Europe in the Middle Ages

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Compared to other periods in landscape design history, little is known about the medieval period of landscape design. The barbarian invasions of the 4th and 5th centuries destroyed the Roman civilization and with it the gardens of Western Europe. The Eastern Empire, centred on Constantinople, retained its hold on Greece and much of Asia Minor for another millennium, and Byzantine gardens persisted in the Hellenistic tradition. Medieval Monastery and Feudal Gardens were heavily influenced by the ancient Greeks and Romans

The early gardens in Spain reflected the Muslim tradition of science, geometry and order. The role played by nature was secondary although the gardens were clearly adapted to the climate and terrain in which they were located. Water was distributed by irrigation channels and by gravity. There were many cascades, fountains, and ponds. Glazed ceramic tile was used to decorate the parterres, to break the green color of the plants, to decorate a bench or stairs, and to reflect the light of the water. Running water was commonly used because the sound of running water was very soothing.

The Moorish Gardens were characterized by the presence of a variety of colours, plenty of perfume, and flowing water. The Moors liked large gardens, with one patio flowing into another patio. Each patio was separated by wrought iron gates. For the Moors, a beautiful garden was paradise on earth. The garden of paradise was a place of peace and a place of pleasure, where the trees give shade and fruit, and water is the primary element of the garden.

One of the primary characteristics of the Gardens of the Middle Ages was that, large or small, it was always enclosed. Two opposite schools of thought existed:  some preferred having the garden near the house so the scents  of the garden could waft in and other away from the house to provide privacy. Some types of medieval gardens were: Monastery Gardens, Feudal Gardens, Peasant gardens, Infirmary/Hospital Gardens, Ladies Gardens.

Peasant Gardens usually only contained a vegetable garden with some medicinal herbs, surrounded by a wattle fence to keep the livestock out.

Infirmary/Hospital Gardens had gardens that not only had a practical function but also contributed in less immediately obvious ways to the health of the patients.

Ladies Gardens. Castles and manors often had gardens of pleasure for walking in, with seats, private nooks screened from the wind for sitting, flowery meads for sitting and playing games.