the period of the thriving development of all arts and sciences, is followed
by the medieval epoch – a time of a global setback, which affected the
art of gardening too. The breakdown of the Roman Empire caused by the breakdown
of the slavery system gradually led to the establishment of a new social
order – feudalism. Economy developed on the basis of natural agriculture.
Crafts and commerce fell off which was followed by an overall decay of
urban life and building.
The destruction of cities
and monuments of the ancient culture is associated with the barbarian invasions.
The influence of Christianity that had spread in the masses increased greatly
in return. Along with the feudal lords, the church and the monasteries
took hold of the land and the people who lived on it. In order to survive
the numerous raids, cities locked up behind the fortified walls and thus,
lost any opportunity to develop naturally. All of those areas, not yet
built up, were in fact built up, so, public parks and gardens from the
past simply disappeared.
The first medieval gardens
were created in monasteries and castle courts. Monastery gardens comprised
three major types:
The canals that were used for
irrigation and supplied the breeding-pond (a pool with a round or polygonal
shape) usually separated the different parts of the garden.
orchard where some decorative
trees were planted among the others
vegetable garden which
provided food and herbs
flower garden – the flowers
served for decoration of the altars.
Gardens were divided in
quadrangular beds and enclosed by wooden or iron bars. Later, they were
called parquets or parterres. A gothic fountain or a well, surrounded by
benches, rose in the center.
Gardens were built outside
the walls of the castles as well. A flowerbed with a round shape, the so-called
wheel, was placed in the middle; green vaulted tunnels encased the alleys.
Grapevines crept up the walls; shrubs were trimmed as in the Roman gardens.
Swans swam in the ponds sometimes.
The number of plants and
flowers in particular was limited: they were mostly grown for food or medical
needs. The abundance of containers placed near the buildings is also very
typical along with the maze, one of the most valued elements during all
epochs that followed.
The end of the Middle Ages
is marked by a significant revival of the art of gardening. The troubadours
(13th century AC) already sang about splendid gardens with rose and jasmine
tunnels, parterres with colorful flowers lined with lemon and orange trees.
A typical example from those
times were the gardens from a castle called Eden in North France which
was most famous for its “entertainment gallery”. Well-hidden hydraulic
machines provided various water traps and tricks for the guests. Among
the surprises were fountains, which suddenly started spraying water in
front of the visitors, and artificial trees with hundreds of birds on them
from whose bills water started flowing unexpectedly in order to make wet
the ones sitting in the shade. Another characteristic feature of late medieval
gardens were the freely wandering decorative animals: peacocks, roes, swans
and others. Some gardens even had cages with lions and other wild animals.
The composition of the early
medieval garden was geometrical, usually with quadrangular parterres. Limited
in space and isolated from the surrounding nature, they represented quite
simple works of the art of gardening.
Later, vegetation became
more abundant and diverse. The color design of the flower parterres is
characterized by strong contrasts and richness of shades which resemble
stained glass in a cathedral.