Certosa del Galluzzo

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.

Gnomon, revisited

Today, I attended a summer solstice event at Santa Maria del Fiore (aka the Duomo)—the observation of the transit of the sun on the meridian plane, a phrase I don’t understand any better than I did when I attended Lo Gnomone a couple of years ago! As with reading certain books, though, I hope that repetition will eventually lead to some degree of understanding.

What stood out for me this year, having seen this before, was the reaction of other people. When the sun’s rays first appeared on the pillar opposite me, the couple next to me was astonished. When the sun’s light morphed into a disc on the floor, people were craning necks and lifting phone cameras to capture the image, especially since it disappeared and reappeared as clouds moved over the sun. When the disc of light eventually covered the marble disc on the floor, the woman next to me said, “You can actually see the sun move.” When I repeated what the professor giving the presentation said, “It is we who are moving,” her eyes widened and she said, “You’re right!” It was a great moment of connection over this interesting phenomenon.




Weekly Photo Challenge: Tour Guide

You’ve probably seen pictures of the city in which I live.

The magnificence of the Duomo:

The picture-postcard Ponte Vecchio:

The Piazzale degli Uffizi, on which is located the Uffizi Gallery:

I love all these, but I also love the less well-known sights, some of them just steps from a main piazza or street.

A wall fresco:

A still-life of bicycle, door, and wall:

A sculpted sea monster (although it looks quite friendly):

A street scene:

Another still-life:

Softly lit arches:

For more entries in this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Tour Guide, click here.

Images © Melissa Corcoran


Sometimes, I go out and about with a specific sightseeing and/or photography goal in mind. Other times, things just happen!

The other day, I took afternoon tea at the St. Regis. While I was making inroads on the delicious sandwiches, scones, and pastries, I opened the book that is one of my ‘bibles’ for Florence, An Art Lover’s Guide to Florence by Judith Testa. This book has been wonderful on a couple of scores: informing me about what I’m seeing and focusing on the highlights, which keeps me from being completely overwhelmed by the art in this city. Testa provides historical background (I may actually be able to eventually keep the Medicis straight, thanks to her) and political, sexual, and religious perspectives on the artwork.

One of the chapters is devoted to the Sassetti Chapel in Santa Trinita. I’d passed this church many times and it was always closed, but when I wandered past there on my way to where I catch the bus home, it was open. I threw myself inside and hurried to the chapel. What makes the chapel noteworthy are the paintings of Domenico Ghirlandaio, including six paintings from the life of St. Francis. This not being an exposition on art, I won’t go into details; suffice it to say that it was fascinating to read Testa’s explanation of the paintings and sculptures in the chapel and look for the details she points out, including the visual pun of centaurs flinging small stones (sassetti) in the relief sculptures on the tombs of Francesco Sassetti and his wife Nera Corsi.

The chapel was dimly lit, but on the wall was one of the meters into which one feeds coins to turn on the lights. I don’t know if the other visitors didn’t notice it, but when I finished reading and was ready to look at the paintings on the walls, I fed money into the meter, the lights came on, and several people gasped! It was great.

Walking down the center aisle, I noticed stairs into the crypt. It was quite dark with minimal light coming through a grate in the ceiling, so I pulled out my phone flashlight to look around as I had run out of coins for the light meter. Fortunately, the family that came down a few minutes later put money in the meter and I was able to see better the beautiful arches of the ceiling.

Once out of the church, I was starting across Piazza di Santa Trinita when I noticed the glow of the late afternoon sun on a building. What was even better? Noticing the shadows of the workmen working on scaffolding in the piazza.

My serendipitous day ended with another shadow photo. Instead of waiting for my bus where I usually do, I went up a block to another stop because there were benches there. What a lovely arrangement of light and shadow!

Testa, Judith. An Art Lover’s Guide to Florence. Northern Illinois University Press. Kindle Edition.

Images © Melissa Corcoran.