Certosa di Pontignano

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The Certosa di Pontignano (Pontignano Charterhouse), also known as the Certosa di San Pietro, is a Carthusian monastery and church in the neighborhood of Pontignano, within the town limits of Castelnuovo Berardenga, a few kilometers north of the city of Siena, in the region of Tuscany, Italy. The monastic complex, after the expulsion of the monks in 1810, passed through various hands, until it was acquired in 1959 by the University of Siena, and used for academic meetings, conventions, and also hotel and restaurant for events such as weddings and celebrations.[1]

Panorama of the Certosa di San Pietro a Pontignano


The monastery was originally commissioned in 1343 by Bindo di Falcone Petroni, nephew of the Cardinal Riccardo Petroni.[2] One of the more prominent monks of the Certosa was the blessed Stefano Maconi (1347-1424). As a young many, he had served as translator and secretary for Catherine of Siena. During 1398-1410, he was recruited by Sforza to be the prior general of the Certosa of Milan. He would return to Pontignano for a decade, but would move back to Pavia before dying. It is said that he arranged for the church to have as a relic, the ring Catherine claimed to have received from a mystical marriage. It is unclear from what material the ring was made, and whether the relic included the entire finger.[3]

In 1538, the Pope Paul III en route to Nice, stayed at the abbey. Like many structures found outside the protective ring of city walls, in 1554, this complex was captured by German and British mercenaries fighting for Florence, and mostly destroyed by a sack and fire. It was rebuilt and redecorated in the following decades, and reconsecrated in 1607 by the then archbishop of Siena, Camillo Borghese.[4] In 1635, it was affiliated to the Certosa di Belriguardo by order of Pope Urban VIII.[5]

In 1784, the Grand Duke Leopold stayed at the abbey.[6] The convent continued to function with a dozen cloistered monks until the complex and lands was expropriated in 1810, with the church granted to the parish, but the lands and remaining property sold for profit.

The Certosa is now used as conference location, weddings or for stays.

Architecture and artwork[edit]

The convent has a layout characteristic of a Carthusian monastery, with a large square courtyard surrounded by small cells, each with small plots attached that were once occupied by the cloistered monks. A second courtyard was occupied by the lay apprentices and converts into the order. A highly decorated church and some meeting areas, including a refectory completed the structure.[7][8]

The church is remarkable for the frescoes (1579) covering walls and ceiling. The frescoes depict events in the Life of Christ, his mother, and History of the Carthusian order. For example, near the entry are depictions of St Bruno receives the rules from St Peter and a Glory of St Bruno by father Stefano Cassiani, a pupil of Bernardino Poccetti. Along the nave walls are frescoes depicting the Life of St Peter and Life of St Bruno interspersed with Saints, Evangelists, and the Fathers of the Church. On the ceiling, are stories of the New Testament, including life of the Virgin, Passion of Christ, and Life of St John the Baptist, attributed to a set of Mannerist artists from Tuscany, including Casolani, Vincenzo Rustici, Orazio Porta (St Peter heals the sick), and even Poccetti himself (Decapitation of St John the Baptist and Saints Cosmo, Damian, Stephen, Lawrence, John the Baptist, and John the Evangelist). Poccetti also painted a main altarpiece for the church.

Other sources add Giovanni Battista Brugieri as painting Ananias fresco. The engraved wooden choir in the presbytery was completed in 1590 by Domenico Atticciati. An inventory from 1840 recalls a painted crucifix in a chapel was painted by Francesco Vanni, the stuccowork was by Cicori, frescoes by Giuseppe Nasini, and a main altarpieces depicting Carthusian saints: St Bruno, the Guardian Angel and St Romuald by a Falzaresi of Forli. In the minor cloister is a Christ and the Samaritan, a painting appropriate to those being converted to the faith, by Brugieri. A small chapel had a Mystical Marriage of Catherine by Poccetti and a Dead Christ by Cassiani. The refectory in the main cloister still contains a Last Supper by Domenico Monti. A small chapel was frescoed by Apollonio Nasini. The cloister had a Death of San Bruno by Poccetti.[9] Coordinates: 45°22′09.24″N 11°21′35.32″E / 45.3692333°N 11.3598111°E / 45.3692333; 11.3598111


  1. ^ Tourism in Tuscany, official site, entry on Certosa/
  2. ^ Cenni storico-artistici di Siena e suoi suburbii, by Ettore Romagnoli, (1840) page 73.
  3. ^ Diario sanese opera di Girolamo Gigli, Volume 1, by Girolamo Gigli, page 157.
  4. ^ Le chiese d'Italia dalla loro origine sino ai nostri giorni opera, Volume 18, (1864), by Giuseppe Cappelletti, page 415-416.
  5. ^ Girolamo Gigli, page 49.
  6. ^ Cenni storico-artistici di Siena e suoi suburbii, by Ettore Romagnoli, (1840) page 73-74.
  7. ^ Luoghi della Fede Regione Toscana, entry on church
  8. ^ Tourism in Tuscany entry on Certosa/
  9. ^ Cenni storico-artistici di Siena e suoi suburbii, by Ettore Romagnoli, (1840) page 73-74.

External links[edit]