The Charterhouse of Florence: the unknown monastery

a full view of the altar of the monastic church of the charterhouse of florence with its beautiful colorful frescoes

The Charterhouse of Florence: the unknown monastery

Florence is a city teeming with splendid works in every corner. Very often, however, so many unique masterpieces that deserve a visit are overlooked and ignored by international tourist itineraries. Examples (which I have mentioned) include. the Stibbert Museum with its vast collection of arms and armor; the Tabernacle of the Fonticine with Delle Robbia's glazed terracotta; the Church of the Seven Holy Founders with its stained glass windows. Another important example I will tell you about today is the Charterhouse of Florence. Located in the hills of Galluzzo this building is a safe place to find peace and a total connection with oneself. Something that both the painter Pontormo and the banker and politician Niccolò Acciaiuoli wanted to find. It is thanks to the latter's donations and grants that we can admire this wonderful complex. Before we talk about some of the halls of the Florence Charterhouse, let's see together the information that might be useful for your visit and its history.

PS: If you decide to visit the Carthusian Monastery in the evening then I highly recommend that you go to eat at La Certosa Restaurant in Florence, adjacent to the monastery. Besides the wonderful ambiance its dishes will be a treat for your palate. I leave you HERE the link with the restaurant's menu.


the large and beautiful facade of the monumental church of the charterhouse of florence with its niches and large wooden front door
the facade of the monumental church of the Certosa in Florence

Useful information about the Florence Charterhouse

How to visit it

The interior of the Florence Charterhouse can only be visited with an escort. The guided tour lasts about 1 hour and is Tuesday through Saturday at 10:00 am, 11:00 am, 3:00 pm, 4:00 pm; Sundays at 3:00 pm and 4:00 pm. For individuals, couples or small families, reservations are not necessary but just show up a few minutes before the tour time. For groups of more than 6 people you must make reservations; however, I will leave you HERE the link of the website with contact information. The ticket costs 5.00€ and you can buy it directly in the little store at the entrance. In here you can also buy various products such as liqueurs, jams and marmalades, syrups, chocolate, oil, etc., almost all km0. The purchases (I can guarantee you of excellent quality and natural) will help support the Charterhouse. If you would like to attend Holy Mass, this is celebrated on Sundays and solemnities at 11:00 am. For other events I leave you HERE the link to the various events being updated.

How to get there

La Certosa is about 1 km away from the A1 highway exit. To get there, just exit at the Firenze Impruneta toll booth and follow Via Cassia and then Via Senese towards Florence. By public transportation, on the other hand, you have to get off at Firenze Santa Maria Novella Station and take bus number 37 in the direction of Tavarnuzze. The stop where you will have to get off is Senese Certosa a few steps from the complex.

the entrance leading to the friars' area inside the monumental church of the charterhouse of florence. At the top of the door a very large wooden crucifix
the entrance from the area of the conversi brothers to the area of the Carthusian friars

The history of the Florence Charterhouse

The monastic complex of the Florence Charterhouse was commissioned by Niccolò Acciauoli, an important figure in the 1300s and a member of a wealthy Florentine banking family. Niccolò in his first will wanted to found a Carthusian monastery in his hometown since there was only one near Siena in Tuscany. In addition to the motive of "affection" for Florence there was also a political one because building a charterhouse meant gaining prestige in the Papal Court and the Angevin Court. The building site was chosen because of its unique location and because the elevated position guaranteed spiritual and defensive isolation. Niccolo's assiduous funding gave the monks the opportunity to carry out a unified and complete project. The Carthusian monastery was completed and embellished until the 18th century, giving the building a Renaissance structure of great importance. Towards the end of the 1950s the Cistercians took over from the Carthusians and made the monastery accessible to outside visits as well.

the carthusian monastery of florence as seen from the road. it lies on the slopes of a hill full of olive groves and stands out on the right the crenellation of the palace and in the center the bell tower of the church
the view of the charterhouse of florence from the street

The main halls of the Florence Charterhouse

Acciaiuoli Palace

It is the first structure that will come to your attention as you arrive from the street. Known as the "Palace of Studies," it was built at the behest of Niccolò Acciaiuoli to retire and spend a peaceful old age away from political intrigue. The palace is the only part of the Carthusian monastery that has retained its original fortress-like appearance. It is divided into two floors with on the ground floor four halls used as exhibition venues while on the upper floor is the picture gallery with the Carthusian monastery's artistic heritage.

The picture gallery

It is accessed via the 16th-century external staircase that leads to the entrance of the monastery and consists of two halls. The first is dominated by frescoes painted by Pontormo that tell the cycle of the Passion of Christ plus also other works by Florentine masters and the large wooden crucifix. The adjacent hall houses paintings from the 17th century among which "the glorification of St. Bruno" (founder of the Carthusian order) stands out.

the first room of the picture gallery where inside you can see large works of art created by pontormo hanging on the wall. in the background a wooden crucifix
the first room of the art gallery with works by pontormo

The monastic church

The church is divided into two distinct parts, one for the cloistered monks (the oldest part of the building) and one for the lay brothers who assisted them. The latter part has a square plan divided by four pillars that support a hemispherical dome in the center. In this small area there is a fine wooden choir from the late 1500s, two Florentine stoups and two canvases.

Through a wonderful portal in pietra serena one enters the oldest area. Immediately jumps out at the extraordinary inlaid marble altar with statue niches inside and surrounded by columns with other statues representing the apostles above. In the background is a wonderful fresco by Poccetti representing the funeral and ascension to heaven of St. Bruno, and on the cross vault other frescoes representing saints and distinguished members of the Carthusian order. On the opposite side a wooden choir with fine decorative carvings.

the beautiful colorful frescoes painted on the vault of the monastic church of the charterhouse of florence
the beautiful frescoes on the vault of the monastic church

The interview

Through the chancel door of the church you will enter a rectangular room known as the Colloquium of the monks. Here, in fact, the Carthusians used to gather for short prayers and weekly recreation. This small enclosed corridor is decorated with a terracotta by Andrea Della Robbia depicting "Christ Carrying the Cross" and eight 16th-century grisaille stained glass windows.

The interview room with stained glass windows on the right

The great cloister

No trace remains of the 14th-century cloister composed of twelve cells. The one that is visible now is the result of works that lasted for more than twenty years desired by Don Leonardo Buonafè. The plan of the cloister was enlarged: the northern and southern sides were moved outward so as to make a vast square cloister. On three sides are the 18 cells of the monks while the fourth side is occupied by the back wall of the church and the rooms parallel to it. The spandrels of the cloister arches are all decorated, and between them, above each column, are 66 glazed terracotta busts by Giovanni Della Robbia. The figures on the southern side represent Old Testament figures; on the western side Apostles and Evangelists; on the northern side Saints and Martyrs; and on the eastern side Saints and Doctors of the Church. In the center of the cloister is the cistern or well and two rectangles used as a cemetery for the religious.

the great cloister of the charterhouse

The monks' cells

They are conceived as small independent units where the monk spent his entire cita going out only for communal meals and liturgical celebrations. The rooms at their disposal in the cells are: on the ground floor the garden with the cistern, the workshop and the woodshed; on the upper floor three rooms with a dining room with a fireplace, a bedroom with a service room and a large study. The interior decoration was very simple but at the same time functional for the monk's life. Next to the front door each cell had a door that was used to introduce food.

the dining room with the fireplace in the monk's cell


Gabriele Orbetti
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