The Certosa di Pavia is a monastery complex built in 1396-1495. It was once located on the border of a large hunting park belonging to the Visconti family of Milan, of which today only scattered parts remain. It is one of the largest monasteries in Italy.
Certosa is the Italian name for a house of the cloistered monastic order of Carthusians founded by St. Bruno in 1044 at Grande Chartreuse. Though the Carthusians in their early centuries were known for their seclusion and asceticism and the plainness of their architecture, the Certosa is renowned for the exuberance of its architecture, in both the Gothic and Renaissance styles, and for its collection of artworks which are particularly representative of the region.
Gian Galeazzo Visconti, hereditary lord and first Duke of Milan, commissioned the building of the Certosa to the architect Marco Solari, inaugurating the works and laying the foundation stone on August 27, 1396, as recorded by a bas-relief on the facade. The location was strategically chosen midway between Milan and Pavia, the second city of the Duchy, where the Duke held his court.
The church, the last edifice of the complex to be built, was to be the family mausoleum of the Visconti. It was designed as a grand structure with a nave and two aisles, a type unusual for the Carthusian Order. The nave, in the Gothic style, was completed in 1465.
However, since the foundation, the Renaissance had spread in Italy, and the rest of the edifice was built according to the new style, redesigned by Giovanni Solari continued by his son Guiniforte Solari and including some new cloisters. Solari was followed as director of the works by Giovanni Antonio Amadeo, (1481-1499). The church was consecrated on May 3, 1497. The lower part of the façade was not completed until 1507.
The construction contract obliged the monks to use part of the revenue of the lands held in benefice to the monastery to continue to improve the edifice. Consequently, the Certosa includes a huge collection of artworks of all centuries from the 15th to the 18th.
In 1782, the Carthusians were expelled by the Emperor Joseph II of Austria, and were succeeded at the Certosa by the Cistercians in 1784 and then by the Carmelites in 1789. In 1810 the monastery was closed until the Carthusians reacquired it in 1843. In 1866 it was declared a National Monument and sequestrated by the Italian State, although some Benedictines resided there until 1880. The monks currently living in the monastery are Cistercians admitted to it in the 1960s.
In August 1946 the illegally exhumed body of Benito Mussolini was discovered in the complex. Two Franciscan friars were charged with assisting in the concealment of the body.
The church is built on a Latin cross plan, with a nave, two aisles and transept, typical of Gothic architecture. It is covered by crossed vaults on Gothic arches and is inspired, on a reduced scale, by the Duomo of Milan. The vaults are alternatively decorated with geometrical shapes and starry skies. The transept and the main chapel end with square-plan chapels with smaller, semi-circular apses on three sides.
The façade of the church is famous for its exuberant decorations, typical of Lombard architecture, every part being decorated with reliefs, inlaid marble and statues.
The classicist style portal is by Benedetto Briosco (1501). The porch has a large arch of classicist form resting on paired Corinthian columns which are each surmounted by a very strongly modelled cornice on which the arch rests, the construction being derived from the Classical, used by Brunelleschi, and employed here for a bold and striking effect. Above the central arch is a shallow balcony of three arches, above which rises the central window.
This campaign was interrupted in 1519 as work was going forward by the condition of French occupation in Lombardy after the War of the League of Cambrai. French troops were encamped round the Certosa. Notations of work on the facade did not resume until 1554, when a revised design under the direction of Cristoforo Lombardo was approved for the completion of the facade above the second arcade; there marble intarsia was substituted for the rich sculptual decorations of the lower area. Some final details were added by Galeazzo Alessi.
An elegant portal, with sculptures by the Mantegazza brothers and Giovanni Antonio Amadeo, leads from the church to the Small Cloister. This has a small garden in the center. The most striking feature is the terracotta decoration of the small pilasters, executed by Rinaldo de Stauris between 1463 and 1478. Some arcades are decorated by frescoes by Daniele Crespi, now partially ruined. Also noteworthy is the late-14th century lavabo in stone and terracotta, with scenes of the Jesus with the Woman of Samaria at the Well.
Similar decorations also characterize the Grand Cloister, which measures c.125x100 meters. The elegant cells of the monks open to the central garden. The arcades have columns with precious decorations in terracotta, with tondoes portraying saints, prophets and angels, alternatively in white and pink Verona marble.
In the main apse of the church is a fresco by Bergognone celebrating the Incoronation of Mary between Francesco and Ludovico Sforza. Other frescoes with saints and prophets were executed by Lombard artists, including a young Bernardino Zenale.
The Certosa has painted masterpieces by Bergognone including the panels of St. Ambrose (1490), and San Siro (1491) and, most significantly, the Crucifixion (1490). Other works by Bergognone are now found in other museums of Europe.
Also notable is the refectory, initially used as church during the construction, which has maintained a fresco with the Last Supper by Ottavio Semino, 1567 and, in the vault, a Madonna with Child and Prophets by Bergognone. In the Foresteria or Palazzo Ducale, built in the 17th century by Francesco Maria Richini, are frescoes and paintings by Vincenzo and Bernardino Campi, Bartolomeo Montagna, Bergognone and Bernardino Luini.References:
Roman Walls of Lugo are an exceptional architectural, archaeological and constructive legacy of Roman engineering, dating from the 3rd and 4th centuries AD. The Walls are built of internal and external stone facings of slate with some granite, with a core filling of a conglomerate of slate slabs and worked stone pieces from Roman buildings, interlocked with lime mortar.
Their total length of 2117 m in the shape of an oblong rectangle occupies an area of 1.68 ha. Their height varies between 8 and 10 m, with a width of 4.2 m, reaching 7 m in some specific points. The walls still contain 85 external towers, 10 gates (five of which are original and five that were opened in modern times), four staircases and two ramps providing access to the walkway along the top of the walls, one of which is internal and the other external. Each tower contained access stairs leading from the intervallum to the wall walk of town wall, of which a total of 21 have been discovered to date.
The defences of Lugo are the most complete and best preserved example of Roman military architecture in the Western Roman Empire.
Despite the renovation work carried out, the walls conserve their original layout and the construction features associated with their defensive purpose, with walls, battlements, towers, fortifications, both modern and original gates and stairways, and a moat.
Since they were built, the walls have defined the layout and growth of the city, which was declared a Historical-Artistic Ensemble in 1973, forming a part of it and becoming an emblematic structure that can be freely accessed to walk along. The local inhabitants and visitors alike have used them as an area for enjoyment and as a part of urban life for centuries.
The fortifications were added to UNESCO"s World Heritage List in late 2000 and are a popular tourist attraction.