Milan, Lombardy, and the Lakes Sights

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Certosa (Carthusian monastery)

Certosa (Carthusian monastery) Review

The main draw in Pavia is the Certosa, 9 km (5½ mi) north of the city center. Its elaborate facade shows the same relish for ornamentation as Milan's Duomo. The Certosa's extravagant grandeur was due in part to the plan to have it house the tombs of the family of the first duke of Milan, Galeazzo Visconti III (who died during a plague, at age 49, in 1402). The best marble was used, taken undoubtedly by barge from the quarries of Carrara, roughly 240 km (150 mi) away. Though the floor plan may be Gothic—a cross shape divided into a series of squares—the gorgeous fabric that rises above it is triumphantly Renaissance. On the facade, in the lower frieze, are medallions of Roman emperors and Eastern monarchs; above them are low reliefs of scenes from the life of Christ and from the career of Galeazzo Visconti III.

The first duke was the only Visconti to be interred here, and not until some 75 years after his death, in a tomb designed by Gian Cristoforo Romano. Look for it in the right transept. In the left transept is a more appealing tomb—that of a rather stern middle-aged man and a beautiful young woman. The man is Ludovico il Moro Sforza, seventh duke of Milan, who commissioned Leonardo to paint The Last Supper. The woman is Ludovico's wife, Beatrice d'Este (1475–97), one of the most celebrated women of her day, the embodiment of brains, culture, birth, and beauty. Married when he was 40 and she was 16, they had enjoyed six years together when she died while delivering a stillborn child. Ludovico commissioned the sculptor Cristoforo Solari to design a joint tomb for the high altar of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. Originally much larger, the tomb for some years occupied the honored place as planned. Then, for reasons that are still mysterious, the Dominican monks sold the tomb to their Carthusian brothers in Pavia and part of it and its remains were lost.

    Contact Information

  • Address: Certosa, Località Monumento 4, 9 km (5½ mi) north of Pavia, Pavia, 27012 | Map It
  • Phone: 0382/925613
  • Cost: Donations accepted
  • Hours: May–Aug., Tues.–Sun. 9–11:30 and 2:30–6; Apr. and Sept., Tues.–Sun. 9–11:30 and 2:30–5:30; Mar. and Oct., Tues.–Sun. 9–11:30 and 2:30–5; Nov.–Feb., Tues.–Sun. 9–11 and 2:30–4:30
  • Website:
  • Location: Pavia
Updated: 04-24-2014

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