The Landscape Guide

Cloister garden (garth)

The word cloister means closed and was originally used for the part of a monastery which was closed to public access. When its main feature became a grass square surrounded by an arcade, people began to use 'cloister' to refer to the enclosing element: the arcade.

Cloisters are the most significant legacy of the ancient world's peristyle gardens. They can be wonderful spaces:

  • beautiful
  • calm
  • perfectly proportioned
  • sheltered
  • able to provide sitting places which are warm in winter and cool in summer

It cannot be beyond the wit of the modern world to find a new use for such a brilliant garden type.

Islamic courtyards, as found in mosques and madrassahs, are related to cloister gardens. And they demonstrate how the building type is just as well suited to a hot southern climate as a cold northern climate.

Christian cloister (above) and Islamic courtyard (below)