The Certosa di Pavia, the El Escorial of the Dukes of Milan
Welcome to the wonderful Certosa di Pavia, built between 1396 and 1507 by will of the Duke of Milan Gian Galeazzo Visconti.
Let’s follow Spanish writer Vicente Blasco Ibáñez (1867-1928) in his description of this masterpiece, a monumental complex including a sanctuary and a convent that alternate various architectural styles, ranging from Gothic to Renaissance:
“The ‘certosa’ in Pavia was the El Escorial of the Dukes of Milan. This is where they spent their riches, attracting the best artists in Italy. On the outside, chisels did not leave one inch of marble untouched; on the inside, frescoes made every single wall more beautiful.”
“Endless bas-reliefs represent the great battles fought by the Dukes of Milan, their family celebrations and their funerals; the profile of their heads is sculpted in green marble medallions, resembling oxidized bronze; powerful stone figures covered in mail have their helmet at their feet and stand leaning on a sword, staring off into the distance with dead eyes, in the eternal feeling that the enemy is coming. All this forms the temple’s façade, which from a certain distance seems like a grand white embroidered canvas with greenish flowers.”
“Inside is the most joyful and voluptuous temple you’ve ever seen, with high cerulean vault ceilings studded with silver stars; colorful glass windows projecting a restless carpet that seems to live and pulse on the marble floor; altars covered in frescoes in bright hues all the way up to the frames; marble doors with filigree, with a number of pleasant figurines nestled between arabesques and leafage; an endless choir with two rows of monumental stalls, crowned by spires and bell towers of dark wood, as if each one was a cathedral; and on the façades of the two sacristies, the medallions of seven couples […]”
“The vault has many paintings from the 15th century where the white habits of the Carthusians stand out on the black background, and in front of the choir the sarcophagus of Galeazzo Visconti is a huge block of marble, decorated with a simulacrum of his wife and a statue of the Duke lying down, with pointy shoes peeking out from his gown, a huge sword on his chest and his pointy beard on its hilt…” (translated from V.B. Ibáñez, “Milano, seduzione e simpatia”, Alfredo Guida Editore, Naples 1993).