Certosa – Italy

We left Milan on the morning of the 5th of July, in weather hot, but not breathless, with a sweet refreshing breeze; and, passing through the gate of Pavia, by a barrier of singularly beautiful architecture, proceeded towards that city, through a country rich and luxuriant beyond imagination. The fertility of the ground, watered by three fine rivers, the Ticino, the Po, and the Oloria, can hardly be exceeded by that of Egypt itself; and its vast produce may be said to owe its source to the same cause, irrigation being here regarded as an object of such importance, that the practice of it is enforced by law. The canal, along the side of which our road lay, was begun as early as the year 1400, by John Visconti, first Duke of Milan, but was completed only in 1816. It now reaches to the very gates of Pavia, forming at once a feature of great beauty in the landscape, and a source of vast riches to the country, affording the means of immediate conveyance for its produce. At the distance of five miles from Milan, leaving the direct road, we struck into an avenue, shaded by stately trees, leading to the Certosa, supposed to be at once the largest and the most magnificent of the Carthusian monasteries in Italy. This edifice was built by Galeazzo Visconti, Duke of Milan, being an ex-voto, erected in fulfilment of a vow made by his wife. In the year 1476, he laid the first stone, accompanied by a gallant train of nobles and citizens, and with no less than twenty-five architects, and an equal number of statuaries. The building, however, notwithstanding the ardour thus displayed in its commencement, was not completed till after the lapse of 200 years. The length of the church is 200 paces, the width 100, and the whole presents a rich and magnificent exterior. Above the great gate, which is ornamented by basso relievos, executed in curious marbles, stand the statues of the Angel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary, and in a higher circle, that of the Heavenly Father, with those of four of the Prophets, enriched by beautiful arabesques, solely the invention of Bernardino di Lanino, or Lupino,* a Milanese artist. The basso relievos, the busts, statues, and enrichments of the front, are all of the 15th century, and fine. On first entering this edifice, the eye rests on the high altar, which, supported by pillars, and ascended by a flight of marble steps, is placed in the great duomo of the church, screened by a splendid bronze railing, the choir, supported by marble statues, closing the view; the whole effect of which is truly magnificent. There are seventeen chapels, each having a superb brazen gate; and the walls are painted in fresco, with altar pieces, many of which are good, executed in oil. The basements and pavement are formed of curious marbles, many portions being exquisitely finished in pietra dura, and even precious stones, formed into mosaic festoons and wreaths, imitative of fruits and flowers, and finished with great beauty and elegance. Over the gate, in the interior, the Assumption, a painting by Procacci, is well executed; and on each side, eight pillars support as many colossal statues, projecting into the body of the church. This I mention, as giving some idea of the spaciousness of the building, and the richness of its ornaments. The treasures carried off during the Revolution are said to be almost beyond belief. Statues, crucifixes, chalices, &c. &c., in massive gold and silver, besides gems and precious stones of great value.

It was here, in the month of February, in the year 1525, that Francis the First was received after the disastrous battle of Pavia. He entered the church, and found the priests singing a portion of the Psalms, which de-scribed, it is said, his own lost condition. He repaired to the convent, attended by the monks, and there, soon after, yielded himself prisoner to the Connetable de Bourbon, who commanded for Charles the Fifth. The park which surrounded the Certosa, divided from it by a court, was, at that period, of vast extent, reaching nearly to the walls of Pavia, and devoted by the Visconti to the hunting of the wild boar; and there it was that this memorable battle was fought.