Visit Certosa di Pavia
The Certosa di Pavia is a substantial monastery in Lombardy near the town of Pavia that is among the largest and most impressive monasteries in Italy. There are numerous highlights, both in the architecture and in the artworks incorporated in the Certosa.
Discovering the Certosa di Pavia
You approach the main church along a long straight path through the courtyard, with the imposing facade straight ahead.
The Certosa di Pavia was built over quite a long period, from 1396 to 1507. As you will see, because it took a century to build, the later parts are in a different architectural style to the earlier parts. The complex now contains several different highlights, in particular the facade, the two cloisters and the inside of the church.
The whole facade is wonderfully decorative with a myriad of sculptures, carvings and reliefs to be seen and lots of inlaid marble patterns.
The different architectural styles are also clearly seen in the facade of the Certosa, with most of it in the Gothic style that was common when building started, but the main entrance in a classical style with Corinthian columns and cornices more common at the end of the 15th century - the renaissance period had now arrived in Italy.
The Church interior
As we would expect in an important Gothic church there is a main nave in the church with souring vaults above it; then two side aisles and a transept above which there is a painted dome. The ceiling between the vaults and above the nave is also painted in deep sky blue with golden stars, which creates a lovely effect.
You can also see a bewildering collection of art covering the period from the 15th century to the 18th century: the monastery was closed to monks for most of the period from the beginning of the 19th century and until the 1960's so no new art works were added after that time. Numerous frescoes and paintings from the 15th century are here, by several different artists although Bergognone is the most represented. The "Crucifixion" is his best known work here.
As well as the paintings there are impressive stained glass window, also from the 15th century, and a large number of sculptures and carvings. In particular take a look at the workmanship in the carved wooden choir stalls and the main altar (added later, towards the end of the 16th century), in the apse and surrounded by wall paintings, including works by Perugino.
As well as the famous works by Perugino and Bergognone be sure to also allow time to enjoy some of the many others by artists including Bernardino Luini, Giovanni Antonio Amadeo, Cristoforo Lombardo, Giacomo Mantegazza, Cristoforo Solari (aka Gobbo - the 'Hunchback), Gian Cristoforo Romano...and many others!
There are two cloisters at the Certosa di Pavia - the smaller one is accessed from the church and then leads on to the larger cloister. Both have similarities in the arcades around their edges with thin marble columns supporting ornate terracotta sculptures.
The small cloister is much more intimate, with a carefully maintained garden and the main church as backdrop, while the Grand Cloister is an enormous (more that 12000 square metres) rectangle surrounded by the arcades and the monks rooms.
Note that the Certosa di Pavia is open all year round but is closed on Mondays. Basic opening hours are 9.30 - 11.30 and 14.30 - 17.00, although both morning and afternoon closing times are slightly earlier in winter (November to February) and slightly later in summer.
We suggest you remind yourself of the highlights of the buildings and artworks before your visit because the information available at the time of your visit is not very informative, and if you are visiting with children you should be aware that the current Cistercian monks are keen to maintain silence when possible!
There is also a museum on site that exhibits further artefacts and artworks from the Certosa and features occasional temporary art exhibitions.
Map of Certosa di Pavia and places to visit
Certosa di Pavia places to visit
See more places nearby in the Lombardy guide