Such an occasion arose the other day when Mrs D. and I visited in the Centosa di San Laurenzo in Padula.
Now admittedly the two hour coach trip either way to get there likely didn’t help – although the excellent lunch we had at a local agrotourismo afterwards mellowed me more than somewhat. When it comes to religious hypocrisy, the Centosa (that’s monastery to you and me) seems to epitomise a textbook definition.
It was built by the Carthusian order over a few hundred years starting in 1306. The Carthusian were a wealthy order and the area around Pakula was mainly marshes, so whilst the locals benefited from the drainage, the order acquired rather a lot of land in the process.
The monastery contains the largest cloister in Europe and one of the largest in the world. The monks cells are equally palatial. Forget your 10′ x 8′ dimly lit room containing a basic wooden bed and a crucifix!
We were shown around cell number four which is one of the smallest. It comprised a portrait of three room suite of around 1200 ft.², a private garden and a cloistered terrace. Look at the size of the cloisters in the picture above and then consider that the four sides house just 24 cells. You get the idea. The monastery was sufficiently wealthy that Napoleon sacked it and took any wasn’t nailed down back home to Paris.
And of course the monks were far too busy praising God to do anything else so the had lots of staff to do it for them. That’s servants you and me.
Now I know you shouldn’t apply the values of today to the social order of 500 years ago, but a wise man by the name of Jesus once said “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God”.
So one can’t help wondering where all those monks are these days…