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The Charterhouse in Calci (PI)

A Carthusian monastery in the XIVth century

The Monumental Charterhouse of Calci is near Pisa. It is a monastic complex founded in 1367 and was enlarged during the 17th and 18th centuries. It became a state property in 1866 and today it is the home of two museums.

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The Monumental Charterhouse in Calci

A Carthusian monastery in the XIVth century

The Charterhouse of Calci near Pisa is a monastic complex founded in 1367 and expanded during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In 1634 the Florentine architect Matteo Nigetti, a pupil and collaborator of Bernardo Buontalenti, designed the large cloister around which the cells of the fathers are distributed. Between 1764 and 1797, the prior Alfonso Maggi began a phase of important expansion of the monument and embellishment works which will transform the Charterhouse into one of the most significant eighteenth-century architectural complexes in Tuscany. It became State property in 1866 and the complex was declared a national monument. Today it houses the Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of the Charterhouse.


Placed in Valgraziosa in an isolated location near the village, the Charterhouse was founded in 1367. The Archbishop of Pisa Francesco Moricotti and some noble families of Pisa helped to finance its construction. In particular the priest Nino di Puccio used the inheritance of the merchant Pietro di Mirante della Vergine in order to build the Charterhouse.

The space was enclosed with a wall and organized according to the Carthusian principles.

The monks’ cells were gradually added unit by unit and overlooked the original large cloister.

In 1374 the building of the Church was begun and later the sacristy and chapels were built next to it. Other necessary areas were later added: the refectory, the guest quarters, the chapter hall, the little chapter cloister, the lay brothers dormitory, the kitchen, the workshops and the rural annexes.

Between the end of the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth century the architect Piero di Giovanni da Como, who had already directed the construction of the Church, built the marble façade. Today few signs of this phase are visible in the ogival ribbed vaults and in the ogival lateral windows.

Between 1455 and 1456 the masters Giovanni and Andrea da Como built the stairs which bring to the Church. In the following years the same masters worked on the bell tower, the vaults, the choir, the fountain, the street.

The work on the Charterhouse continued until the end of the fifteenth century. Other cells were built, vegetable gardens and gardens were created, enclosures and canals were tracked. Between 1470 and 1475 Lorenzo and Bartolomeo di Salvatore, masters of stone mason, built the chapter cloister and the prior lodge.

In the sixteenth century the structural work was completed. At the end of this century an important decoration campaign was carried out in the main rooms. The painter Bernardino Poccetti was charged to paint the refectory, the Church and some pictures for the altars. Most of his works were destroyed during the eighteenth century renovation of the Charterhouse.

Between 1601 and 1613 the Prior Teofilo Caucchi da Ferrara began a restoration of the ancient buildings. In 1608 the master Orazio Bergamini da Carrara was paid for the drawing of the altars and the façade of the Church, façade which was not begun until 1709 and was completed in 1780. Bergamini also made the marble cistern of the chapter cloister.

In 1614 the Grand Duke cloister was rebuilt and transformed into a wonderful structure with two-levels and in 1633 the fourteenth large cloister was transformed into something bigger and more magnificent.

The cloister was planned by the attorney monk Feliciano Bianchi, who drew his inspiration from the principles of the treatise written by Vincenzo Scamozzi, The idea of universal architecture. The monk charged the Florentine architect Matteo Nigetti to design the cloister in detail.

The marble of both the cloister and the fountain was purchased in Carrara by Andrea Monzoni and was walled in by the stone mason Giovan Battista Cambi.

In the last quarter of seventeenth century the Church was restored and finally lost its medieval appearance. New windows were opened, the walls were repainted and new works of art were added. The Bergamini da Carrara brothers built the altar using precious polichrome marble; between 1675 and 1680 the Rolli da Bologna brothers and Rinaldo Guidi repainted the walls of the Church; in 1681 Baldassare Franceschini worked on the altar painting representing S. Bruno who offers the Charterhouse to the Madonna; the painter Stefano Cassiani, Giovanni Battista and Gerolamo Grandi completed the decoration cycle. The workshop belonging to Andrea Vaccà made both the flooring of the Church with misleading patterns and the Angel for the bookrest of the Gospel. Between 1748 and 1758 Angiolo Somazzi and Carlo Antonio Ferri decorated several chapels using with stuccoes. In 1760 the Church was finally consecrated.

In 1764 the Prior Alfonso Maria Maggi started an important phase of enlargement and decoration of the whole Charterhouse. The coordinator of this transformation was the architect Niccolaio Stassi, who designed and built the honour courtyard on the inside and the new semicircular square on the outside in 1765.

Between 1769 and 1790 he planned and built the buildings found on both sides of the Church, the Granducal guest quarters, the workshops and the gardens. He added the stables, a granary, a gallery, a washroom, olive-oil storerooms and sheds.

In 1783 new cells were added above the chapels. New altars were added and Pompeo Franchi furnished the new flooring having a perspective pattern made of black and white marble. Giuseppe Ferri made stuccoes in the pharmacy and in other rooms. A new bell tower was begun but non completed.

In 1808, during the Napoleon regime, the Charterhouse was suppressed and its precious decors were sold or scattered. In 1814 monks returned into the monastery, which was opened again in 1818 and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Assumption, S. John the Baptist and S. Gorgonius. In 1866 the Charterhouse was finally suppressed by the Italian government, but the Carthusians remained and were appointed as custodians and superintendents of the monument.

In 1869 the Charterhouse was declared a national monument and began to be managed by the Ministry of Education. Since this date the non-monumental part of the Charterhouse has been used in different ways. After some attempts to transform it into an insane asylum, it was rented for holidays to convent girls attending the Royal Boarding School of S. Anna in Pisa. Between 1915 and 1921 it became a hospital for war prisoners under the administration of the Royal Santa Chiara Hospital in Pisa. There was also an attempt to transform the Charterhouse into a hospital for tuberculosis patients. At the end of this period the Charterhouse was in need of urgent restoration.

In 1923 the State began to reflect upon the possibility of opening a museum within the Charterhouse, but the objective was not achieved until 1972, when the Carthusians finally left the complex. In 1979 the General Direction of the Ministry of Finance ceded a part of the complex to the University of Pisa; then in 1986 the University decided to move its scientific historical collections here and also opened a museum of natural history and territory on the premises.


Certosa Monumentale di Calci

via Roma, 79 - 56011 Calci (PI)

GPS coordinates: 43.721885,10.524151

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This section provides guidance on the archives that have been examined and the available archival sources gathered during the project.

  • The Monumental Charterhouse in Calci

    • Ciborio e colonne
    • Convenzione per il pavimento del Capitolo
    • Convenzione per la costruzione del chiostro grande
    • Diario del priore Alfonso Maggi
    • Disegni del Bergamini
    • Disegni della chiesa
    • Disegni per il lastrico
    • Disegno del capitello
    • Elenco degli oggetti della collezione di storia naturale conservati nella Certosa
    • Foglio M disegno quarto
    • Foglio segnato L
    • Foglio segnato P
    • Foglio segnato T
    • Fornitura di ambrogette
    • Fornitura di marmette e altri materiali
    • Fornitura di marmi
    • Fornitura di marmi mischi francesi
    • Fornitura di marmi per il pavimento
    • Fornitura di marmi per la Certosa
    • Fornitura di mattoni
    • Fornitura di urne e vasi
    • Fornitura di varie opere
    • Informazione sui materiali
    • Informazione sui materiali pregiati
    • Inventario dei dipinti conservati nella Certosa
    • Inventario dei quadri della chiesa e cappelle e degli oggetti conservati nella cella priorale
    • Inventario della Certosa di Calci
    • Invio di materiali per la Certosa
    • Lavori alla Certosa
    • Lavoro di stuccatura di Giuseppe Ferri
    • Lettera di Monzoni al priore della Certosa
    • Lettera di Simonelli al presidente della Commissione conservatrice dei monumenti d'arte di Pisa
    • Lettera di risposta del Ministero della Pubblica Istruzione alla Prefettura di Pisa
    • Licenza di fare l'altare maggiore
    • Marmo per i capitelli
    • Materiali per la Certosa
    • Memoria della costruzione del nuovo olivaio in Certosa e del nuovo assetto conferito alla facciata della casa religiosa
    • Memorie della Certosa
    • Misure del pavimento del Capitolo
    • Nota di spesa
    • Nota di spesa dei lavori nella Certosa di Calci
    • Nota di spesa per il pavimento di marmo del Capitolo
    • Nota di spese effettuate dallo scarpellino Bitozzi
    • Opere di scarpellino
    • Processo verbale di presa di possesso della Certosa
    • Richiesta di trasformare
    • Ricordo di lavori al chiostro
    • Risposta del Ministero della Pubblica Istruzione al Prefetto di Pisa
    • Rottura di una colonna nuova
    • Spese per il chiostro grande
    • Spese per la fonte e il chiostro della Certosa di Calci
    • Spese per marmi e stucchi
    • Supplica del Priore della Certosa in funzione della preservazione della casa religiosa dal provvedimento napoleonico di soppressione
    • Verbale della riunione della Commissione conservatrice in merito alla trasformazione in manicomio della Certosa
  • Chronology

    In this section you can see a brief history of the most significant phases of construction, transformation and restoration of the buildings.


    • 1367 foundation of the Charterhouse in Calci under the title of Saint Bruno
    • 1370 completion of the cloistered enclosure.
    • 1374 the church starts being built. Francesco da Volterra frescoes the walls of the building
    • 1376 the Gambacorti family finances the construction of the first chapel on the side of the sacristy
    • 1377 other chapels, the portico and walls around the vegetable gardens are built
    • 1378 the building of the refectory starts
    • 1384 guest quarters are built near the chapels
    • 1386 the construction of the Chapter’s chapel begins
    • 1392 Piero di Giovanni da Como builds the marble façade of the church
    • 1455 the masters Giovanni and Andrea build the access stairs to the church
    • 1457 work on the belfry
    • 1470-75 Lorenzo di Salvatore da Settignano, stone cutter, works on the Chapter’s cloister
    • 1488 building of new cells and organization of green areas such as vegetable gardens and gardens
    • 1597 the painter Bernardino Poccetti paints frescoes in the refectory and the church as well as creating the altar pieces for the Charterhouse
    • 1608 renewal of the church façade; Orazio Bergamini is commissioned to create new altars for the church
    • 1614 the cloister in the noble guests’ quarters is rebuilt
    • 1633-82 Florentine architect Matteo Nigetti designs the new main cloister. The hermits’ cells are elevated and rebuilt
    • 1648 a new fountain at the centre of the cloister is built
    • 1666 the polychrome main altar of the church is made by the Bergamini da Carrara masters
    • 1685 new windows are added to the church and a cycle of paintings made
    • 1703 flooring designed by Andrea Vaccà is placed
    • 1709 completion of the church façade
    • 1732 the Chapter’s altar is made
    • 1748-1758 Angiolo Maria Somazzi works on the decorations of the Magdalen chapel (now dedicated to Saint Ranieri) and the altar of Saint Bruno’s chapel
    • 1760 the church is consacrated
    • 1764-1797 the prior Alfonso Maggi starts an important phase of extension and decoration of the whole Charterhouse
    • 1765 the semicircular square outside the Charterhouse is built
    • 1769-1790 the granducal guest quarters, honour courtyard and gardens are rebuilt
    • 1771 architect Niccolaio Stassi designs a new façade for the church
    • 1776 stables, granary and gallery are built
    • 1779 the washroom, olive storerooms and sheds are built
    • 1783 new cells are built on top of the chapels
    • 1791 the sacristy is completed and the relic chapel is built
    • 1808-1814 the Calci Charterhouse is suppressed by the Napoleonic government
    • 1818 the Carterhouse in Calci is founded anew under the title of Blessed Virgin Mary of the Assumption, Saint John the Baptist and Saint Gorgonio, Martyr
    • 1866 the Charterhouse in Calci is suppressed by the Italian government. The carthusians are appointed custiodians and superintendents of the monument
    • 1869 the Chartehouse in Calci is declared a national monument. A private citizen asks for it in order to transform it into a mental asylum
    • 1871 the Chartehouse in Calci is ceded to the Ministry of Education
    • 1873 the Ministry enforces the payment of an entrance ticket to visitors, the proceeds of which are to be donated to the orphanages and the charity shelters of Pisa
    • 1885 the Royal Boarding School of Sant’Anna asks to rent some rooms to host its students 
    • 1888 the provincial government asks for the Chartehouse in order to transform it into an mental asylum
    • 1892 the provincial government asks once more for the Chartehouse in order to transform it into an mental asylum
    • 1893 the Charterhouse is used as a temporary artillery detachment
    • 1894-1895 architect Luigi Bellincioni designs the tranformation of the Chartehouse into a mental asylum, the project is rejected
    • 1896 the church is restored after a fire
    • 1915 the non-monumental section of the Charterhouse is assigned to the royal Santa Chiara hospital and is transformed into a reserve military hospital
    • 1918 a failed attempt at transforming the Chartehouse into a sanatorium for austro-hungarian prisoners is made
    • 1923 the Finance Ministry cedes the Charterhouse to the Ministry of Education to transform it into a national museum
    • 1934 engineer Giulio Fascetti and architect Oreste Zocchi design the Charterhouse belfry, but the project is only partially carried out
    • 1939 the Charterhouse is tranformed by the Ministry of Education into a refuge for artworks of the province of Pisa and Piemonte in case of war
    • 1947-1950 the main cloister is restored and war damages fixed
    • 1969 the Carthusians abandon the Charterhouse for good
    • 1979 a part of the Charterhouse is given for perpetual and free use to the University of Pisa
    • 1986 the University of Pisa inaugurates, in its own part of the Charterhouse, the Museum of Natural History and Territory

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