The Padula Charterhouse (Certosa di Padula or Certosa di San Lorenzo) is one of Italy’s oldest Carthusian monasteries, and also its largest. It is located in southerneastern Campania, in the Cilento National Park. The monastery’s cloister is the largest in the world, covering three acres (12,000 square meters).
Founded in 1306, the charterhouse is dedicated to Saint Lawrence, who died as a martyr during the persecution of Christians by Roman Emperor Valerian in 258. Many famous figures came to visit the monastery on pilgrimages over its long history. That impressive list included Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, who stopped at the charterhouse with his army while returning from his conquest of Tunis in 1535. According to some accounts, a giant omelette made from over 1,000 eggs was prepared during his visit.
After many structural additions, the monastery was closed in 1807, when the Carthusian order was abolished. Many works of art were taken away from the Certosa that was destined to become a barrack. Instead, it was abandoned and occasionally used as a military post, and later as an internment camp during both World Wars. Since 1957 part of the former monastery hosts the archaeological museum of Western Lucania, which preserves a vast collection of various objects found in the nearby necropolis of Padula and Sala Consilina, representing a period ranging from prehistory to the Hellenistic Age.
The charterhouse is divided into two main spaces: one dedicated to work and one to contemplation, according to the Carthusian tradition. Part of the contemplation half of the monastery, a marble spiral staircase leads to the library, with a Vietri ceramic tiled floor. Cloisters and chapels are decorated with fine baroque marble and ceramic works. In the half dedicated to work there are a large kitchen, laundries, cellars, and vast yards.
Know Before You Go
The charterhouse is closed on Tuesday. Every other day it is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.