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Gardens in Tuscany
             
 
Certosa di Pontignano

album Surroundings
       
   


Certosa di Pontignano



   
   

Certosa di Pontignano near Castelnuovo Berardenga and Sienna is a magnificent Carthusian Monastery founded in the 14 C. It retains all the elements of Carthusian architecture with large cloisters, individual monks cells, each with a small garden, and a large church that still preserves 14 C features. The former monastery of Pontignano (now part of the University of Sienna) is set amongs olive groves, north of Siena and has three cloister gardens. Two are traditional grass rectangles and one is now a renaissance parterre garden.


Certosa di Pontignano - architecture

   
The overall architectural layout was naturally affected by work undertaken previously. The basic unit is the traditional one of Carthusian monasteries, being subdivided into three parts:

• the area set aside for the monks, with their cells, laid out around a large cloister
• the area housing the lay brothers
• the area set aside for the church, the chapter and the refectory around the cloister, the real heart of the whole complex.

The church - the first building to be built - preserves certain 14 C features, such as the thick surrounding walls and the arcades. The Certosa was built in the open countryside on the border between the states of Florence and Sienna. It therefore needed to demarcate its own borders and defend itself against raiding mercenaries. In 1385, the state of Sienna, acknowledging the importance of the settlement, had strong walls built around it. In the same year, Stefano Maconi, Saint Catherine’s favourite disciple, was appointed prior of Pontignano. It was probably he who obtained the relic of the ring finger of the Saint - the chapel, later painted with frescoes by Nasini, was built to host it. The Certosa also enjoyed the protection of Gian Galeazzo Visconti due to the reputation acquired by a monk from Pontignano who oversaw a large part of the building work in the Certosa of Pavia. Its walls notwithstanding, the Certosa was sacked during the war between Sienna and Florence. In 1449, a band of Florentines broke in and, during the famous “Congiura dei Pazzi”, the monastery was set on fire. Immediately after it was again damaged: in 1554, German and Spanish militias sacked the monastery.


 

Grotere kaart weergeven

 

 

The history of the Certosa di Pontignano

In 1341 Bindo di Falcone, a Sienese gentleman who had become wealthy through trade, in particular with the Papacy, acquired land and properties in the small “community” of Pontignano and donated them to a Carthusian monk from Aquitaine, Brother Amerigo, to build a monastery (Certosa) dedicated to St Peter. At the time the Carthusian order was expanding throughout Italy, and Tuscany was one of their preferred locations. This led to the construction of several monasteries: first the Certosa di Maggiano, built in 1314 on the orders of Cardinal Riccardo Petroni, a cousin of Bindo di Falcone, then the Certosa di Belriguardo, realized with the support of the banker Niccolò Cinughi, and finally Pontignano.

Bindo di Falcone, who had already supervised the construction of Maggiano (as the executor of the will of his cousin the Cardinal), received an authorization from the Bishop on 8 August 1343 to build the monastery at Pontignano, which was to include a church, cloisters, cells and other buildings to “house twelve monks, three lay brothers and their servants”. Despite the interesting project, the Carthusians were reluctant to move to Pontignano: Master Bindo therefore decided to pay a rich indulgence to Pope Clement VI in favour of the monks who, by going to live and die in the monastery, would have their sins forgiven. The Certosa di Pontignano is the only one to have preserved its original atmosphere as an oasis of peace, while the monasteries of Maggiano and Belriguardo were used for purposes other than those for which they were built. The architecture of Pontignano as a whole has naturally changed in time, as it has been renovated and modified over the centuries.
The model of construction, typical of Carthusian monasteries, is divided into three parts: an area for the monks’ accommodation, comprising cells arranged around the largest cloister; an area for the lay brothers’ accommodation, and an area dedicated to the church, chapterhouse and refectory, which were situated around the small cloister at the heart of the complex. The church was the first part to be built and retains some fourteenth century characteristics, such as the thickness of the external walls and the arcades.

Situated in open countryside on the border between the States of Siena and Florence, the Certosa needed to mark its boundaries and defend itself against the raids of mercenaries. In 1385 the State of Siena had a sturdy wall built around the monastery in acknowledgement of the settlement’s importance. In the same year St Catherine’s favourite disciple, Stefano Maconi, was appointed prior of Pontignano. It was probably Maconi who obtained the Saint’s ring finger as a relic for the monastery, for which the chapel (later painted by Nasini) was built. The Certosa also enjoyed the protection of Gian Galeazzo Visconti, thanks to the merits acquired by a monk at Pontignano who had overseen much of the construction of the Certosa di Pavia.
Despite its defences, Pontignano was broken into and plundered during the war between Siena and Florence. In 1449 a band of Florentines broke in, and during the “Congiura dei Pazzi” in 1478 (a conspiracy against the Medici rule) the monastery was set fire to. It was immediately rebuilt but plundered again in 1554 by German and Spanish militias.

Construction of the monastery was significantly boosted by renaissance contributions during the late fifteenth century. These interventions are mainly visible in the cloister adjacent to the long side of the church, whose square layout with five spans per side and domical vaults supported by columns with Ionic capitals are a clear example of balance and sobriety. Other minor modifications were made at the end of the seventeenth century, when the rooms along the eastern side of the monastery were renovated and six small chapels were converted into one large chapel (Cappellone). The Cappella di Sant’Agnese (St Agnes’ chapel), whose entrance is situated at the end of the east wing of the large cloister, was built in 1703.
The Carthusians, who had devoted so much care to Pontignano and made it an oasis of peace, left the Certosa around the end of the 18th Century. With a document dated 16 July 1785 the ownership of Pontignano was transferred to Camaldolite monks, who were subsequently forced to leave it following the Napoleonic suppression of monasteries.The parish of San Martino a Cellole was later moved to Pontignano; the buildings, except the home of the parish priest, together with the former monks’ dwellings and some farms were purchased by the Masotti family. In 1886 the buildings were sold to the Cecchini family, who in turn passed them to the Sergardi family in 1919. In 1939 the complex became the property of the Certosa di Pontignano company, one of whose shareholders was professor Mario Bracci.
In the same period Bracci, who was later to become a Judge of the Constitutional Court, had the villa and the small central cloister renovated at his own expense. Throughout the second world war, Pontignano was a secure refuge for Jews and the victims of political persecution. In 1959, the complex was purchased by the University of Siena, who transformed it into a university residence.

The extensive renovations undertaken during the Renaissance and subsequently have not altered the harmony that lay at the basis of the Carthusians’ life and symbolised man’s equilibrium with faith and nature. Here the Chianti countryside shows its softer aspects; the Certosa is separated from nearby Siena by gentle hills, surrounded by vineyards and olive groves and penetrated by carefully tended countryside that merges into its precious gardens.

There is therefore little distinction between inside and outside – between the environment and the Certosa’s harmonious architecture and the works of art that enrich it. The churches in particular provide the most important evidence of this harmony. The first, built with a single nave and divided into three spans covered with domical vaults, has a masonry wall on the inside with an opening in the middle that divides the space into two areas of different sizes: the larger one was for the monks and the smaller one for the lay brothers. The works of art are mainly by the Florentine painter Bernardino Poccetti, who had also worked for the Carthusians in Calci and Florence according to the canons of painting laid down by the Counter-Reformation. Samples of his work can be seen on the walls, telling the Carthusian stories of Saint Bruno and Saint Peter, in the painting behind the altar and the decorations on the main altar.

The rest of the decorations were the work of Orazio Porta, Stefano Cassini and Sienese painters whose style is clearly influenced by that of Francesco Vanni and Alessandro Casolani. Poccetti also painted the fresco of the “Last Supper” in the refectory (1596), a fresco of the “Samaritan at the Well” in one of the monks’ cells and a lunette of the “Death of Saint Bruno” above a door to the cemetery. In the “Cappellone” next to the church, the painting on the main altar is attributed to Francesco Vanni, while the decorations and frescoes on the walls are attributed to Nicola Nasini and his son Apollonio.

In the chapel to the right of the small church, the altar bears the Lamentation over the Dead Christ with Saints, a work which has recently been associated with the name of Cristofano Rustici and provides further evidence of the activities carried out here by artists of the Siena school.

   
   

Villa is Tuscany


Artist and Writer's Residency | Podere Santa Pia

 

 
Podere Santa Pia  

Villa I Tatti, near Settignano, outside Florence

 

 
Podere Santa Pia, view from the garden
on the valley below

         
Florence and Surroundings Tuscany

Fiesole, Settignano and Certosa are just a few places just outside of Florence that merit a visit.
A day trip from Florence to Fiesole is a must for any visitor to this part of Tuscany in Italy. Fiesole can be reached by car or bus, and also on foot along narrow walled roads past numerous fine villas, including the Villa Medici at Fiesole. Aside from the sights of interest within and near Fiesole itself, on a sunny day the view over Florence is spectacularly beautiful. Fiesole is a city of Etruscan and Roman origins and it was destroyed in 90 BC and subsequently entirely reconstructed. During the Renaissance it became a popular holiday destination and prominent families built many villas, including: Albizi, Medici, Salviati, Rondinelli Vitelli and Medici. The Villa Medici at Fiesole is one of the oldest Renaissance residences with a garden and is also one of the best preserved, but at the same time one of the least well known. While most of the villas dating back to the same period, such as Cafaggiolo and Trebbio, stand at the centre of agricultural concerns, Villa Medici had no connections at all with farming life. The villa was built during the mid fifteenth century when Cosimo the Elder employed Michellozzo di Bartolommeo to design it for his second son Giovanni dei Medici. Intended to be a setting for intellectual life rather than a working Villa, Villa Medici was constructed to be a demonstration of aesthetic and ideological values.

The first settlements in this area date back at least to the Bronze Age (about 2000 BC), but the foundation of a city itself, surrounded by walls, dates from the Hellenistic age (end of IV – beginning of III century. A . C.).
It became a typical Roman city, ant there are still traces of it, and after the fall of the Roman Empire it was invaded by the Lombards (VI-VII sec. D. C).
Though small, Fiesole is rich in monuments of great artistic value. Among the oldest there are the remains of the Etruscan walls, testifying the historical origin of the town, and the Roman theater dating to the first century BC, where in summer suggestive performances are still offered.
Remarkable is also Piazza Mino da Fiesole with the Church of St. Maria Primerana. Interesting are the Museo Bandini with a large exhibition of sculptures, paintings of Tuscan school of the XIII XIV XV century and the Archaeological Museum. Its ground floor houses Etruscan and Roman statues, stelae, bronze (from Fiesole) while the upper floor houses exhibits not coming from Fiesole and a room with cups, glasses and weapons.
Nice to visit is the Basilica of St. Alexander built on a pre-existing pagan temple converted in the Christian Church in the VI century. The Church of St. Francis dating back to the fourteenth and fifteenth century contains great works and the Ethnographic Museum exhibits missionary objects of Etruscan, Chinese and Egyptian origins.

From the train station Santa Maria Novella in Florence you can easily reach Fiesole by bus. Alternatively you can reach the station to Fiesole-Caldine, part of the municipality of Fiesole, 5 km far from Florence with which however it is not well connected.
Map of the bus stop in Certosa
Florence | Transport

Settignano | Settignano is a picturesque frazione ranged on a hillside northeast of Florence, Italy, with spectacular views that have attracted American expatriates for generations. The little borgo of Settignano carries a familiar name for having produced three sculptors of the Florentine Renaissance, Desiderio da Settignano and the Gamberini brothers, better known as Bernardo Rossellino and Antonio Rossellino. The young Michelangelo lived with a sculptor and his wife in Settignano—in a farmhouse that is now the "Villa Michelangelo"— where his father owned a marble quarry. In 1511 another sculptor was born there, Bartolomeo Ammanati. The marble quarries of Settignano produced this series of sculptors.
Roman remains are to be found in the borgo which claims connections to Septimus Severus—in whose honor a statue was erected in the oldest square in the 16th century, destroyed in 1944— though habitation here long preceded the Roman emperor. Settignano was a secure resort for estivation for members of the Guelf faction of Florence. Giovanni Boccaccio and Niccolò Tommaseo both appreciated its freshness, among the vineyards and olive groves that are the preferred setting for even the most formal Italian gardens.
Mark Twain and his wife stayed at the Villa Viviani in Settignano from September 1892 to June 1893, and greatly enjoyed their visit. Twain was very productive there, writing 1,800 pages including a first draft of Pudd'nhead Wilson. He said the villa "afford[ed] the most charming view to be found on this planet."
In 1898, Gabriele d'Annunzio purchased the trecento Villa della Capponcina on the outskirts of Settignano, in order to be nearer to his lover Eleanora Duse, at the Villa Porziuncola. Near Settignano are the Villa Gamberaia, a 14th-century villa famous for its 18th-century terraced garden, and secluded Villa I Tatti, the villa of Bernard Berenson, now a center of art history studies run by Harvard University.

Gardens in Tuscany | Villa i Tatti in Settignano

The Certosa di Firenze or Certosa del Galluzzo was built in the fourteenth century by Niccolò Acciaioli, lord of Florence who belonged to a large and wealthy family of bankers, as a center for religious life and youth education.
Construction began in 1342 and continued for several centuries thanks to the monetary support of the Florentine nobility. The palace, named after Niccolò Acciaioli, was once his residence and now contains the Pinacoteca (painting and fine art gallery).
The grandiose convent complex is a unique museum with works of art by great masters who worked in Florence between the 14th and 18th centuries. Today, the entire convent can be visited: the cloisters and their courtyards, the monk's quarters, the chapel and the rich Pinacoteca. From the mid 1900s, the Benedictine monks - who do not adhere to the rules of closure - have resided here. The Pinacoteca contains remarkable artistic and historical pieces. Among these, five lunettes that portray scenes from the Passion of Christ, opera completed by Pontormo between 1523 and 1525, originally placed in the large cloister.
The monumental complex is situated on the summit of Monte Acuto also called "Monte Santo", a cone-shaped hill, located near the village of Galuzzo, south of Florence.
the impressive monastic complex, which appears as a small fortified city with the monk's quarters, the church and bell tower and the Palazzo Acciaioli. The scheme of the complex included 13 elements plus the guest quarters and is shown on the map.

The access to the monastery was reconstructed in the 16th century and consists of a ramp offering a beautiful view: on the right you can see the natural rock outcropping, from which the hill is formed and with which the convent was built.
Through a ramp with covered steps, you enter into the Pinacoteca of Palazzo Acciaiuoli that faces the church square. On the lower floor are four salons, which extend all the way up to and under the large square.
The Pinacoteca contains frescoes originally located in the large Cloister portraying episodes of the Passion of Christ, painted by Jacopo Pontormo.

Jacopo Carucci, called the "Pontormo" was born in Pontorme di Empoli in 1494 and moved to Florence in 1508. His teachers were Mariotto Albertinelli, Piero di Cosimo and Andrea del Sarto.
Between 1523 and 1525 he did the frescoes for the Certosa of Galluzzo, while the plague epidemic was ravaging through Florence.
The salons lead you directly to the square of the church.
On the longer walls in the square, half-columns in the Doric-Tuscan style were positioned on the perimeter wall.
The church was originally built in the 14th century, but was totally renovated in the 16th century, when the facade and the choir, where 17th century paintings and the remarkable carved and inlaid wooden choir stalls) were done.
From here you can enter the fifteenth-century Chapel of Santa Maria, restored in the neo-gothic style in the 19th century.
Note the two sculptures by Andrea Della Robbia high up on the walls. Cross the corridor, also called "colloquium of the monks" where the monks could talk on pre-established days and times, and you arrive in the large cloister. During the 15th century, the cloister was fully rebuilt. Its once abundant pictorial and decorative heritage is relatively reduce, due to neglect and repeated looting and theft.
The Certosa remained the property or the Cistercian Order up until October 1810 when, by order of Napoleon, one hundred and fifty French infantry were transferred there.
After the restoration of the Grand Duke of Tuscany (1819), the monks were able to re-enter the monastery and secure the relocation of the various pieces of art to their original place. The two rectangles, inside the cloister towards the gallery of the church, are used as a religious burial ground; the one on the right for the monks, the other for the converted brothers. The cistern, or well, in the middle of the lawn, was built in 1521 by Francesco Gabbriello. The fourth side of the cloister is occupied by the base wall of the church and the structures located parallel to it: the chapel of reliquaries, the sacristy, the chapter house, and the refectory. The monks' cloister is also called cloister of the cells because 18 cells are placed on three sides.
The cell structure is visible from the outside and from their roofs that rise above the gallery and courtyard. The entrance doors to the individual cells - surmounted with lunette-shaped frescoes- are marked with a letter from the alphabet.
Next to each door is a small opening through which food was passed.
Cistercian monks spent their entire lives inside this small world, leaving only to celebrate the daily and nightly liturgies and on holidays for meals shared in the refectory.
The areas available to the monks are the ground floor, the garden with the well, the laboratory and the woodshed; on the upper floor, at the same height as the ambulatory of the cloister three rooms beyond the entrance corridor, which served for eating, studying, and resting, che servivano per mangiare, studiare. Some personal effects of the monks are also conserved in these rooms.
The small monks' cloister and the cloister of the converted are also interesting. From the cloister of the converted you return to the square in front of the church and under the loggia are the rooms intended as guest quarters.
The three rooms which are part of this visit are designated Apartment of the Pope, in remembrance of the extended stay of Pope Pius VI who was forced to remain from June 1798 to March 1799 because he was prisoner to Napoleon, and Pope Pius VII, who stayed for two days on July 8-9, 1809.
It is not so much the artistic value of the rooms but rather their historical value that elicits interest. Almost everything you see in the furnishings recalls the presence of the two Popes.
Towards the exit of the square of the church there is a magnificent view that brings the spirituality of the monastery in close contact with the beauty of the landscape..
The pharmacy and the restrooms are located outside of the residential monastic complex.