Wild Animals and Gardens

Plan Gall Herb Garden

One of the commonplaces in hagiographical descriptions of gardens is the intervention of wild beasts, normally in a destructive capacity but sometimes in a protective role. St. Antony, one of the earliest monastic gardeners, had to contend with the ravages of wild animals who would trample his vegetables as they came to the spring to drink. The garden of the hermit Kyriakos was a favorite haunt of wild goats, and deer trampled the beloved vegetable plot of St. Luke the Younger.65 Bears and wild...

Monastic Gardeners

Gardener Monastery

Gardening was part of the manual labor performed by monks Fig. 19 . Since it involved arduous physical exertion, garden chores were often assigned to novices or young monks. Matrona of Perge and Theodora of Alexandria, two young nuns who had disguised themselves as monks, were set to work in the garden,71 as was the young George upon his arrival at Choziba and Sabas at the monastery of Flavianae.72 At the Pantokrator monastery, gardeners were ranked as servitors Souleuta together with the...

The Garden as Metaphor for Monastery

Byzantine Monastery Garden

It should not be surprising that the Byzantine monastery, whose irrigated gardens stood out in the dry Mediterranean landscape or in the crowded cityscape like a verdant oasis, was often described metaphorically in typika and saints' lives as a paradeisos, or garden. What could be more appropriate than that monks and nuns, who led an angelic life and were attempting to recreate the divine paradise,93 should be alluded to as plants and trees and their monastery as a garden 94 Some authors,...

Monastery Site Selection

Judean Desert Flowers

Most founders of Byzantine monasteries took care in choosing the site of their monastic complexes they looked for fertile land, a good water supply, temperate climate, peaceful surroundings, security, and the natural beauty of the landscape. Good climate and pure water were essential for health and horticulture, while isolation and quiet would provide physical security and an environment conducive to contemplation and spiritual progress.2 I am grateful to my colleagues Angela Hero, Joseph...

Flower Gardens Shrubs and Trees

I have also found very little information on flowering plants and trees grown for aesthetic rather than practical purposes, such as are a common feature of modern Greek monastery courtyards Fig. 18 . There are some archaeological indications at the monastery of Khirbet-ed-Deir in the Judean desert that vines were grown on a trellis to provide shade for the courtyard,62 and the Lausiac History of Palladios describes a grapevine that grew all over the church at the Douka monastery near Jericho.63...

Horticulture in Urban Monasteries

Constantinopolis Kosmidion

So far I have focused on monasteries located in the countryside and explored ways in which monks converted forest or desert into gardens. In turning briefly to urban monasteries, and the impact of monastic gardens on the cityscape, I limit myself to the case of Constantinople. Monasteries were an important aspect of the urban scene of the capital from the early period of its development. Little attention has been given so far to the siting of monasteries in the capital, but it would be...

Monastery Horticulture

Vegetable Garden Layout

With some exceptions, planting a garden was an essential aspect of monastic foundation, whether it be a solitary hermitage or an enormous complex housing hundreds of monks. The twelfth-century archbishop ofThessalonike, Eustathios, criticized hermits who withdrew to mountains and, like the Cyclopes, did not plow or plant anything 33 in fact, however, this lifestyle was characteristic of only a relatively small number of ascetics who survived by foraging for wild herbs, fruits, or nuts34 or...

Herb Gardens

Herbalist Monk

The textual sources on Byzantine monasteries contain only the scantiest of allusions and those indirect to medicinal herb gardens, such as are familiar to devotees of Brother Cadfael, the twelfth-century Welsh herbalist detective created by Ellis Peters. Even so, I would argue that most Byzantine monasteries must have grown herbs for medicinal and culinary purposes, despite the virtual lack of hard evidence.54 I draw this conclusion from the following facts Byzantine monastic complexes often...