Historical gardens

Dictionary of medieval gardens

There was only a little remained of ancient garden culture in Europe after the Great Migration period but it is not true that nothing left.

At first, the gardens recovered in monasteries and then spread again to private residences. Let’s look at most typical topics connected with gardens from this period.

Parts of garden and its elements

ad quadratum – layout used widely in medieval gardens, then followed by Renaissance ones.

aviary – a big cage to keep birds.

boxed-in bed – cultivations beds were raised to allow better drainage, framed with wood or willow branches.

cloister courtyard (viridary) – a place of walks, contemplation and relaxation for monks, layout was based on square or rectangle with paths crossing perpendicularly or slantwise. There was a fountain, well, tree or a sculpture in the middle as a main point of focus. The dimension was determined strictly by monastic rules. According to cisters, courtyard was based a square layout remaining about four rivers in Eden as well as about four evangelists.

KW_medieval monastery courtyard

estrade – wooden construction, consisted of few rings, with decreasing diameter from bottom to top and plants climbing over it.

herbularis – physic garden,  medical-herb garden.

herbarium – herb garden, also used for cultivation of ornamental plants.

labyrinth – in first centuries it was mainly the ornament on the floor of churches to present symbolically the road of human life full of various difficulties and turns. The first labyrinth from shrubs was made near Woodstock castle in the garden of Henry III in XI century.

menagerie – created closely to splendid castles, usually a part of a forest closed with a fence, where wild animals were kept and then used for hunting but also just for admiring them. For this purpose, special constructions like pavilions and arbors were built to facilitate the observation of animals.

mound (parnassus) raised point of garden layout, enabling observation of the whole garden and its surroundings. First such hills were erected in late Middle Ages.

nympheum – part of garden connected with water.

orchard – monastery garden were cultivated mainly of practical reasons, as a source of food and they were divided into such distinctive parts. Orchards often covered the graveyard.

pergola – tunnel created from trees and climbing plants based on wooden constructions to provide shadow.

piscine – fish-breeding pond.

pomerium – orchard cultivated for practical purposes.

rosarium – other name for hortus conclusus, due to fact, that rose was one of most popular species, cultivated in this type of garden.

treillage (trellis) – latticework used to support climbing plants.

turf bench (turf seat) – raised lawn with seating facilities, framed with wood or stone, precursor of modern park benches.

vegetable garden – monastery garden were cultivated mainly of practical reasons, as a source of food and they were divided into such distinctive parts. This one was dedicated for cultivation of vegetables.

vineyard – monastery garden were cultivated mainly of practical reasons, as a source of food and they were divided into such distinctive parts. This one was dedicated for the cultivation of grapevine.

viridarium – ornamental garden with fruit trees.

vivarium – pond with fishes.

wall – construction surrounding gardens in Middle Ages.

water – important part of every garden in Middle Ages, in monasteries usually in form of a pond with regulated sides and rectangular shape together with a rich network of irrigation canals.

well (often well of life) – a source of water, often also of spiritual meaning.

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.See part 2….

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References:

  1. Majdecki L., 2016. History of gardens.
  2. Różańska A., Krogulec T., Rylke J., 2002. Gardens. History of garden architecture and art.
  3. Toman R., 2015. Gartenkunst in Europa von der Antike bus zur Gegenwart.
  4. Wengel T., 1987. The art of gardening through the ages.
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