We want to show you a place known only to a few; a special all decorated church, called “Milanese Sistine Chapel”! We are talking about the Certosa di Garegnano. It is an out-of-the-way place, but the sight is worth the journey!

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Once you get here, let the silence and calm surrounding this beautiful abbey enchant you! Here, we are still inside Milan but very far from the frenzied metropolis… Once ago this area was even more isolated from the city… A remote place, do you know why? A group of monks that liked living far from the rest of the world stayed here to pray peacefully.

You may think this is a boring and outdated life choice but remember that, still nowadays, there are some monks living in isolated corners of the earth! Now, cast your eyes down and once inside the cloister, admire the stone flooring, it looks like a painting! Let the vibrant colours of the frescos envelope you!

How many paintings in this church! Saints, Angels, Carthusian monks and much more, a sequence of characters wonderfully portrayed. It is said that a very famous English writer, Lord Byron, fascinated by these frescos once exclaimed: “this painter let the dead speak”. Indeed, it is also said that one of the paintings, the first one, can hypnotize whoever looks at it! Therefore, pay attention or you can’t see the rest of the church anymore! But that is not all: a legend has it that Crespi (one of the artists who dedicated his life to these paintings) committed homicide to better represent death and, for this reason, he took shelter in the Certosa.

Now hush, we want to tell you the story of Bruno, the “founder” of the Certosa di Garegnano. Sit down comfortably in the middle of the central corridor (the nave) and lift your gaze. On your right, the first fresco explains why Bruno chose to become a monk and to retire to a lonely life: this painting depicts the awakening of a man called Raimondo, who was thought dead but to everyone’s surprise he woke up! That astonished man – right in front of you – is Bruno, who was so surprised by what happened that he decided to devote the rest of his life to prayer!

Now let’s turn a bit towards the end of the nave and let’s look at that character leaning against his hand and taking a nap… He is Grenoble Bishop, his name is Ugo… What is he dreaming about? The Bishop Ugo is dreaming about angels building a church, but if you pay close attention you will discover that the angel wearing the purple robe is nothing but Bruno, asking the Bishop approval to build the Certosa.

The next fresco shows Bruno asking the Bishop to help him and his companions to find a place to live their monastic life. There they all are, wearing their monk robes, happy because they finally found a place to stay! Bruno decision was sealed also by the Virgin Mary approval that understands and supports him.

Besides the Virgin, a Count called Ruggero praised Bruno and his friends choice and formally participated in the Certosa construction and to thank him – in one of the last lunettes – Bruno appears in Count Ruggero dreams to reveal that one of his friends was plotting against him! What a mess! Besides the stories and metaphors hidden in these frescos, we would like you to notice their colours and tones… Have you noticed there is a lot of purple and white?

Do you know the reason laying behind? Purple and white symbolize humility and purity respectively… Their use in all of these frescos prove Bruno determination in realizing his plans and Crespi mastery in representing it. Do not miss the rest… How many paintings, decorations, how much gold and light on these walls!

If it is lunchtime and you are hungry… Well, unfortunately you will not be spoilt for choice, especially because most of eateries are closed on Saturdays and Sundays for lunch. We suggest you a simple and humble pizzeria just 5 minutes far from Certosa: Museum restaurant and pizzeria. If you are willing to walk for about 10 minutes, Peacock Caffe is not too far: a delicious and cosy place where you can enjoy your brunch at a fair price.

USEFUL INFORMATION

via Garegnano 28, Milan

Opening times:
From Monday to Wednesday and from Friday to Sunday from 8am till midday and from 3pm till 5pm
Open on Thursdays from 3pm till 5pm

How to get there:
tube line M1 Uruguay
tram line 14 Certosa Cormons

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