Thursday, January 29, 2009

Our 2nd Day Trip: Pavia & Vigevano

On Tuesdays we have a daytrip class, where we visit nearby cities and towns led by Professor Giuditta Poletti.  Giuditta has an endless amount of energy, an endless supply of architectural knowledge, and an endless supply of cigarettes in her purse.  On every trip she keeps us on an aggressive schedule packed with live action architectural history.

Professor Giuditta Poletti.

Pavia and Vigevano 

For this trip, we traveled in class by chartered bus, which took us first to the Certosa di Pavia:

Construction of the Certosa began in 1396 by Duke Gian Galeazzo Visconti as a family mausoleum.  During the course of its over 100 year construction, multiple influential families funded the project, and in return received rights to deposit deceased family members within the church.  Most of them are still there.

The Certosa is primarily a monastery that has housed multiple orders through the years , and is now home to a community of Cistercian monks (also known as Trappist monks in the U.S).  Unlike many of the other churches we have visited here in Italy, the Certosa is very much still in use, rather than a tourist destination.  The feeling is almost immediate upon entering.  The walls are not uplit to highlight decoration as in other Italian churches, rather, the space is dark, silent, and cold.  On the day we visited, there was still snow on the ground—the cold outside was the same as the cold inside, so that the church was very much an extension of that which is natural.  The dim and the quiet clears the senses and the mind, clearing way for something larger perhaps.

Base of vault/column capital in church.

We were given a tour of the grounds by one of the resident monks. He did not give us his name that I can recall, and now I regret not asking. His English was astoundingly good (later he revealed a connection to a monastery in New Jersey), and he imparted a wealth of information for every detail of the church and monastery.  Most striking to me though was the lightness of his personality. On the one hand, there was a certain gravity in the carefulness of his step, the pace of his speech, and the softness of his voice. In the cold, he wore perhaps half the amount of clothing that we the visitors wore. Yet despite the seeming severity of his person, he had a remarkable sense of humor, and lightness of being. It was as if he saw the world as both serious and hilarious at the same time, in a way that made him seem more comfortable with the world than most people.

Resident monk and tour guide.

The monastery itself mirrored the quiet and lightness of the monk.  The cloister especially, was characterized by an overwhelming silent peace, accentuated even more so by the cold and the remaining snow.

View to smaller cloister.

A wall.

Other Images

Bridge in Pavia.

Basilica of San Michele, Pavia with double facade. 

The facade of the Cathedral of St. Ambrose in Vigevano was meant to complete the edge of Piazza Ducale.  See the much small church building behind the facade.

In Other News
Also, one of our number caught a nasty stomach flu the day of the trip, which involved multiple emergency stops by the bus during our ride.  The virus continued to plague us,  with one of us catching it anew every two days for the next week or so, and following us all the way to Florence.  Stuff happens.

No comments:

Post a Comment