The Certosa di San Giacomo (Chaterhouse of St. James) was founded in the 14th century as a Carthusian monastery, likely atop an earlier Roman site. The structure was characterized by fanned, hemispherical vaults with distinctive detailing at their points of intersection. Having survived raids by Saracen pirates, plague, invasion, religious suppression, and abandonment, by the 19th century the cloister had served as a jail, a hospice for invalids, and an army barracks.
Catel, an expatriate German artist active in Italy, reimagines religious life in the cloister, and in this version, places nuns within the historically male institution. Dramatically illuminating the scene with a full moon and candlelit interiors, Catel constructs a vision of pious contemplation. In the 19th century, artists employed Gothic ruins and revivalist styles to conjure a mythologized medieval past of spirituality unmarred by industrialization and commerce.