The Charterhouse of Pisa, located in Calci, is a wide historical complex raised in the Monte Pisano hillside, just a few kilometres from the town. Founded in 1366 by a group of Carthusian monks, the building has been enlarged between the XVII and the XVIII century and now appears as a marvellous baroque monument set into an evocative landscape. Originally called “dark”, the Calci valley was later named Val Graziosa (meaning “full of grace valley”) because of the monastic building. In 1972 the Charterhouse, when the few remaining monks left, became a National Museum, while in 1979 the western side of the building was granted for permanent and free use to the University of Pisa, which established there the Natural History Museum, since then increased, enriched and improved.
Nowadays the Charterhouse houses two different Museums: the National Museum of the Monumental Charterhouse of Calci and the Natural History Museum of the University of Pisa. The two museums are born in different times, belong to different public institutions, are located in different parts of the building and present two different thematic and didactic aims. However, their happenings and their collections, seemingly so different at first glance, are strictly intertwined because of the fascinating history of the building.
The visit to the National Museum is an evocative trip through the world of the Carthusian monk, discovering the lonely life they used to lead, built up on strictness, meditation and contemplation, in a place which still astonish for the splendour, the magnificence and the majesty of its decorations. Starting from the Honour Court, proceeding with the church covered with eye-catching frescoes, the several chapels for the celebration of the individual Mass, the monumental big cloister, the austere cell, the cluster and the chapter chapel for the reunions, the wide refectory for Sunday lunches, the rich guest house for the grand-duke’s visits and the attached cloister on two levels: and, in a separate building, the ancient drysaltery for the production and the selling of drugs.
The visit itinerary of the Natural History Museum twists and turns in the most “humble” spaces of the Charterhouse, the ones once used by the lay brothers for their everyday jobs: basements, storage rooms, olive press room, carpentry room, barn and so on. These rooms now rise again by hosting the illustrious Museum collections, result of about 500 years of history. They are absolutely unique collections for their historical and scientific relevance, including zoological, paleontological and mineralogical remains, in addition to the living animals of the biggest freshwater Aquarium in Italy.
The presence of the two museums inside the Charterhouse make it an unicum on the national panorama, an extraordinary place where wonder and fascination blend with science, history, art and nature.