Chartreuse du Val-de-Benediction
August 28, 2009
This has to be one of the best Monastic architecture we have ever seen. The austere style characteristic of the taste in Avignon at the time of
Pope Innocent VI is reminiscent of the “qing-tan” 清淡 (“pure and simple”) taste favoured by the ancient Chinese due to the Daoist influence, especially in art and poetry.
“Qing-tan” means an object is created in it most simple and direct form without any embellishment or ostentation and that is exactly how the housing for the 12 members of the first foundation of this Carthusian Monastery is organized.
The 12 cells are grouped around the Cloister of the Dead, where the monks are eventually buried without a name. There are 3 ambulatories giving access to the monk’s lodging and the form is simply expressed externally with a raised roof. Internally, the space is designed based on the daily life of a Carthusian monk, who has completely renounced all commerce with the world.
As it can be seen from the photographs, being pure and simple do
es not mean it has to be boring, on the contrary, when we try to do architecture with a capital A we tend to destroy the spirit of a building, which should reflect the “ben-xing” 本性 or the “original nature” of a building is meant for.
The Chartreuse did it in a “wu-wei” 無為 way (achieving the most with the least) and expressed succinctly the philosophy of the Carthusian order founded by Saint Bruno in 1127. The “ben-xing” of the building is clearly articulated by Saint Bruno in his “Letter to Raoul le Verd”:
“The silence and the solitude of the desert…For here men of strong will can enter themselves and remain there as much as they like… Here they can acquire the eye that wounds the B
ridegroom with love, by the limpidity of its gaze, and whose purity allows them to see God himself”.
First picture shows Saint Bruno who founded the Carthusian Order.
Second picture shows a photo of a monk doing manual work in his cell.
Third picture shows interior of a cell where a monk can work.
Fourth picture shows the ambulatory with the doorway to a monk’s cell on the left.
Fifth picture shows the fireplace where the monk can read and pray.
Sixth picture shows the Cloister of the Dead looking at the ambulatory and the raised roof of each of the monk’s cells behind.