The Garden Guide

Book: History of Garden Design and Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 3: European Gardens (500AD-1850)

Gardening in the Dark Ages

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86.Thus the arts of culture were preserved by the monks during the dark ages. The sovereigns, in procuring pardon of their sins by bestowing on the monks extensive tracts of country and slaves, recompensed their activity as rural improvers. The monks of St. Basil and St. Benedict, Harte informs us, rendered many tracts fertile in Italy, Spain, and the south of France, which had lain neglected ever since the first incursions of the Goths and Saracens. Others were equally active in Britain in ameliorating the soil. Prof. Walker (Essays) informs us that, even in the remote island of Iona, an extensive establishment of monks was formed in the sixth century; and that the remains of a cornmill and mill-dam, built by them, still exist; and indeed it is not too much to affirm, that, without the architectural and rural labours of this class of men, many provinces of Europe, which at present nourish thousands of inhabitants, would have remained deserts or marshes, the resorts only of wild beasts, and the seminaries of disease; and architecture and gardening, as arts of design, instead of being very generally diffused, would have been lost to the greater part of Europe.