Here is Rita Marlowe sketching beneath an arch.
It is difficult to imagine the austerity of the monks' sequestered lives, but this doorway and window with the small compartment on the left--the turn--gives some sense of how solitary their lives were. Meals were passed in and out on this revolving turn so that the monks would not come into contact with the food-bearers. Several of us sat on the walls and sketched the arches--this cloister is constructed as a quadrant around a central well with 4 paths, cross-shaped, radiating from it. The Carthusian motto is Stat crux dum volvitur orbis: the Cross is steady while the world is turning.
The monastic movement grew out of the lives and writings of the Egyptian Desert Fathers in the 3rd century. Once the Romans adopted Christianity, some Christians felt it became too comfortable co-existing with politics and power and they sought to reassert the radical core beliefs of their faith. In around 500, St. Benedict established the abbey of Monte Cassino and wrote the Rules, an important document that may have prefigured much of the legal system of the West. It regulated the lives of the individual monks and was a kind of constitution with some degree of democracy. It also gave a kind of dignity to manual labor by requiring it of all--I carry around an idea of the monks copying manuscripts and working in the garden--Pontignano still has a very well-maintained garden with herbs and vegetables and fruit trees as well as ornamental plants. I found while sketching in the cloisters that the silence around us and the orderliness of the architecture helped me to create an image with solid perspective and good proportions. I'll hope to post it when I finish it (as is often the case when I sketch on location I don't finish until later!) It is intriguing to think of the effect that architecture has on the mind; perhaps there is something about starting with a square that establishes a mental framework for contemplation. The monks were very much with us in spirit as we sketched that day.
Barbara Schleuning created the page on the left to record her favorite elements, including a paved marble floor and the ornate well cover.
On the right is Nancy Liggett's quick freehand sketch in pen and wash of a pair of arches and the vaulting above them.