Six centuries of history, from monastery to municipal cemetery

The Ferrara Charterhouse has accompanied the most salient stages of Ferrara’s evolution, a city initially cradle of the Renaissance, then northern offshoot of the Church State during the legatizia age, and later Napoleonic centre and rearguard in the liberation process. Stages that have left their marks on this monument’s transformations over time.

  • 1438 The Order of Carthusians’ reception in the city was proposed during the Council of Basel, which was transferred to Ferrara that year
  • 1452 Borso d’Este, the future first Duke of Ferrara, arranged and financed the construction of the monastery and the complex to be used by the Carthusian monks, who would settle there in 1461. Borso’s remains are still preserved in the exedra near the entrance to the First Great Cloister.
  • 1498 Ercole I d’Este arranged for the complex to be incorporated within the Herculean Addition and entrusted the monumentalisation of the Church of San Cristoforo to the great court architect Biagio Rossetti
  • 1799 At the behest of Napoleon, the Charterhouse was repurposed as barracks for the cavalry and the monastery was secularised
  • 1813 The Carthusian complex, now owned by the Municipality, was transformed into a monumental cemetery based on the design by Ferdinando Canonici, with the contribution of Antonio Foschini, Giuseppe Campana, Leopoldo Cicognara, Giovanni Pividor, Niccolò Matas and Antonio Diedo
  • 1962 The Second Great Cloister, the last of a series of expansions made between the nineteenth century and the fascist era, was completed.

It will be for the serene sweetness of the place, and also, it is understood, for its almost Perfect and perpetual solitude, that Piazza della Certosa has always been a destination for conferences of lovers  [Giorgio Bassani].  Lovers of eternal beauty.

The ancient Certosa

The architectural complex of the Certosa is located at the northeastern end of Ferrara within the circle of the ancient walls. Originally located in a A vegetable area isolated from the town, was incorporated into the city at the end of 1400 with the Herculean addition. the early church and the monastery were built between the 1452 and 1461 to host, on Desire of Duke Borso d’este, the order of P.P. Certosini, ivi settled from 1461 for over three centuries. The local historiography proposes little indications about the authorship of the work. The complex included the church oriented towards the West, flanked on the right by the Abbey Garden Portico, access to the monastery, on the left from the guesthouse with internal cloister and some factories used for services ( Granai, Distillery). Behind it stood the grand Claustro surrounded by the monks ‘ cells.

The ancient church used as a cell vinaria by the monks, then, stables in the Napoleonic age, was demolished with most of the factories adjacent in the Second decade of the nineteenth century, in the cemetery renovation. Only the grand Claustro and partially the ancient cell of the prior (Camerone Bonaccioli) are still extant. The conventual structure, described here, was added a little further north, starting from 1501, the building of the new church.

The 800: Transformation into a cemetery complex

At the end of ‘ 700 the suppression of religious orders and the confiscation of ecclesiastical property by Napoleon definitively dismissed the Carthusian fathers from Ferrara and the ancient convent, for the requirements of isolation and vastness was destined to become the seat of Public Cemetery. It was officially opened on 3 January 1813. This period belongs to the planning phase of the transformation of the ancient Certosa into a cemetery complex

the project chosen by M.se Fernando Canonici and made operational since 1819, was partly modified by the architect himself in 1830, without altering the general configuration of the plan already adopted. On thesouth side of the church was preserved the ancient Claustro that was taken as a model for the architectural and ornamental typologies of the new structures (cloister of three sides on which a large curved portico is grafted). For the northern part of the church the design proposed the creation of a complex of buildings equal and symmetrical to the previous one. Symmetry of the volumes and decorative homogeneity are, in fact, the constants found in this project.

From the twentieth century to today

The access to the cemetery, located to the south of the church, places in a cloister of three sides bordering the area obtained by the demolition of the primitive church. To this nineteenth-century structure (Arch. Canonici) is contiguous to the ancient grand Claustro. The 24 arches on the larger sides and 16 on the minors (originally 20) Enter into a porch covered by vaulted vaults. Terracotta frames adorn The arches all along the inner perimeter. The columns are crowned by a composite capital. In the middle of the side overlooking the entrance of the Claustro, the Famedio, designed by the canons (only variant at the first structure) welcomes the tomb of the Duke Borso: a sarcophagus partially encased in the wall, adorned with festoons, birds and cornucopies tossed in the marble, Surmounted by a plaque and a medallion with the portrait of the Duke.

The implementation faithful to the essential lines traced by the canons has continued for over a century: In 1914 the anniversary of the centenary of the cemetery ended the work of the first area south of the temple, while during the bombing of 1944 were destroyed the Steeple, the cover of the apse and the southern gable of the transept. The reconstruction interventions and restorations were almost uninterrupted since the first post-war period to date, while the so-called “enlargement” started in the late ‘ 60. The whole area has also been delimited, starting from the main access roads, through the restoration of the old Gates (a part of which, it is said, stolen by Napoleon, are beautiful exhibition at the entrance of the Louvre in Paris).