Built in the fourteenth century, the San Lorenzo Charterhouse in Padula soon became one of the main religious sites and commercial hubs in Southern Italy, a record that it managed to maintain for almost four centuries, before undergoing an equally long period of decline, which today has ended and has yet again been reversed. The history and magnificence of this complex come to life in their utmost splendour, accompanying its visitors to the discovery of a true heritage of humanity.
The foundation of the San Lorenzo Charterhouse in Padula was established for political reasons in 1306, when the Count of Marsico, Tommaso II di Sanseverino, ordered the construction of a monastic complex on his estates to be donated to the French religious order of the Carthusians, with the specific intent of ingratiating the Royal Angionians of the Kingdom of Naples, who in fact greatly appreciated the foundation of a Charterhouse not far from Naples.
Thus originated, in a highly strategic area for the cultivation and trade of land products, the second Carthusian location in southern Italy after the Serra San Bruno Charterhouse in Calabria.
Dedicated to San Lorenzo in honour of a pre-existing Benedictine church named after him, the Charterhouse experienced its heyday between the 16th and 18th centuries, confirmed by illustrious pilgrimages such as that of Emperor Charles V, who stayed there in 1535 with his army upon returning from the battle of Tunis.
Starting from 1583, and up to the second half of the eighteenth century, the complex underwent considerable expansion and architectural changes that made it one of the symbols of Baroque culture in the Kingdom of Naples.
The centuries-old power of the San Lorenzo Charterhouse came to an end, like that of many other monastic complexes, during the Napoleonic decade of the Kingdom of Naples (1805-1815), when the religious orders were suppressed and the monks forced to leave their buildings, which were then used as barracks and for other secular purposes.
During this period, the heritage of the San Lorenzo Charterhouse was lost due to thefts, looting and transfers, and even after the unification of Italy the complex ended up facing an exceptionally long period of abandonment, despite being a national monument. Indeed, it was used as a prison camp until the end of the 1950s, when some rooms began to house the provincial archaeological museum of western Lucania.
In 1981, the Charterhouse was entrusted to the Superintendence for Architectural Heritage of Salerno, which the following year began extensive restoration work and functionalisation of the spaces, culminating in 1998 when it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
DID YOU KNOW THAT... ?
The San Lorenzo Charterhouse was chosen, thanks to its architectural magnificence, as the location of several films, including "Once upon a time" (1967) by Francesco Rosi, with Sophia Loren and Omar Sharif, set in the era of Spanish domination, and “Cavalli si nasce” (1989) by Sergio Staino, with David Riondino and Paolo Hendel, set in the Bourbon era.