A well-curb by Michelangelo, Certosa Monastery
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
A better-fed and finer-groomed quartet of monks, judging from their appearance, could hardly he found in Italy than the group standing about that artistic well-curb, which is probably the most beautiful thing of its kind in the world and worthy of the great mind which designed it. Observe the delicate carvings which bring out so clearly the beauty of the design, the grace and symmetry of the columns and the elaborate pattern of the bronze arch to which the wheel holding the bucket-chain is attached and which connects the marble pillars. I should not care, however, to drink the water from this well, for while the surrounding inclosure is called the garden of the monastery and is filled with shrubs and flowers, it has also been used for centuries as a graveyard. The wheel in front of us is over a smaller well, and before it is seen a small marble trough.
The garden, you will notice, is surrounded by hand-some cloisters, back of which are eighteen cells having pinnacled roofs. They are mostly empty now, for only a few of the brotherhood remain. The columns of the cloisters, a few of which we can see, are remark-ably fine, and over each, between the arches, is a medallion representing celebrated members of the order.
This monastery was founded in 1341 by Niccolo Acciajoli, a citizen of Florence, who moved to Naples and amassed a large fortune by trading. Other members of his family entered the monastery with him, and several of his descendants became cardinals. The tombs of the Acciajoli are seen in the lower part of the church, whose gray walls and picturesque clock tower, more than three hundred years old, rise so venerably before us. One of the chapels of this church is said to have been designed by Orcagna.
The view from the terraces of this garden is extensive and beautiful. The valley of the Ema opens up like a lovely vista toward Prato and the Apennines. In this Eden of enchantment, which the hill country about Florence may justly be called, there is no pleasanter spot than the old Certosan Monastery ; and when the day is far spent and the glory of the setting sun fires its old walls into masses of gleaming gold, and suffuses its tree-tops with a burst of splendor, and floods the distant mountains with a purple glow, nothing can equal the serene delightfulness and majesty of the scene.
About one hundred and fifty miles northwest of Florence, in the neighborhood of the charming Italian lakes, and near the beginning of several of the great Alpine passes, is the attractive and progressive city of Milan, having a population of nearly half a million and constituting the financial and industrial center of Italy. Its chief manufactures are silk and woolen goods, gloves, machinery, carriages and art furniture, while it occupies the highest artistic rank in the kingdom so far as what it produces at the present time is concerned. Sculpture is here carried on to a great extent and has become a special industry, while painting is fostered and patronized by the wealthy merchants who have made the city the commercial capital of Italy. The town is situated upon the navigable river Olona, which is connected by means of the Grand Canal with the Ticino and Lake Maggiore, and by other canals with the Po, the Adda and Lake Como. Milan has a garrison of five thousand soldiers and a large number of foreign residents. But the great center of interest in the city is, and must ever be, its magnificent Duomo.