History of Italy: Certosa di Padula

With a building history that spans 450 years, this large Carthusian monastery is home to an array of architectural delights that are sure to intrigue any visitor…


This flight of stairs, crafted from white marble, is part of the Certosa di Padula ? the second largest charterhouse in Italy. Founded in 1306 by Tommasso di San Severino, this is still a working monastery for the Carthusian Order, although many visitors today come to marvel at the Baroque architecture amid the daily religious activity of the monks. The cloister, too, is quite spectacular to look at ? measuring 2.97 acres, and surrounded by 84 columns, it is actually the biggest cloister in the world.

The spiral staircase shown here is located inside an annex that leads to the spacious library. A place of quiet reflection, the library provides an important element of contemplation ? something which the monks must balance with their hard work in the kitchens, workshops and farmland that surround the monastery. Elsewhere in the Certosa di Padula you can find the highest concentration of 17th-century scagliola work (a technique that imitates the look of marble and precious stones) in the altars of nearby chapels.