The Isle of Capri Monastery
The Certosa di San Giacomo tells a story of privileges and wealth, of pirate raids and confiscations, of abandonment and finally of rebirth as one of the major symbols of the island of Capri.
History of the monastic complex
Built in late Roman style, between 1371 and 1373, at the behest of Count Giacomo Arcucci on land donated to him by Queen Giovanna I d'Angiò, the Certosa di San Giacomo was the seat of the Carthusian monastic order.
The Certosa di San Giacomo's fortune ended in October 1808, when the Franco-Neapolitan troops of King Joachim Murat, secretly landed in Anacapri, then swept through Capri, routing the British garrison that occupied it. Upon conquering the island, the French confiscated the monks' assets and suppressed their privileges: it was the end of an era of prosperity and power that lasted more than 400 years.
In 1815 the building was used as a barracks, then it became a hospice and finally, between 1860 and 1898, it was the seat of the 5th Discipline Company, made up of anarchists and soldiers accused of misconduct. The initial renovation process of the original fourteenth-century structures took place in 1927.
In 1936 the monastery was then assigned to the Regular Lateran Canons, who set up a gymnasium and a library. However, during the Second World War, the Certosa yet again went through a period of abandonment and decay. In 1975 a wing of the monastery became the site of a museum entirely dedicated to the work of the German painter Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach, who lived on the island between 1900 and 1913.
After a series of important restoration and plant adaptation works, the Certosa di San Giacomo became home to exhibitions, conferences, concerts, representations and cultural events of international prestige.
The Certosa di San Giacomo stands out for its immense size. It is divided into a Church, two Cloisters, one large and one small, a Rectory, a Quarter dedicated to the Prior's lodgings, a Refectory and a small Park.
Upon crossing the various rooms, visitors can admire marbles, Roman and Byzantine pillars and frescoes painted between the end of the seventeenth and the beginning of the eighteenth century. The twelve monks' dwellings are still intact, as is the stone well located in the Great Cloister, which rests on a huge cistern that can be visited. The cistern's bottom is 21 metres below the floor level of the cloister and the cistern probably dates back to the imperial age.
The baroque "clock tower ", with its square base, surmounted by an eccentric triangular spire is particularly interesting. The most significant nucleus of the complex's exhibition itinerary is represented by the Refectory, which since 1974 has housed a small museum dedicated to Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach, a German painter who arrived in Capri in 1900.
The collection on display includes 31 canvases, 5 plaster sculptures and 1 portrait, most of which was donated to the Italian state by the heirs of the artist, who lived on the island for thirteen years, until his death in 1913, producing over three hundred works of art.