The Random Herbalist: The Roman Influence on Monastic Gardens

Monastic Gardens 14With this post, I celebrate a year of writing “Gherkins & Tomatoes!” Thank you so much to everyone who visits the blog. I look forward to the coming year!

The Romans wielded profound influence on the architecture and organization of monasteries … and, hence, on us … centuries later.

According to Viollet-le-Duc : —*

It is probable that the first cloisters were porticoes of the same kind as those of antiquity, that is to say;— origin, a sloping roof of carpentry borne upon columns, of which the base rests on the ground. We have sought vainly to discover at what period the well-known disposition of the Roman impluvium was modified to that which we see admitted in the most ancient cloisters. There must have been a transition which escapes us for lack of monuments described, or buildings still existing. For there is a well-defined demarcation between the Roman impluvium and the Christian cloisters of Europe. In the first, the columns rest directly upon the soil, and one can pass from the colonnade to the plot of ground in the area intervening between the columns; while in the second, the pillars or columns are always placed on a pedestal, or a parapet, separating the gallery from the open ground, and only interrupted by rare breaks serving as exits. This latter disposition and the lowness of the columns are characteristic of cloisters in the West, and form a particular style of architecture, which has less connection with the courts enclosed by porticoes of the Romans.”

*From English Pleasure Gardens, by Rose Standish Nicols (1902).

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