the certosa del galluzzo in florence, italy

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  The Certosa del Galluzzo  


Address: Galluzzo

The Certosa del Galluzzo rises on the summit of a hill to the south of Florence. More than merely a monastery, it is more like a monastic citadel or a fortress. The perfect model of a medieval monastic existence with its implicit self-sufficient economic organization, it was one of the most powerful monasteries in Europe. Immensely wealthy, it housed hundreds of monks and other ecclesiastics and, until the Napoleonic spoliations contained a good five hundred works of art. Niccolò Acciaioli, one of the most powerful Florentine citizens, built it in 1341 not only as a religious centre but also for the education of the young. Outside the conventual buildings rises the battlemented Acciaioli Palace where the youth of Florence would be instructed in the human sciences; unfortunately its huge library is now dispersed.

Visits to the monastery are guided by a monk. The church of Saint Lawrence is typically Mannerist in style and filled with frescoes and pictures, a sumptuous marble altar of the sixteenth century and a crypt with many tombs mainly of the Acciaioli family. The church gives access to the lovely Renaissance cloister with its large terracotta well by Andrea and Giovanni della Robbia (fifteenth-sixteenth century). The monks' cells open onto this cloister, and those which are open to the public give a clear idea of monastic life. Each consists of a room for sleeping and a room for praying; their furnishing is severe but each has a tiny enclosed garden. Apart from the large cloister the Chiostro dei Conversi is open to the public. This is tiny and consists of two superimposed loggias, and gives access to the refectory which is decorated with a large lavabo in pietra serena and the pulpit from which lessons were read during meals. Five fresco lunettes by Pontormo showing scenes from Christ's Passion were originally in the large cloister, but are now found in the monastery's gallery with other works of art of the fourteenth-eighteenth centuries.

A visit to the Certosa provides even today a valutable glimpse of the monastic life, and a small group of Cistercian monks still inhabit it. They still manage to be largely self-supporting and maintain their old traditions such as the distillation of herb liqueurs and the manufacture of small handmade religious articles.


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