Places of Contemplation & Refuge
Bordering the regions of Campania and Potenza sits a monastery founded in 1306 by monks belonging to the Carthusian order, and that later was used as an internment camp during both World Wars. Just a couple minutes away you’ll find the Caves of the Angel. An underground journey made up of 2500m of tunnels and immense cavern chambers- including a boat ride on the Black River- full of stalactites and stalagmites. Early Christians once took refuge in the caves to escape from persecutions, and they were also used as refuge during WWII. Markings can still be seen on the walls today. What a fascinating way to spend a Sunday morning… coasting through the mountains, venturing back in history and back in time.
“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.”
[ https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/certosa-di-padula ]
Also found in Cilento National Park are the infamous Grotte di Pertosa-Auletta, or also officially known as the Grotte dell’Angelo (Caves of the Angel). We walked through a labyrinth of underground passages, tunnels, and huge caves. It is a place very famous with rare characteristics due to the beauty of the stalactites and stalagmites. The caves are impressively large, and it is also the only speleological site in Italy where you can navigate an underground river. Recent research dates the origin of the cave to about 34 million years ago. Numerous traces show that they were lived in up until the stone age. The Greeks and Romans assigned the cave as a seat of cult, and finally the Christians consecrated the caves to St. Michael Archangel. Recently, a pair of stalactites and stalagmites met creating what the Italians call, “il bacio,” or the kiss. It took 20,000 years for this phenomenon to happen and it’s pretty neat to witness!!
I also enjoyed learning a little about the valley itself. The Vallo di Diano, an upland situated at 450 meters above sea level, is an uncontaminated country, rich in natural beauty that holds artistic, historical and cultural heritage. The valley has always had a great historical importance. Its particular position has always made this area a crucial passage to reach the south peninsula. Innumerable are the historical figures which travelled through it and stayed there: Annibale passed through it with his army in his brilliant campaign of Italy in the 2nd century B.C., until important figures of Roman time, such as Cicerone stayed in Atena Lucana, while on the outskirts of Teggiano a battle was fought between Silla and the army of the rebel slaves of Spartaco. Carlo Piscane just in this area, together with his legendary “Three Hundred,” saw his dream of freedom dying; unlike Garibaldi, who passing through the Vallo, completed another part of his “match” for the unity of Italy.
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Our roots will forever be from here, America, born and raised. Yet, life requires us to move more frequently than we care to count. Whether living stateside or abroad, you can always find us traveling somewhere. We scout out places that you only think you can dream of one day seeing and we seek out those that aren’t found in guidebooks. We then bring them to life here in our travel memos, so hopefully, one day you too can visit them or at least be able to live vicariously through us. This blog isn’t just about crossing off places from a bucket list. It’s about absorbing and learning how other cultures grow and fit into the same world that we do. Life is short and the world is big. Enjoy and get out there!
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