Problem: high heat, blazing sun, hibernating, now stir crazy.
Solution: morning trip to a monastery in the hopes the hilltop situation and the stone buildings will make it cooler.
Visiting Certosa del Galluzzo wasn’t quite as cool as I had hoped, but being on a hilltop let us feel a breeze and the tour was interesting.
On arriving, I learned that the position on top of a hill and between the Greve and Ema rivers helped give the monastery the isolation necessary for the lifestyle of the Carthusian Order: “achieving a knowledge of God in the wilderness.” The monastery was built in the fourteenth century at the request of Niccolò Acciaioli, who belonged to a wealthy family of bankers in Florence and who wanted to found a monastery dedicated to St. Lawrence the Martyr.
The first building we entered was the art gallery of the Acciaioli Palace, to which Niccolò Acciaioli intended to retire. Here I learned of a painter new to me, Pontormo, who fled to the monastery in 1523 to escape the plague. Sadly, the paintings he made for Certosa are badly damaged, but in the gallery along with the originals are copies made by other painters, which give a clearer idea of what his paintings might have looked like originally.
After visiting the church, chapter house, and cloister, we were led to one of the monks’ cells, which was fascinating because the pattern of monasticism was different from what I’ve read about in books. The monks spent most of their time in their cells, leaving only to attend the liturgical celebrations of the day and to eat with the other monks on feast days. Their cells were, therefore, small apartments, rather than just a room for sleeping and praying. Each had a garden and rooms for eating, studying, and resting. Meals were brought to the cell by lay brothers and passed through a ‘turn.’ The guide told us that if the meals remained uneaten for a couple of days, only then would someone enter the cell to check on the monk.
Even the title of the guidebook I purchased was a learning experience! It’s titled The Chartreuse of Florence and I wondered if this was a translation gone awry. Researching online later, I read that the name Carthusian is derived from the Chartreuse Mountains, where the founder of the order, Saint Bruno, built his first hermitage. The word charterhouse, which is the English name for a Carthusian monastery, is derived from the same source. Who knew?!
Stir craziness alleviated, at least temporarily!
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Images © Melissa Corcoran.