and the law with some of the best young Slovaks, Americans, and others, the seminar provides a time to work out ideas with seminar leaders expert in their fields. This seminar is a must."
Ryan Womack
Baylor University
"Participating in the Free Society Seminar was an invigorating experience, from engaging students and faculty from around the world on the vital questions that form our societies, to exploring the beauty of Slovakia, to forming lasting friendships!"

Charles Atkinson
Ave Maria Univeristy
"Democracy, politics, art, human life, law. New friendships, new cultures, new places. The FSS gave me so much! Now I truly realize that we - young people - are the most responsible for how the future of our countries will look like. And it is actually us who should now as students discuss important topics, study hard and widen our horizons to prepare ourselves to really make that future better."
Soňa Leitnerová (Matiová)
Comenius University
"I was born in the USA", says a famous song. Friendships, joy and a deep intellectual interest in all things Catholic on both sides of the Atlantic and a whole lot more is born at Free Society Seminar and rightly so. A wonderful programme, definitely worth attending, whereever you yourself might be born."
Samuel Trizuljak
Oxford University

A brief history of the seminar

The idea of European/American seminar on the „free society“ arose when three people – American scholar Michael Novak, Italian professor Rocco Buttiglione and Josef Seifert, the president of the International Academy of Philosophy – met at the luncheon meeting in Interlaken, Switzerland in 1991. Influenced by the fresh publication of the encyclical Centisimus Annus, they discussed “the desirability of forming an international study group for European/American dialogue on the intellectual questions that lie ahead of modern societies.“ (Free Society reader, p. xiv.)

They developed a month-long program for twenty students from East and Central Europe and 10 students from the US. The aim of the seminar was to stop “growing cultural and intellectual gap between continents, especially among Catholics.” (p. xiv) Most Europeans were not familiarized with the key figures behind American democracy such as Lord Acton, Tocqueville, federalists and American founders, among others. On the other hand, Americans had a little knowledge of “continental experience and tradition.” (p. xiv) The seminar’s purpose was to increase and intensify European/American relations among students.

First two years of the seminar were held in the International Academy of Philosophy in Liechtenstein in 1992 and 1993. For years to come, after the suggestion of Pope John Paul II that a post-communist transforming country might be a needed location for new ideas, the institution moved to Kraków, Poland where it had been meeting every July since 1993. (p. xvi) In 2001, the first year of the third millennium, the institution expanded to Slovakia, where it established the minor branch of Kraków seminar in Bratislava and Spišská Kapitula.

How to apply?

Application process for European students

To apply send your curriculum vitae and a cover letter explaining your interest in attending the seminar to or via mail to: 

Kolégium Antona Neuwirtha
Nam. padlých hrdinov 7
P. O. Box 51
900 28 Ivanka pri Dunaji

The deadline for applications for European Students is May 15th, 2024. There is a non-returnable registration fee of €50 for European students and 100€ for young professionals who accept the offer to participate at the seminar. All admitted participants receive fellowships, which include tuition, lodging, meals, and excursions. Apart from the fee, students are responsible for their own travel costs and pocket money. 

For more information email at:

Application process for American students

To apply send a short essay (200-300 words) on the nature of liberty, your curriculum vitae, additional short writing sample, a letter of recommendation, and a short cover letter explaining your interest in attending the seminar, to or to:

Faith & Reason Institute
1730 M Street NW
Suite 910
Washington DC 20036

The deadline for applications for American Students is May 15th, 2024. All admitted students receive fellowships, which include tuition, lodging, meals, and excursions. 

Students are responsible for their own travel costs to and from Slovakia, and pocket money. For more information email at

The successful candidate profile

Leadership potential: capability and willingness to share one´s experience and knowledge, and to motivate and lead others to reach meaningful goals  

Intellectual maturity: capability to analyze text, form written and oral argumentation, and lead refined dialogue  

Personal maturity: ability to react creatively to new challenges, and openness to new relationships and friendships

Join the dialogue and secure your spot!

Take the leap into a summer of transformative learning. Reserve your place and shape the conversation on democracy’s intellectual foundations, and contemporary challenges