Padula Charterhouse , near Salerno, is a place far from the usual mass tourist itineraries of Campania and all of Italy. After all, in a country so rich in works of art, important museum sites and enchanting natural landscapes, why one would visit a so geographically remote monastery?
Yet Padula Charterhouse (or St. Lawrence Charterhouse), despite its troubled past full of wounds, still visible today, is a place that impresses the visitor for its grandeur, its history, its art and also because is almost unknown to the general public. It is a bit strange, in fact, to reach the entrance of the monastery without finding car queues and the usual hordes of tourists, as happens for example in the nearby and most famous Pompeii, Sorrento or Positano.
A bit of history
The history of the Charterhouse begins in the first years of the 14th century when Tommaso Sanseverino, count of Marsico, decided to build it on an original nucleus of an ancient agricultural structure. The motivations are religious and devotional, as well as prestige and personal convenience.
Over the centuries the Charterhouse has had alternate fortunes, having been, depending on the periods, prison, lazaretto, barracks, school, prison camp during the first and second world wars; this also following the suppression of the Carthusian order during the 19th century which led to the abandonment of the structure with consequent thefts of works of art and continuous depredations. Only with the restoration completed in 1982 the Charterhouse was returned to the whole world, which became UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998.
Padula Charterhouse is characterized by its large size and is second in the world in size after Parma Charterhouse.
After passing the monumental entrance (photo 1), you come to the External Courtyard (photo 2), decorated with pinnacles and statues of saints, delimited on the sides by rooms once used for the productive functions of the monastery (laundry, oil mill, ovens, barns, etc. ).
The portico leads to the Church of St. Lawrence (photo 3) which has gilded stuccos. It is divided into two parts with spaces destined for converse monks (i.e. those in charge of economic affairs) and cloistered fathers.
In the Church it is possible to admire the wonderful Wooden Choir (photo 4), by Giovanni Gallo, with inlays that represent figures of saints, bishops and martyrs, an authentic jewel of art, probably the most significant work of the whole structure which alone worth the whole visit.
In the Chapel of Treasury (photo 5), decorated with stuccos and frescoes, the monumental walnut cabinets are preserved, inlaid with olive wood, which preserved the most precious sacred furnishings.
The Kitchen (photo 6) was built during the 18th century. It has a rectangular shape and has barrel vaults, it has a fresco on the bottom of the wall depicting the Deposition of Christ. The furniture is sparse and is based on stone tables and a huge hood above the antique kettle placed on the fires used daily.
The Cloister of the Procurators (photo 7), from the 18th century, leads to the large Cloister and is composed of a porch on the ground floor and a windowed corridor, unfortunately not open to visitors. In the center there is a stone fountain. The procurators were the administrators of the Certosa patrimony, in charge of the functioning of the Convent.
The Cell of the Prior (photo 8), the guide of the community, was actually a large cell, with several rooms including a private chapel.
The Large Cloister (photo 9) is one of the most important elements of the Charterhouse from an architectural and artistic point of view and it presents itself in all its grandeur (measuring 150 meters in length!) with two orders of arcades. On the upper floor, which cannot be visited, the fathers of the Charterhouse conducted their walks while on the lower floor there are the rooms – not visitable – in which the cloistered monks lived. The large cloister, with its 12,000 square meters, is the biggest cloister in the world.
Finally, on the opposite side of the main entrance to the cloister is the monumental Helicoidal Staircase (photo 10), a true architectural masterpiece.
You can find useful information for visiting on this website (only in italian).
It is possible to combine the visit of the Charterhouse with the visit of the House of Joe Petrosino, in the city center of Padula (about 2 km), an Italian policeman who was born at Padula and became famous in the United States at the turn of the late 1800s and early 1900s.