Certosa of FlorenceGallery
If your destination in Tuscany was Florence and you travelled by car from the south you will have seen it for sure. Impressive, majestic and surrounded by cypresses, it is perched on a hill just a few kilometres from the city. This is the marvellous Certosa of Florence, a monastery that in the past played a prominent role and offers visitors a precious collection of works of art. So, if you've decided to spend a few days in Florence, make sure you don’t forget to drop by at Certosa. Far from the bustling noise of the city, in the silence and peacefulness of the Monastery of Florence, you can immerse yourself in a past that is marked by the artistic richness and the austerity of monastic life. It will be extremely fascinating – as people who live constantly 'connected' with one another - to find out how the monks spent their days in silence, solitude and immersed only in prayer. Seeing the places where they spent their lives will be a truly inspiring experience.
WHERE AND HOW TO GET TO THE CHARTREUSE OF FLORENCE. The Florence Chartreuse is on Mount Acuto - also called Monte Santo - at the confluence between the river Ema and Greve, in a location that is by no means casual. It had been chosen for the altitude and because it was surrounded by two rivers. Naturally, the main reason of the choice was to guarantee an isolated location for the friars, but there is also a more practical motive: the elevated position enabled the Cistercian monks to defend themselves against any attacks. The Certosa is located in Galluzzo, Italy, only 7 km from Florence. If you come from Florence, set off from Lungarno Acciaiuoli, a place that happens to be named after the patron who allowed the Chartreuse of Florence to be built. Then head to Lungarno Guicciardini and continue in the direction of Via Senese until in Galluzzo you find the junction for Via della Certosa. If instead you arrive via the A1, take the Impruneta-Firenze motorway exit and follow Via Cassia towards Certosa. Same thing if you come from the Florence-Siena junction: head to Cassia and then to Via della Certosa.
CHARTREUSE OF FLORENCE HISTORY. It is one of the most important Italian Cistercian Abbeys. Its construction is due mainly to the will of Niccolo' Acciaiuoli, Great Seneschal of the Kingdom of Naples. The wealthy Florentine banker had stayed in the Neapolitan territory, precisely at the Chartreuse of San Martino and he probably wanted to recreate something similar in his Tuscany. Also because this would give him prestige in the eyes of the court of Naples and of the Papacy. In short... it is good to do charity, but best with certain propaganda benefits in mind! Construction work began in 1341 and, by wish of the financier, besides the monastic centre it should also have included a school to educate young people. Unfortunately, when in 1365 Niccolò Acciaiuoli died, this part of the complex had not yet been completed and his heirs, alas, squandered his fortune to the point that it was no longer possible to continue the work. The other part of his project, that of monastic life, was instead accomplished. According to Niccolò Acciaiuoli’s plan, it should have been a monastery, typically Carthusian, which could accommodate about a dozen friars, a priory and some lay brothers. The latter were friars responsible for the more humble jobs, and often, despite wearing a robe, they had not taken the vows. In short, in their case, you could judge a book by its cover – or, as Italian says, judge the monk by his dress! They were often people who came from simple contexts and without any education. Despite the inability of Acciaiuoli's children, other means were found to continue the expansion of the Monastic complex. In the 14th century the large Cloister was added, while between the 16th and the 17th century, several maintenance and embellishment works were completed. Still in this period, several works of art were commissioned, some of which are still visible. Others, unfortunately, were lost following the confiscation of the Napoleonic period (1810). In 1872 the Monastery was abolished via a Royal Decree but fortunately the Cistercian monks were able to return in 1895. In the same year a strong earthquake damaged some parts of the structure, so important restoration work took place, followed by a second period in the 1950s. In 1958 the Carthusian monks were replaced by the Cistercian order of Monks.
VISIT CHARTREUSE OF FLORENCE. Fortunately, you can visit almost all of the environments: the Church, the Chapel, the Cloisters and the Art Gallery. This is quite uncommon because in some monasteries, to respect the friars' seclusion, virtually nothing is open to the public. However, at the Florence chartreuse guided tours are the only option possible. Don’t worry, for this small restriction you will be rewarded by the pleasant explanations of the well-prepared guides that will tell you all the details of the artwork but also the secrets and curiosities of monastic life. The Florence Chartreuse visiting times are distributed throughout the day, excluding Sundays and public holidays and all Monday. You can give a free donation to enter and, unfortunately, there is no booking service. At the Chartreuse of Florence opening times vary according to the season, so please find out beforehand on the monastery website or via telephone
- ACCIAIUOLI PALACE. It is the first building you see once you arrive and you cannot, therefore, not notice the massive crenellated block out of which it is built. It was designed in 1355 and all in all looks quite like a fortress. It should have become the 'Palace of Studies' that Niccolò Acciaiuoli had wished for, but, as we have seen, the children who had falled into disgrace failed to complete the project. At present, the four ground floor rooms house the Restoration Laboratory of Gabinetto Viesseux, which deals with books damaged by the disastrous flood of the River Arno of 1966. On the first floor you can see the famous Florence Chartreuse art gallery.
- ART GALLERY. Chartreuse of Florence’s first saloon you access, through the sixteenth-century external staircase, shows us immediately one of the most important works of Chartreuse di Galluzzo, as it is affectionately called by the locals. These are lunettes that adorned the arches of the Large Cloister attributed to Pontormo. They were removed in 1952 in order to prevent further damage by the weather. The painter, who was staying at the Florence Chartreuse abbey to escape the plague that gripped Florence at that time, paid back the hospitality of the Cistercian Friars with the lunettes that make up the well-known ‘Ciclo della Passione’ which includes ‘l’Orazione nell’orto’, ‘Gesù davanti a Pilato’, ‘Salita al Calvario’, ’Deposizione della Croce’ and ‘Resurrezione’. At the centre of the same exhibition space there is also a valuable wooden crucifix dating back to the 1500s. The other room of the Chartreuse of Florence art gallery houses a series of paintings of the 17th century.
- CHURCH OF SAN LORENZO. The construction work began in 1341 and ended in 1394, although the structure was modified later on in the 16th century. Originally there was a part dedicated to the cloistered monks and another part for all the other people. You can also notice two different spaces that are due to the different periods of construction: the facade and the chorus date back to the period between 1550 and 1558, and the part reserved for monks is in the 14th century part. The presbytery and the chorus of monks hold the primacy for antiquity. The stone facade was built later on and the transformations that took place throughout the 1500s gave the whole building an appearance that resembles Mannerist architecture. The marble polycarbonate floor and the altar of 1595 are also admirable.
- SANTA MARIA NUOVA ORATORY. It is adjacent to the main church and dates back to 1404. It houses a beautiful 14th-century wooden choir, some paintings and gorgeous stain-glass windows. From the chapel you can access the crypt where the grave of Niccolo' Acciaiuoli is located.
- THE JOINT SPACES OF MONASTERY LIFE: PARLOUR, CHAPTER ROOM, REFECTORY AND CLOISTERS. The parlour was the place where the friars could gather to spend leisure time together and talk to each other. This was more or less an hour a week – which is hard to believe, for in one week there are 168 hours and only one of these could be spent interacting with brothers... but this was the tough rule at the cloister! The parlour is located to the left of the Chartreuse of Florence church and is a rather small environment, which has remained essentially unchanged since 1559. Inside there is a glass terracotta work by Andrea della Robbia's workshop and a bas-relief that is attributed to Donatello. From the parlour you access the cloister, the small cloister of the converse, the refectory and the chapter room. The refectory is located along the corridor that connects the big cloister to the one of the lay brothers. The door is decorated with a lunette by Andrea della Robbia. It was used for lunches of holidays, which took place in silence by listening to the word of the Lord. The Foresteria faces the square and was intended to welcome guests, including illustrious ones. Today you can visit the Pope's apartment where Pope Pius VI stayed between 1798 and 1799. To say the truth he didn’t really choose to stay here, since he was a prisoner of Napoleon. Pius VII also stayed here for two days in 1809. During your visit you will be able to have a look at some of the various furnishings that belonged to the two popes. The Chapter Room, so called because every day a chapter of the rule was read, has a memorial dedicated to Leonardo Bonafede, Bishop of Cortona, located right in the middle of the room.
- CLOISTERS. The large Cloister, also called the Renaissance cloister, was built between 1491 and 1520 and is accessed from the Church. On the arcade there are 66 medallions by Giovanni della Robbia. From here you can access the 18 cells of the monks, all characterized by the same structure: they were two storey cells and included a room to sleep, one to pray, a small garden, a cellar and a study upstairs. Why were there so many rooms? Since they had to be locked in there all the time, they had to at least be given some space to move about. They only went out on Sundays and on public holidays for lunch and to reach the parlour. The lay brothers’ Cloister consists of two overlaid loggias which open onto a small refectory. The cells of the lay brothers, who were allowed to go out and walk freely around the abbey, were smaller and included a bedroom and a toilet. They didn’t spend much time in them, for the most of the time they were gardening, cleaning, cooking and shopping. All they needed was a bed where to sleep.
After the sublime beauty of the works of art, we suggest that you go to something a little more terrain but just as marvellous: visit the shop because Florence chartreuse products are really great! Among the most known elixirs the best-known one is called 'Imperial drops of Florence Chartreuse'. It is a herbal liqueur produced following an ancient recipe of 1766 with an alcoholic strength of 90°! So make sure you always dilute it or you risk paralyzing your vocal cords! It is used mixed with water as a digestive or a refreshing drink. Also try the Rosolio al Mandarino, a true delicacy of times gone by. We have told you almost everything there is to know about the Chartreuse of Florence Galluzzo... now all you have to do is find an opportunity to go in person and let yourself be charmed by its beauty and the history that fills the atmosphere between its ancient walls!
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