As I have already mentioned to you in my recent weekly postcard, when I was in Italy a few years ago, I have also visited beautiful old monastery Certosa di Pavia. It is a monastery and church complex in northern Italy located near a small town with the same name, 8 km north of Pavia and about the same distance from the capital of Lombardy region, Milan (Milano).
My Impressions from Visiting this Church and Monastery.
I was quite impressed with the sophisticated beauty of this church and monastery area and particularly by very elaborate church facade and general design of the complex, including 2 beautiful cloisters. The inside of the church is also very elegant and I especially liked the Gothic design of the church structure, as well as impressive Renaissance style tombs with life size marble figures, which almost looked as they were just asleep.
Unfortunately the monk who let us into the church didn’t allow us to take any pictures inside. I found it very strange since photography is allowed in most of Italian churches which often contain even much greater works of art. Besides a lot of art in this church was made of stone, so I don’t think it could be harmed by being photographed. Of course because pictures were not allowed, I have not enjoyed visiting this church as much as I could. I am sorry I can not show you any pictures of interior of this building to encourage you to visit it as well.
Luckily taking pictures was permitted once we have exited the church and proceeded to admire two nearby beautiful cloister areas, as well as visited a sample cell of a monk. The cloisters are really beautiful with a view onto the church, where we have admired additional arches rising along its structure. It was also interesting to see how monks once lived. Each one of them had a separate simple room with basic furniture. I like the interesting design of a folding table with when folded back was covering several shelves inside a solid wall. Each cell had a fireplace to keep the occupants warm during colder part of the year. If front of each cell was a small garden where monks were growing a variety of vegetables, medicinal herbs and fruits, or could just enjoy the nature and meditate.
After leaving the cloisters, we went to visit a store run by monks from this monastery, located in one of buildings within the complex. They were selling there some souvenirs, including herbs and herbal liquors. I have purchased one of them which was supposed to be good as aperitif for a digestion. I have tried some Italian “apperitivo” also called “amaro” or “amaretto” before and they were very good, but the one I have purchased there was so bitter I was not able to drink more than about 1/2 teaspoon. It still have it as a curiosity from this trip and let some brave guest try it if they like to experience it. Perhaps it is good for the liver and digestion, but I wish the monk who has sold it to me would worn me about its so bitter taste. It would be a good idea to let visitors taste the herbal liquors first, so they could buy what they were looking for. Some more friendly attitude of the monks towards tourist would certainly help with sales and attracting more visitors to this beautiful religious complex.
The History of this Religious Complex.
The building of Certosa di Pavia religious complex was initiated in 1396 when the lord and the first Duke of nearby Milan, Gian Galeazzo Visconti, has commissioned its building to the architect Marco Solari, who was also a chief of the works of the amazing Milan Cathedral (Duomo of Milan).
Gian Galeazzo Visconti has chosen this location as Visconti’s family mausoleum, to be placed inside the church. The complex was located on the border of a big hunting area belonging to the Visconti family. Certosa di Pavia is one of the largest monasteries in Italy and probably one of the most beautiful. The church initially designed by Marco Solari in Gothic style, was later redesigned, in then wildly spread in Italy, Renaissance style and finally consecrated about 100 years later in May, 1497. After Marco Solari, 2 other Solari’s family architects have worked on the church redesigning it in Renaissance style – Marco’s son – Giovanni Solari directed the work on the church from 1428 to 1462, and he was followed by his son – Guiniforte Solari. Giovanni Solari also had another son – Francesco, who also was an architect. After the architects from Solari family, Giovanni Antonio Amadeo continued directing the work on the church. He was Francesco’s Solari’s student. The lower part of the facade was finally completed about 10 years after the consecration of the church – in 1507.
It is interesting that the monks from Carthusians order (founded by St. Bruno), who were placed in the monastery and were taking care of the church, had a contract with Visconti in which they have promised not only to take a good care of the complex, but also use part of the revenue from the lands they obtained from Duke to improve it. They kept their promise and over the centuries have worked not only on maintaining it but have also added many works of art.
Later the church and monastery was in the possession of Austria, various monks orders and Italian State. Carthusians have lost it when in 1782 Emperor Jospeh II of Austria was taking possession of many monasteries in Italy and expelled the Carthusians from the complex. In 1784 the monastery and the church was in the hands of the Cistercians order and then under care of the Carmelites from 1789. They were there for about 20 years, when in 1810 the monastery was closed till finally the Carthusians got it back about 33 years later in 1843, so almost after 60 years from the time they were expelled.
In about next 23 years they have lost it again since in 1866 Italian State has declared the complex a National Monument and sequestrated it. In the meantime some Benedictines monks lived there till 1880. Currently the monks living in the monastery are from Cistercians order and they are there since the 1960s.
The Copyright Info.
All photographs presented on this blog are copyrighted by me, Renata Ratajczyk. If you would like to use any of them in your publications or on your website, please contact me. I will be adding most of the pictures posted here to my Light Vision website, where you can license images or buy them as prints. I will be posting more articles soon, so please subscribe to this blog to be notified about future updates. Thank you.
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