Historical gardens

Dictionary of medieval garden part 2

Recently we had a look at some basic vocabulary, connected with medieval gardens. Now, let’s continue a little this topic.


Types of medieval garden

Abbot’s garden – having ornamental and representational function, located outside monastery where an abbot received lay guests.

Herbularius (also called Hortus medicus) – garden of medical plants, prototype of botanical gardens

Hortus conclusus or castle garden – usually very narrow garden with limited areas within castle, often attached to its outer walls. It had a symbolic interpretation for Christian as a garden devoted to Holy Marie or even more generally it was a symbol of the whole Church.

Hospital garden – separate garden in monastery, could have its own courtyard, only for the use of ill person

Monastery garden – consisted of cloister courtyard (mainly for relaxation and meditation purposes) and practical parts surrounding monastery buildings (like orchards, vegetables gardens, fish ponds, etc). Each order had own rules regarding location of a monastery and the layout of a garden. Eremitic orders created small gardens attached to individual houses of each eremite.

Pratum commune – meadow outside a city, shaded by trees, used for entertainment purposes of city’s inhabitants

Pleasure garden (love garden) – garden outside city, usually meadow with flowers, surrounding by planted trees and equipped in some artificial elements like turf seats.



Development of science

In first centuries of Middle Ages monasteries were practically the only educational and centers. But together with development of cities and growing wealth as well as newly awakened interest in science, the monopoly of monasteries in this area was finished.

Botanical gardens, which started to be created, were only one of many examples of this interest.

One of most famous botanical garden, was built in Padua in 1545 on the basis of a circle and served as a model for many others. It is functions in its original layout.



Most famous monastery gardens

  • Canterbury, England
  • Citeaux, France
  • Clairvaux,  France
  • Cluny, France
  • Monastery of San Paolo in Rome. Italy
  • St Gall Abbey, Swiss – monastery, in library of which the most famous garden monastery plan from IX century was found



Famous persons

Albertus Magnus – Dominican monk, who first paid attention to recreational and esthetic values of places”..less valuable for their use or their great fruitfulness…” so according to temporary definitions “pleasure gardens”.



Jobs descriptions

Gardinarius (or hortulanus) – monk responsible for vegetable and other gardens

Vitiscapicerius – monk responsible for vineyard




  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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