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December 1, 2013

Pisa ‘Chartreuse’ Charterhouse

Filed under: Uncategorized — Darren & Malcolm @ 6:06 pm
A Baroque Masterpiece

A Baroque Masterpiece


Pisa Charterhouse, also known as Calci Charterhouse is a former Carthusian monastery, or charterhouse, currently part of which is the home of the Natural History Museum, some 10 km outside of Pisa. I visited it this week and found a gem of a place full of beauty and a bygone atmosphere.

The Monastery is noted for the fresco of the Last Supper, by Bernardino Poccetti (1597), in the Refectory, which is interesting for its eye level view of the feet of Jesus and the Disciples just above the abbots dining chair. I am not sure I have seen the feet before in other depictions of the Last Supper.

The Carthusians, founded by St Bruno, built this monastery in 1366 in the Val Graziosa, a plain overlooked by the Monti Pisani.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the primitive and austere buildings from before the Middle Ages were renovated, receiving its current Baroque appearance. The whole Baroque movement can be seen as a, ‘re-branding’ of the Roman Catholic Church after the Reformation. Most churches in Italy and across Europe have been ‘Baroqued’! Not my favourite style; I much appreciate the Romanesque style.

In November 1946, following World War II, Conventuals from the Netherlands. They are an Order of Friars Minor Conventual, or lay brothers, who sought to spread the ideals of Saint Francis throughout the new urban social order of the Middle Ages.  They gradually started to repopulate the building that had been heavily damaged during the war years.

See the house or cell roof above the cloister wall.

See the house or cell roof above the cloister wall.

Part of the tour I undertook, with the curator, just the two of us were the cells of the monks. They are quite large more like a good sized house than a cell. (See the second photo’s roof line above the cloister wall.) In the cells there is a bedroom, living room, workroom and a walled garden for growing your own fruit and vegetables. It was like stepping back in time.

Not Pisa Charterhouse but simular

Not Pisa Charterhouse but simular

The silence was very comforting but I am not sure I could stay secluded in there for years! It was as if the previous occupier had just stepped out for a while. Their food and other items were passed to the monks via an opening in the wall. When I opened the cupboard it had a turn inside it, so that you cannot see through to the outside world or the person at the other side. These cells were only for the Father’s however, who were ordained and lived in the ‘upper house’, with the lay brothers supplying all the coenobitic or communal needs of the monastery in the, naturally ‘lower house’! I commented about how small the cemetery was considering the hundreds of years that the brothers had lived there and the guide said that they were all placed one on top of the other and that no names was added to the graves leaving anonymity in death. Just a plain metal cross marking each grave. Crowded I thought at the Resurrection!

They must be 500 plus years old

They must be 500 plus years old

Baroque Masterpiece

Baroque Masterpiece

The site is surrounded by ancient mature olive trees which are worth seeing in themselves (see pic) and they did shine on what was a gloriously sunny late autumn day.

The Pisa Charterhouse monastery was dissolved in 1972.

Entrance fee for Adults 5 Euros’.

Further information sites:

No Cats in the Bible!

No cats in the Bible but there are one or two painted into the frescoes at the Monastery and live ones outside!

1 Comment »

  1. Very interesting, Darren,
    don’t think I could stay as a resident for long either, but a few weeks would be nice when life gets too busy. It must have been a very simple existence requiring great self reliance, as well as spiritual strength.,

    Comment by Liz — December 2, 2013 @ 10:05 am

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