The Certosa di Padula, otherwise known as the Certosa di San Lorenzo, is a large Carthusian charterhouse located in the heart of the province of Salerno. In 1998 it was recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
This huge monastery, still used today by the Carthusian Order, is steeped in rich history. It was founded in 1306 by Tommaso di San Severino, the Count of Marsico. However, subject to numerous periods of extension and reconstruction throughout the centuries, little indication of this charterhouse’s fourteenth century origins remain. Among the few of the medieval elements that you will be able to identify are the cross vaults and main entrance of the church, which date back to 1374 . The complex’s 350 or so rooms instead indicate the monastery’s distinct Baroque influences. Particularly impressive are the eighteenth century affreschi, which veil the thirteenth century base structure of the church. Then in 1806, when Napoleon Bonaparte’s seized Naples and brought it under French rule, the Carthusian monks fled the charterhouse. The building was left in a state of abandon for decades, with many of its ornaments and artwork removed. In 1982 the monastery fortunately benefitted from a huge restoration project, restoring it to its former glory.
The Certosa has also been made famous for the nature of its architecture. It houses the largest cloister in the world, covering over 12,000 metres squared and lined by 84 columns. Also noteworthy is the grand white marble spiral staircase leading up to a grand library. This library functions as one of the charterhouse’s key spaces for contemplation. This is of key importance according to Carthusian rule, which stipulates the need for balance between both work and contemplation.
At just over an hour’s drive from both Salerno and Potenza, a visit to the Certosa di Padula proves a rewarding pilgrimage for history and architecture lovers alike.