The Garden Landscape Guide

*Cloister Garth 1100 

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Use: The word cloister means enclosed. Often, cloisters had colonnades like the Greek and Roman peristyle courts from which they so clearly derive. They were contemplative spaces at the heart of monastic life and used for walking and reading. They gave access to adjacent buildings used for eating (the refectory), sleeping (the dormitory) and food storage (the cellar). Another door led into the church.

Form: The typical cloister is a square courtyard surrounded by a covered walk. The central green space was known as the cloister garth (garden). There are no medieval records of them having contained any plants except closely-scythed grass. During the renaissance, princes of the church became leaders in the art of garden design and many simple plats of grass were made into ornamental gardens. In the nineteenth century some became gardenesque, with herbaceous plants and shrubs. Monastries also had flower, vegetable and orchard gardens, but no examples survive.

Cartuja de Valldemossa, Clairvaux Abbey, Monestir de Pedralbes, Mont St Michel, Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, San Francisco at Evora, St Augustine's Abbey, St. Gall (Sankt Gallen), The Cloisters, Utrecht Cathedral,

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Medium cloister    original