February 25, 2001
There are 2 chapels within the compound. The larger one contains 15th and 16th century paintings that are so beautiful and rich in color that they look like the paint is still wet! My favorite is on the left wall showing a very,very, young Mary ( maybe 14 years old?) with the most chubby happy Jesus I have ever seen on her bended knee. The thing that will take your breath away is the total innocent presentation of Mary....who looks as naive and fresh as the new driven snow. There are many presentations of Mary through out the renaissance...some also showing a very young Mary, but She often has a great sadness in her eyes...as if she has the knowledge of what is to come. This painting carries none of that weight.
For those of you who have never been in a cloister or monastery before, the simplicity holds a beauty of its own.
The courtyards that are closed to the world hold geometric wonders in plants material. The day we visited the caretaker had trimmed the huge lavender plants that grow here. It was delightful to wander and smell the fresh lavender that followed me on the breeze! My next favorite scene was in the bird aviary that housed sweetly singing canaries while a black cat sat licking his chops below them! I wondered...what would St. Francis have said to that cat??
I have seen prison cells that look better than the monks cells! Each room was closet sized with a wooden bed,a homemade desk and chair with the occasional prayer bench. A few of the monks were very artistic, so their rooms contain frescos showing scenes from the bible in beautiful expressive detail.
There is a museum of collected art work by the missionaries. Most of the porcelains are from China and there is a small room of Egyptian artifacts including a mummy. Another room contains Roman and Etruscan finds from the area...mainly pottery.
There isn't an entry fee to visit here, but please be generous with a donation to help them keep this fine place in good repair for others to enjoy for a long time to come.
They are open 9-12 and 3-6...usually.
From journal Dove Porta Questa Strada ( where does this Rd. lead?