AMADEO, Giovanni Antonio
(b. ca. 1447, Pavia, d. 1522, Milano)

View of the façade

Certosa, Pavia

The vast Certosa (Carthusian monastery) at Pavia was, aside from the Cathedral of Milan itself, the major architectural undertaking of the Visconti and Sforza dukes. The church, where the dukes planned to be buried, was begun in 1396 under Gian Galeazzo Visconti; to assert their legitimacy, the Sforza continued this grand project. Eventually the Gothic architect Giovanni Solari was made head of the project; his son Guiniforte was associated with him in 1459. From the exterior the church is a picturesque agglomeration of superimposed arcades of stone, set in the brick walls so often used in Lombard architecture. While the effect of the whole is Gothic, the details of capitals and arches conform to the new Renaissance style.

The original design for the façade of the Certosa was abandoned and a splendid new façade was commissioned by Ludovico il Moro beginning in 1492. Designed and constructed under the supervision of the Pavian architect and sculptor Giovanni Antonio Amadeo, it was built of marble from Carrara, near Pisa, brought over the mountains at staggering cost. The façade is divided and subdivided into windows and other openings - rectangular, arched or round, and single, double, and quintuple - and enriched with sculptural reliefs (some from the 1473 façade) and carved ornament that at first seem to offer only a bewildering complexity. But the classicising elements and the emphasis on the central axis flanked by symmetrical wings offer a sense of Renaissance order despite the richness of the decoration.