The Carthusian Order was founded in the Chartreuse Mountains in the French Alps. ‘Charterhouse’ is the English name for a Carthusian monastery and ‘Certosa’ is the Italian name. Their motto is ‘ Stat crux dum volvitur orbis’ (‘The Cross is steady while the world is turning.’) A Charthouse was ‘a community of hermits’. Each member had his own cell and his own garden, in which to lead a simple life of work, prayer and gardening. But, like other monastic orders, there was a tendency for the order to turn, as the world changed, towards luxury. Simple cloister garths became richly ornamented gardens, as at the Certose di Pavia.
One could argue that the creation of beauty is a way of praising the Lord. But this does not accord with the founding principles of monasticism and one cannot imagine that St Anthony, St Benedict or St Bruno would have approved. Yet the world does change. So would anyone support a modern equivalent of a renaissance parterre at Salisbury Cathedral or Canterbury Cathedral or Westminster Abbey? A contemporary interpretation of an Italian cloister garden is planned next to St Andrew’s Cathedral in Glasgow.
(Image courtesy Kenya Allmond)