Wild Animals and Gardens

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 pigs are also described as invading gardens and eating vegetables under cultivation.66 Often these stories introduce an account of the holy man's miraculous command over wild animals, as he paralyzes a marauding deer,67 keeps a bear from eating a squash, causes a boar to drop dead as soon as it touches the

62 Hirschfeld, Desert Monasteries, 194-96.

63 C. Butler, The Lausiac History of Palladius, vol. 2 (Cambridge, 1904), 143.3-7. A. R. Littlewood informs me that in 1971 such a grapevine was growing on a trellis outside the katholikon of Chilandar (letter of 14 May 1998).

64 Metochites, The Nicene Oration, chap. 11, trans. C. Foss, Nicaea: A Byzantine Capital and Its Praises (Brookline, Mass., 1996), 181.

65 Vita of Antony, PG 26:916c-917a; trans. Meyer, Life of Antony, chap. 50; vita of Kyriakos, ed. Schwartz, Kyrillos, 232; VLuc. Steir, chap. 19.15-18.

66 Cf. La Vie ancienne de s. Symeon Stylite le Jeune, ed. P. van den Ven, vol. 1 (Brussels, 1962), 155-56, chap. 176; VChristoph. et Macar., chap. 15.

Goat Horn Fence GuardPlan Gall Herb Garden

17 Plan of the medicinal herb garden at St. Gall

(photo: after Horn and Born, The Plan of St. Gall, 182, figs. 414 [top] and 414Y [bottom])

garden fence,68 employs a lion to guard his garden against wild goats,69 or uses words alone to persuade wild animals to stay away from his vegetables.70 At the same time they symbolize the monk's control over nature: not only does he subdue the forest or desert with his hoe, but he alters the behavior of the wild fauna which inhabit this domain, and whose intrusion may represent nature's attempt to reassert itself.

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