Decorative Gardens And Garden Fountains Of The Cistercians

The Cistercians, following in​ the footsteps of​ the Benedictines, did much to​ further the progress of​ horticulture and​ decorative gardens on​ the continent and​ in​ England. Their monasteries, lush with flowing water from large fountains and​ dramatic statuary, stood in​ contrast to​ those gardens as​ conspicuously bare of​ decoration​ as​ those of​ the Benedictines. These gardens were built in​ the hollows of​ valleys, where culture could fertilize the soil, and​ where there was an​ abundance of​ water to​ fill the fountains and​ irrigate the land.

St. Bernard founded the most famous of​ all Cistercian garden communities in​ the wild and​ gloomy valley of​ Clairvaux, beside a​ clear stream that provided plentiful water for​ the surrounding garden fountains. an​ ardent lover of​ nature, he wrote, "you​ will find more in​ woods than in​ books, trees and​ stones will teach you​ what you​ can never learn from school teachers." One of​ the most sacred spots in​ the monastery, now sadly deprived of​ all its ancient glory, was a​ little plot of​ ground whose cultivation​ was his special care. Centered around several beautiful garden statues, large gardens belonging to​ the community lay within​ the cloisters, and​ outside others surrounded giant water fountains, with jets spraying 20 feet into the air. The several divisions of​ ground were separated by intersecting canals, with water supplied to​ the fountains by the river Alba.

The Carthusians, belonging to​ an​ order founded by St. Bruno in​ 1084, dwelt in​ monasteries planned to​ isolate, as​ completely as​ possible, each member of​ the
community. this​ was to​ fulfill the rules peculiar to​ their order, obliging them to​ live in​ absolute silence and​ solitude, the only sounds coming from the small, ornate fountains found in​ the corners of​ the courtyard. Each of​ the brethren, like the Egyptian monks, occupied a​ detached cottage, to​ which was added in​ the twelfth century a​ small garden, decorated and​ cultivated by its tenant. Numbers of​ these cottages and​ gardens surrounded the cloisters with central water fountains for​ water supply which eliminated the necessity of​ having large centerpiece garden fountains for​ the grounds under cultivation.

Among the orders of​ friars were the Dominicans, founded by the Spanish Dominic, and​ the Franciscans, by St. Francis of​ Assisi, in​ the thirteenth century. Both lived according to​ different lights from the monks, despised all luxury, and​ their fountains were stark, plain, and​ functional. They also took less pride in​ owning beautiful buildings, statuary, and​ garden decor. Wanderers over the country, preaching and​ begging for​ food wherever they happened to​ stop, unlike the members of​ other orders, the friars required but small establishments, and​ few cultivated acres for​ their food supply, relying instead on​ natural streams rather than public fountains for​ their sustenance.

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