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CONTEXT

This article is mostly concerned with the  horticulture of the Early Middle Ages. The socio-political aspects of Anglo-Saxon society are discussed here.

Early Middle Ages 450–1100 CE

The Middle Ages (Medieval Period) is generally divided into three periods: Early Middle Ages c. 450-1000, High Middle Ages c. 1000-1300, and Late Middle Ages c. 1300-1550, lasting some 1100 years.

For simplicity the articles here are split into two – the High and Late Middle Ages being combined into a single article.

The reader should be aware, however, that various key dates have been used to bookend the periodization of the Middle Ages depending on the social or political emphasis. Other favoured dates include: c. 900 – establishment of Danelaw following Viking invasion; 1066 – the Norman Conquest; 1485 – Battle of Bosworth and start of Tudor dynasty; c. 1553 – the consolidation of the Protestant Reformation. However, for simplicity of presentation the scheme above has been adopted here.

In general the articles on this site have attempted to achieve a global perspective, so the selection of a British rather than European, or even Asian, horticultural context might be questioned. The ‘British’ approach does, of course, reflect the background of the author, but it also needs to be pointed out that the European colonial expansion into the Neo-Europes like America, India, Australia etc. (and beyond), during the Ages of Discovery and Enlightenment, left cultural influences that were largely a consequence of the 19th century British Empire, not least of which was the British obsession with gardening.

Timeline

International context

Medieval Society


Medieval French manuscript depicting three classes of late medieval society
Clergy, Knights, and Peasants
This was a system based on Feudalism and Manorialism (Le livres dou Sante, 13th century)
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
Author unknown – Accessed 12 May 2017

Islamic Golden Age

Through much of the period historians call the Middle Ages, classical learning, though lost to the West, was preserved and enriched by Muslim and Arab scholars during an Islamic Golden Age that lasted from the 8th to 14th centuries. This was a period when science, trade, and cultural pursuits flourished rendering Latin Christendom, in this sense, a peripheral culture.

The commencement of this Age is dated from either the Ummayed conquest of Iberia in 711 to 718, or the reign or Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid (786 to 809) and his inauguration of the House of Wisdom in Baghdad, the world’s largest city at that time. Islamic and other scholars from around the world accumulated classical manuscripts into libraries where it was translated into Arabic and Persian.

Many discoveries and inventions of lasting world significance were made at this time. The end is usually taken as the collapse of the Abbasid caliphate due to Mongol invasions and the Siege of Baghdad in 1258.

The Great East-West Schism of 1054

Two sacred eastern cities played a major role in the history of this period, Byzantium and Jerusalem, as Europe is divided into the Eastern Greek-speaking Byzantine Empire of the Greek Orthodox Church, and the Western Latin-speaking Holy Roman Empire of the Catholic Church.

As the old western Roman Empire was overrun, administration moved from Rome eastwards to what became the largest city in the world, Byzantium.

Byzantium arose in the 7th century BCE as a small Greek colonial trading port on the border of Europe and Asia at the confluence of the Mediterranean and Black Seas. It was successively Greek and Roman (1st century BCE and besieged in 196 CE), Christian and Muslim, its name changed from Byzantium, to Constantinople, and then Istanbul.

Roman Emporor Constantine, who had effectively declared Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire through the Edict of Milan in 313 CE, had in 330 CE dedicated the city to Christianity as a new imperial capital and at his death he was commemorated in the new city name Constantinople. As a centre of Roman and Greek art, also Christian relics and icons, the city played an extremely important role in early Christian history. The magnificant Hagia Sophia, with its massive dome, was completed in 537 CE to become the largest building in the West: it would remain the world’s largest cathedral for about 1000 years as a supreme example of Byzantine architecture. It was a Greek Orthodox cathedral from 537-1453 (briefly Latin Roman Catholic from 1204-1261) and a mosque from 1453 to 1931. In 1935 it was converted to a museum.

Disagreements had been festering for some time between the eastern and western churches but the matter was brought to a head in 1054 when the Patriarch of Constantinople Michael Cerularius closed all Latin churches in the city as a response to the closure by Pope Leo of Greek churches in southern Italy refusing the Latin liturgy. Pope and Patriarch effectively excommunicated one-another confirming a deep division of the church based on differences in theology, language, and geography.

Jerusalem, first settled in the fourth millennium BCE was a sacred city to the three Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam with each historically claiming possession marked leading to religious wars marked today by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but better known for the historical religious struggles (crusades for Christians, jihads for Muslims) as the popes of Rome fought the caliphs of Islam for the city.

The Great Schism of 1054

Europe is divided into the Eastern Greek-speaking Byzantine Empire of the Greek Orthodox Church, and the Western Latin-speaking Holy Roman Empire of the Catholic Church
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The Crusades (1096-1487)

As part of the Greek-speaking Byzantine Holy Roman Empire Jerusalem had been captured by Muslim Arab armies in 638 CE. The Crusades would be an extended battle between Christian and Muslim for the Holy Land whose fate would eventually be decided in Egypt.

Disagreements concerning the papacy, the role of Constantinople, the Eucharist and other matters had long dogged the relation between eastern and western Christendom. When papal legates were ejected from Constantinople in 1054 the division between the Greek-speaking Eastern Orthodox Byzantine church and the Latin-speaking western Roman Catholic church resulted in the Great Schism. Turkish Muslims had noted the Christian vulnerability and the Crusades were partly a response to potential Muslim attack.

First Crusade (1096-1099)

In 1095 French Pope Urban II proclaimed a holy war against Islam, thus launching the First of four Crusades that would last for a period of 200 years. The First Crusade from 1095 to 1099 appealed to the aristocratic warlord knights of Christendom to undertake the 2000-3000 mile journey over the Taurus Mountains through Syria and Antioch to Jerusalem, a journey undertaken by about 100,000 soldiers without maps and little organization.

In 1097 the Christian army massed outside Christian Constantinople which was by far the largest and most influential city in Christendom at that time, the seat of the Byzantine emperor and rich with holy relics. The sight of the ‘holy lance’ that had pierced Christ’s side on the cross in the Basilica of St Peter’s Church inspired the weary soldiers but the attraction of conquests in Syria and Lebanon took precedence until Gregory assumed leadership taking Jerusalem in a brutal attack in 1099. During this Crusade four Crusader States were established: Edessa, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Tripoli.

British context

With the exodus of Roman garrisons from Britain in 410, and the fall of the Western Roman empire in 476, Europe fell into a period known as the Dark Age. We know little of this period up to about 800 as literacy, and therefore the written record, was minimal. We do know that pottery and glassmaking ceased, that the removal of coinage would have hampered trade, and that buildings were once again made of wood rather than stone.

Landscape

Most of England had been colonised, settled and cleared long before ever the Roman Conquest’ then, after the land neglect and fall of population in the post-Roman period there was’… ‘ a second landscape revolution between the ninth and twelfth centuries… ‘a new wave of reclamation and settlement’ that included renewed drainage and reclamation of marshes and moors to meet the needs of an expanding population before the fastidious Norman period of fastidious accumulation of public records began.[10]

In northern Europe by 1000 it was conventional to dedicate some public space, known as ‘meadows’, to treed areas used for relaxation and sometimes sporting activities. Such areas existed in Milan, Paris, Vienna, and Madrid. In London by the 12th century there were a number of public gardens.[6]

Parish minster churches appear (in part indicated in place names). Castles were transformed and their administrative function taken over by the country estates.

The Roman departure did not affect life on the land, where about 90% of the population spent their lives in pursuit of the rural economy as they had done since the Bronze Age. Cereal production increased in the years 600 to 800 with more buildings clustered together, a greater variety of grain and crops, riverside hay meadows indicating the beginnings of villages and open field farming as communally farmed arable strips within great open fields in response to population increase, grain providing more kcals of energy per unit area than either dairy or beef farming not completed until after 1066. Local lords, thegns, began the process of manorialization as an Anglo-Saxon, not Norman, invention which combined with the construction of monasteries created the Anglo-Saxon landscape. This remained the same until around 1500.

By 1060s some rough estimates emerge about the landscape: 30% arable farming; 15% managed woodland; 55% pastoral farming or derelict. This compares with the early 21st century as 40% arable; 9% woodland, 25% pastoral; and 26% urban and peri-urban.[14]

Anglo-Saxons

Roman departure was soon followed by an invasion of Germanic Anglo-Saxons in the 5th century but, relative to the Roman occupation there was a decline in population, especially in urban centres where there was a breakdown in trade, a deterioration in the buildings and infrastructure, and a reduction in cultural output.

A non-monetary economy had developed as tribal Germanic Anglo-Saxons introduced their language and culture. In the latter part of the 6th century Anglo-Saxon small gold coins were minted but not in quantity until the 630s. Known as scillingas (shillings) they were followed by small, thick, silver coins known as sceattas also produced on the continent during the period 680 to 750. Also in about 675 among the Anglo-Saxons the gold shilling was replaced by the silver pening, or penny, which would be the everyday coin of the English until the mid-14th century.

Already by 550 CE the native Britons in the eastern part of the country had become an underclass as they fell into servitude, the new invaders now forming a heptarchy of seven distinct kingdoms: Mercia, Northumbria, East Anglia, Essex, Wessex, Sussex and Kent (see map).

Christianity was introduced in about the 7th century.

Vikings

Through the 9th century there were an increasing number of Viking forays and the region subjected to a series of Danish viking invasions, most notably the conquest of Cnut in 1016 which united England, Denmark and Norway into a North Sea Empire.

Around the 9th century we see the development of towns, the arrangement of society into its feudal system of lords and regional loyalties. The church now played a major role in daily life both through its formal organization of church-owned monasteries. Within the Church there was no private property, the monks and nuns avowing celibacy.

Royalty

Alfred the Great (849–899) was King of Wessex from 871 to 899 defending his kingdom against Viking invaders to become the foremost ruler in England. He was followed by his son Edward the Elder (c. 874 – 924) who was styled King of the Anglo-Saxons from 899 until his death. Capturing the eastern Midlands and East Anglia from the Danes in 917 he became ruler of Mercia in 918 upon the death of Ethelfled, his sister.

Edward’s son Athelstan (c. 894 – 939) was King of the Anglo-Saxons from 924 to 927 and King of the English from 927 to 939. He is regarded as the first King of all England and one of the greatest Anglo-Saxon kings. Never marrying or having children he was succeeded by his half-brother Edmund.

With the introduction of parishes and parish churches from the 11th century on, the institution of monasteries fell into decline as village priests and their churches ministered directly to the people.

Some communal order was restored when Charlemagne became emperor of the old western portion of the Roman Empire introducing a feudal system, systematic agriculture, and greater political stability as tribal incursions diminished.

By 1000 England was within borders we would recognize today, except for the disputed border with Scotland. Ruled by one king, descended from Alfred, who imposed taxes and maintained order. The old kingdoms of Wessex, Northumbria, Mercia, and East Anglia had gone, so that there was now a recognizable England and English culture. Farmers and artisans imported wine, spices, silk and pottery from northern France and the Rhineland, whetstones and querns from the Eiffel mountains while at the same time exporting slaves, linen, horses and weaponry.[13]

The disparate Anglo-Saxon world was drawn together under Norman rule following the invasion of William the Conqueror who defeated King Harold at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The Domesday Book (so called because its decisions were unalterable, and now heldin the National Archive, Kew) was a survey, by William the Conqueror, of most of England and parts of Wales completed in 1086. Written in Medieval Latin, it was intended to determine taxes and the rights of the Crown, including the redistribution of land following the Norman conquest. A similar survey would not occur until the 1873 Return of Owners of Land or ‘Modern Domesday’ as an account of the distribution of land in the then United Kingdom.

French aristocrats now dominated English government, law, and the church organizing England into a feudal society with an elite system of French barons in their castles whose territory extended across Wales, England, and Normandy. Though now under Norman administration, the bulk of the population remained Anglo-Saxon in attitude.

London

In the 7th century Saxon raiders occupied the city, establishing wooden buildings in today’s Covent Garden, the population rising to about 7000 to become a major Anglo-Saxon settlement, Lundenwic (London port) although Winchester had now become the capital of Saxon England. In 851 CE a Viking raiding party of 350 ships arrived to take over the city but this was met by Alfred the Great’s army in 886, Alfred re-building London in the late 9th century so that by the 9th century, a population of about 10,000 people lived in the city once again. Londinium became known as Lundenburh (London fort) or simply Lunden, and Lundenwic became ealdwic or aldwich. (‘old’ derived from ‘ald’ the OE ‘eald’ and German cognate ‘alt’). In 1014 Saxon King Ethelred evicted the Vikings until the arrival of Norman King William who secured the country with a system of castles and a dynasty of Norman nobles that lasted for over 100 years. The most famous of these castles was the Tower and Hampton Court, taking 20 years to build beside the Thames from stone carried across the English Channel from France. The name Aldewich (old port) was first recorded in 1211. By 1250 the population of London was 80,000, its place as capital now regained from Winchester.

Monasteries, abbeys, priories, and convents

Construction of the world’s first monasteries began in 4th century Egypt, the first in England founded in Canterbury by the Gregorian mission of Augustine in 598 CE which is generally treated as the date of introduction of Christianity to the British Isles although earlier missions are recorded.

Literacy had been reintroduced through the minsters and nunneries in the century after the Christianizing ‘mission to the Saxons’ led by Augustine of Canterbury in 597 and it was left to the burgeoning Christianity to take control of the process of reconstruction. As the power of the Church increased the monasteries that were constructed were based on the plan of the Roman Villa Rustica or agricultural country estate (latifundium). Land was cleared around the buildings, ploughed, and farmed to support the nearby communities. In addition to the cereals there were apples, pears, mulberries and nuts. Material luxuries like jewellery and other objects made from precious metals also art work, including painstakingly crafted illuminated manuscripts, now became part of the church.

In the monasteries monks and nuns worked in libraries that preserved old manuscripts that were translated and copied and new beautifully illustrated (illuminated) manuscripts were produced. The monasteries were also repositories for herbal knowledge and plant lore.

Associated with the monasteries were the spaces for sustenance – vegetable plots, vineyards, orchards, fields and physic gardens, the latter often used for herbs that were used to treat the patients cared for in the monastery dormitories. Sometimes there was a physicians house attached, the physician having specialist knowledge of the ‘virtues’ (medicinal properties) of the ‘simples’ (plants). Flowers were also grown to decorate the altars and places of worship, and on feast days chaplets and wreaths were worn in the ancient Roman tradition. There was a rich plant symbolism, the white Lilium candidum representing the purity of the Virgin Mary, the red rose the blood of Christ and so forth.

Monasteries had a cloistered quadrangle reminiscent of the Roman peristyle. It was crossed by paths and in the centre was a fountain, cistern, or tub of water (savina) for washing, drinking and watering the plants and sometimes a pond (piscina) containing fish that were eaten on holy days. A few shrubs, fruit trees or palms were also grown here.

An excellent impression of the monasteries of the day is obtained from an idealised ground-plan drawn up in 815-820 for the Abbey of St Gall in Switzerland, the only surviving major architectural drawing from the High Middle Ages (c. 1000–1300). The plan shows a vegetable garden with beds for 18 different vegetables and a gardeners house and tool shed, also a separate physic garden.[3] Benedictine monks at this time would have been engaged in pastoral care, providing food, minding the sick and caring for the needy: they were also widely respected for their horticultural skills.

Abbey of St Gall 816-830

Plan of the Abbey of St Gall (816-830)
The only surviving major architectural drawing from the High Middle Ages
Courtesy Wikipedia Commons
Accessed 24 June 2013

Ground-plans of Anglo-Saxon churches in southern England were based on the traditional Roman basilica while in the north the Celtic influence produced narrow, high, and rectangular churches with doors on the sides. In spite of Roman Church authority the Celtic style was used for parish churches in England, only later the Normans rebuilding many of the earlier Saxon churches in the Norman style. Ceorls lived in extended family groups and worked selected plots of land which were part of large blocks of common land: they lived in farmers crofts which had small gardens for food and herbs, kale and colewort being especially popular at the time.[4]

Emperor Charlemagne & the Capitulare de Villis

Charlemagne was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 800 AD by Pope Leo III. Through this act Charlemagne became the first emperor of Western Europe since the Roman collapse three centuries before. Charlemagne developed a Christian empire that stretched across Western Europe and during his imperial rule Europe was to develop a common identity of art, religion, and culture (the ’Carolingian Renaissance’) introduced through the medium of the Roman Catholic Church.

Of greatest horticultural import during his imperial reign was the drawing up of the Capitulare de Villis (On the Management of Estates). With this decree Charlemagne attempted to revive a Roman villa-type garden economy using the medieval Anglo-Saxon tradition of manorial estates. This document insisted that every city should have a garden based on its detailed recommendations.

Gardens

Emperor Charlemagne & the Capitulare de Villis

Charlemagne was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 800 AD by Pope Leo III. Through this act Charlemagne became the first emperor of Western Europe since the Roman collapse three centuries before. Charlemagne developed a Christian empire that stretched across Western Europe and during his imperial rule Europe was to develop a common identity of art, religion, and culture (the ’Carolingian Renaissance’) introduced through the medium of the Roman Catholic Church.

Of greatest horticultural import during his imperial reign was the drawing up of the Capitulare de Villis (On the Management of Estates). With this decree Charlemagne attempted to revive a Roman villa-type garden economy using the medieval Anglo-Saxon tradition of manorial estates. This document insisted that every city should have a garden based on its detailed recommendations.

The Capitulary lists over 70 species of flowers, herbs and vegetables and 16 kinds of fruit and nuts: it represents an excellent synoptic account of vegetables, fruits, and herbs of the day:

70. It is our wish that they shall have in their gardens all kinds of plants: lily, roses, fenugreek, costmary, sage, rue, southernwood, cucumbers, pumpkins, gourds, kidney-bean, cumin, rosemary, caraway, chick-pea, squill, gladiolus, tarragon, anise, colocynth, chicory, ammi, sesili, lettuces, spider’s foot, rocket salad, garden cress, burdock, penny-royal, hemlock, parsley, celery, lovage, juniper, dill, sweet fennel, endive, dittany, white mustard, summer savory, water mint, garden mint, wild mint, tansy, catnip, centaury, garden poppy, beets, hazelwort, marshmallows, mallows, carrots, parsnip, orach, spinach, kohlrabi, cabbages, onions, chives, leeks, radishes, shallots, cibols, garlic, madder, teazles, broad beans, peas, coriander, chervil, capers, clary. And the gardener shall have house-leeks growing on his house. As for trees, it is our wish that they shall have various kinds of apple, pear, plum, sorb, medlar, chestnut and peach; quince, hazel, almond, mulberry, laurel, pine, fig, nut and cherry trees of various kinds. The names of apples are: gozmaringa, geroldinga, crevedella, spirauca; there are sweet ones, bitter ones, those that keep well, those that are to be eaten straightaway, and early ones. Of pears they are to have three or four kinds, those that keep well, sweet ones, cooking pears and the late-ripening ones.[5]

Gardens

Across Europe more is known of Roman gardens than those of the Middle Ages (c. 500-1500) as no gardens remain and the garden archaeology is minimal; pictorial representations are few (mostly post-1400) and the literature is sparse and often peripheral (mostly post-1200).[1] Towards the end of the Middle Ages it was on the continent where horticultural activity was most in evidence with the major cities famed for their gardens while Herbals, as products of the newly developed printing (c. 1450), were part of a new phase of learning emerging in Europe.[9]

By the time of the Abbey at St Gaul both the Emperor and the larger monasteries had land dedicated to pleasure gardens and parks, which had both animals and peacocks, echoing the ancient Persian ‘paradise garden’.[5] Effective means of transporting live plants had been devised.

Garden features include: arbours, topiary, raised beds, fountains, turf seats, grass with flowers (flowery mead), trellised roses. Harvey points out that there is no evidence for the ‘cloister garden’ in this period.

Fences were of palings, post-and-rail, or trellis. Rectangular pools took on other shapes. Paths were of stone or gravel, flat stones or tiles. There were pergolas, tunnel-arbours.

In about 1450 there is topiary, especially the estrade style, clipping in layers to reveal the trunk.[9] Around 1500 heraldic beasts carved in wood or stone appear in early Tudor gardens and there are stone tables. Also around c. 1500 there was the appearance of the knot garden, first in animal form but soon in geometrical patterns, the style reaching its peak after 1525.[9]

Roman plants

Among the medicinal plants imported by the Romans were Fennel Foeniculum vulgare, Ground-elder Aegopodium podagraria, and Wormwood Artemisia absinthium, which were now finding their way out of the gardens and into the countryside. Sweet and sour cherries survived neglect and Roman introductions like dill, lettuce, kale, radish and beet were all cultivated. Some Roman-introduced fruits and vegetables may have lapsed into disuse.

Plant introduction

In Europe there was contact with the Islamic world through the Muslim Empire and the Near East into Spain where Cordoba had become a centre of learning and here a massive terraced pleasure garden was constructed at Medina Azahara in about 936, the plants imported from Africa, Syria and India. In spite of enmities it was the envy of Europe and accounts of its splendour would have spread across the North Sea into Britain. Some of its features include broadcasted seed, called the ‘flowery mead’, use of fragrant and sensory plants, fruit trees, aviaries, and water features.[5]

Plants

The Capitulary lists over 70 species of flowers, herbs and vegetables and 16 kinds of fruit and nuts: it represents an excellent synoptic account of vegetables, fruits, and herbs of the day that would have been widely copied and passed between the castles and monasteries of Europe.

70. It is our wish that they shall have in their gardens all kinds of plants: lily, roses, fenugreek, costmary, sage, rue, southernwood, cucumbers, pumpkins, gourds, kidney-bean, cumin, rosemary, caraway, chick-pea, squill, gladiolus, tarragon, anise, colocynth, chicory, ammi, sesili, lettuces, spider’s foot, rocket salad, garden cress, burdock, penny-royal, hemlock, parsley, celery, lovage, juniper, dill, sweet fennel, endive, dittany, white mustard, summer savory, water mint, garden mint, wild mint, tansy, catnip, centaury, garden poppy, beets, hazelwort, marshmallows, mallows, carrots, parsnip, orach, spinach, kohlrabi, cabbages, onions, chives, leeks, radishes, shallots, cibols, garlic, madder, teazles, broad beans, peas, coriander, chervil, capers, clary. And the gardener shall have house-leeks growing on his house. As for trees, it is our wish that they shall have various kinds of apple, pear, plum, sorb, medlar, chestnut and peach; quince, hazel, almond, mulberry, laurel, pine, fig, nut and cherry trees of various kinds. The names of apples are: gozmaringa, geroldinga, crevedella, spirauca; there are sweet ones, bitter ones, those that keep well, those that are to be eaten straightaway, and early ones. Of pears they are to have three or four kinds, those that keep well, sweet ones, cooking pears and the late-ripening one [1]

While some Roman-introduced fruits and vegetables may have lapsed into disuse others were now finding their way out of the gardens and into the countryside including Fennel Foeniculum vulgare, Ground-elder Aegopodium podagraria, and Wormwood Artemisia absinthium. Sweet and sour cherries survived neglect and Roman introductions like dill, lettuce, kale, radish and beet were all now cultivated.

A list of 200 widespread plants was compiled by Aelfric of Eynsham’s student Aelfric Bata in 995 as a Colloquy or Latin primer, the Roman introductions possibly indicated by the similarity of the Anglo-Saxon words to their Latin names e.g. Petroselinum-Petersilie-Parsley, Ruta-Rude-Rue. Practical use took precedence over beauty and this is reflected in their Anglo-Saxon names. Which from the 10-12th centuries were given Christian equivalents.[2]

Rosemary int. to England with Queen Philippa in 1340.
Wallflowers, stocks, hollyhock in 14th century probably with Queen Eleanor of Castile c. 1255.
Carnations enjoyed a cult status being vary popular in Valencia in 1460 and thought to have arrived from Persia via Turkey and Italy.[9]

Orchards were no doubt planted in eh Early Middle Age fruit trees, some introduced by the Romans, were grown by the Anglo-Saxons. Benedictine monks before the Norman Conquest were expected to maintain orchards although these might not have been confined to fruit trees.[11]

Anglo-Saxon plant names

A list of 200 widespread plants was compiled by Aelfric of Eynsham[17], the Roman introductions possibly indicated by the similarity of the Anglo-Saxon words to their Latin names e.g. Petroselinum-Petersilie-Parsley, Ruta-Rude-Rue. Practical use took precedence over beauty and this is reflected in their Anglo-Saxon names which, from the 10-12th centuries, were given Christian equivalents.[7]

Botanic gardens

Middle Age precursors to the Renaissance botanic gardens of Italy are known, mostly following physicians of Islamic tradition and influenced by Arabic literature especially that on plants by Ibn Wafid (999-1075) and gardens by Ibn Bassal (c. 1080), a fine garden established at Toledo planted by Ibn Wafid and maintained by Ibn Bassal remained until the Christian occupation in 1085. Bassal then founded a garden in Seville which contained plants from his botanical explorations in places including Morocco, Egyptt, Sicily and Persia. Similar gardens were established at Guadix c. 1200, Venice c. 1333 and Prague c. 1370. In London a private garden of Friar Henry Daniel (c. 1315-1390) boasted 252 different plants, and by 1250 Arab physicians at the medical school of Montpellier had established a physic garden that preceded the later botanical garden (1593).[6]

Literature

Books on gardening did not appear in northern Europe until after 1300 but encyclopaedias were available with sections devoted to plants. Among the best known was that of the German Albertus Magnus (c. 1260) but in England there were works by Alexander Neckam (pre 1200), Bartholowew de Glanville (c. 1240) although the best known was probably the treatise on agriculture and horticulture Liber Ruralium Commodorum of Italian Pietro de’ Crescenzi completed in manuscript in about 1305 soon reaching European courts and later appearing as a printed book (Latin 1471, Italian 1478, French 1486, German 1493). Such books refer to the pleasure garden (virgultum, viridarium, virectum) with close cropped grass laid out as turves, borders of aromatic herbs, flower beds, shade trees, water fountain, moats and overall the garden in scale with its buildings.[7]

Botanico-horticultural oral tradition was well established and would be later written into the Herbals that were among the first printed books. By 1350 England already had many introduced exotic plants.[7]

The first English handbook on gardening The Feate of Gardening (c. 1340) was dictated by Master John, probably head gardener to Edward III.[8]

Plant commentary & sustainability analysis

Plants featured in Anglo-Saxon life largely through their relation to food. Early Anglo-Saxon settlement was mostly on light soils and river valleys and was accompanied by a fall in population after the Roman occupation. Early Anglo-Saxon farming was very similar to that of the Iron Age and Roman periods. However, it seems that gardens took up only a small part of the landscape and daily life as they are not mentioned in official documents of the day like land grants and wills while plant diversity was probably greatest in the monastic physic gardens.

The development of manorial estates created a sustainable agricultural system that lasted many centuries. Productivity was not high but this was a stable and integrated system with a reliable workforce and variety of produce including that sourced from the wild parts of the estate.[12]

From the 8th century onwards a number of advances in agriculture spread gradually through Europe: the replacement of 2-field by 3-field rotation which increased soil fertility and the area under cultivation; the increasing use of marl and dung (ancient practices but now increased) and the area used for legumes (mostly peas); the increasing use of oats, rye and buckwheat especially in the north; invention of the hinged flail for harvesting, the harrow for covering seed and weeding, and the iron plough in modern form; iron horseshoes and improved harnesses were introduced from the East. Though productivity increased (population of Europe doubled between 1000 and 1300) the feudal system was breaking down.

Middle Ages Timeline

Of special importance to the Middle Ages, and beyond, was the unlikely establishment of a new religion, Christianity. This originated in the Middle East with Jesus of Nazareth whose teachings were later compiled into a sacred text, the Bible.

Christianity – like Judaism, Islam, and some other lesser religions (the Abrahamic religions) – was a monotheistic semitic faith that claimed descent from the Judaism of ancient Israelites and worship of the God of Abraham.

Christianity arose out of Judaism, the bible recording oppressed and marginalized people on the fringes of powerful empires, the early Old Testament being about nomadic tribes persecuted by the polytheistic Babylon, and the New Testament an account of similar people, now Christians, under the persecution of Rome with Jesus crucified for his beliefs. The Christian mission was continued by Jesus’s followers (disciples), the most influential being the apostle Paul, who was a Greek-educated orthodox Jew and one-time Roman soldier. Paul travelled widely but was eventually arrested by the Roman authorities. Much of the New Testament consists of fourteen epistles (letters) attributed to Paul, and it is the ideas discussed in Paul’s epistles that have had the greatest influence on the West.

Initial Roman indifference to Christianity was followed by antagonism but took an unusual turn several centuries after Jesus’s death when Emperor Constantine I (c. 272–337 CE) adopted the new religion. With the Edict of Milan in 313 CE Christians were to be treated with respect, and by 325 CE Christianity had become the official religion of the Roman Empire. In 330 CE Constantine created an eastern or Byzantine Roman Empire by transferring the capital from Rome to Byzantium (renamed Constantinople after himself). Constantine also instigated the provision of a doctrinal statement of correct belief or orthodoxy, the Nicene Creed, first written in 325 CE and amended in 381 CE.Though, by 476 CE, the western Roman Empire had fallen, the legacy of Christianity flourished, spreading through Latin Europe (Christendom).

Christianity and other monotheistic religions cleared away the complexities and confusion resulting from polytheism and animistic beliefs. Romans had, for example, absorbed the gods of conquered peoples into a vast pantheon. Monotheism identified a single god and, through a holy book, revealed god’s teachings on the Creation, human conduct, the spiritual world, life after death, and the future of humanity. Religion was the medium for social rites of passage, and it underpinned the education system. Collectively these were powerful forces in daily life that had a profound influence on the Middle Ages and beyond not least of which was the Christian calendar which places the origin of Judaism to a covenant between god and Abraham in 1812 BCE, Christianity to the birth of Jesus in the year 0, and Islam to the prophet Mohammed’s teachings in the Quran beginning around 610 CE.

410 – Alaric I, first king of the Visigoths from 395–410 sacks Rome. Roman garrisons leave Britain
476 – Soldier statesman and former barbarian Flavius Odoacer (c. 433 – 493 CE) deposes child emperor Romulus Augustulus to become King of Italy from 476 to 493 CE, though he deferred to emperor Zeno in Constantinople. This date is often regarded by historians as marking the end of the Western Roman Empire
c. 900 – establishment of Danelaw
1016 – Cnut unites England, Denmark and Norway into a trading bloc
1054 – The Great Schism (East–West Schism) was the break between the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Churches resulting from both theological and political differences that had developed during the preceding centuries.
1066 – Norman invasion
c. 1300 to c. 1850 – The Little Ice Age lasts for about 550 years
1314 – England defeated by Scotland at the Battle of Bannockburn
1378-1417 – The Western Schism was a split within the Catholic Church when two men claiming to be the true pope ruled (by 1410 this was three) each excommunicating the another. The schism was ended by the Council of Constance (1414–1418).
1400-> -Italian Renaissance from the 15th (Quattrocento) and 16th (Cinquecento) centuries, spreading across Europe and marking the transition from the Middle Ages to Modernity
1419 –Portuguese discovery of Madeira
1427 – Portuguese discovery of the Azores
1434 –> – exploration of coast of west Africa
1440 – Advent of the Gutenberg printing press. Western European lists of medicinal plants appeared for the first time, not in copied manuscript form, but as printed herbals. From Spain and Portugal came the herbals of de Orta (1490-1570), Monardes (1493-1588), and Hernandez (1514-1580) and mention of plants from the New World and Asia. From Germany the works of Brunfels (1489-1534), Bock (1498-1554), and Fuchs (1501-1566), from the Low Countries Dodoens (1517-1585) appointed Professor of Medicine in Leiden in 1582, Lobel (1538-1616), and Clusius (1526-1609). From Italy Mattioli (1501-1577) who studied at the University of Padua in 1523 and Alpino (1553-1617) who assisted the establishment of the Botanic garden at this university in 1545. From England of this period came the herbals of Turner (c.1508-1568) and Gerard (1545–1612),
1453 – Seljuk Turks captured Constantinople with many artists, intellectuals and merchants fleeing to the major cities of northern Italy that would become the epicentre of a Renaissance revival in ancient learning, art and trade
1485 – The accession of Tudor Henry VII with the defeat of the Plantagenet Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field has been used by historians as a convenient marker for the commencement of both Renaissance England and the early modern period
1488 – Diaz rounds the Cape
1498 – Vasco da Gama finds sea route to India’s Calicut
1492–1502 – Christopher Columbus’s trans-Atlantic voyages to the Americas
1512 – Antonio de Abreu lands on the Spice Islands
1519-1522 – Ferdinand Magellan’s first circumnavigation of the globe between 1519–1522, completed by Juan Sebastián Elcano and Enrique of Malacca

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INTRODUCTION

INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT

... Islamic Golden Age

... Charlemagne

... Great Schism

... Crusades

...... first Crusade

BRITISH CONTEXT

... Landscape

... Monasteries

...... Capitulare

... Gardens

...... plant introduction

...... plants

...... botanic gardens

COMMENTARY

KEY POINTS

REFERENCES

MEDIEVAL PERIOD

Early Middle Ages   -  400-1000
High Middle Ages   - 1000-1300
Late Middle Ages   -  1300-1500

UNIVERSITY FOUNDATIONS

Bologna       –    1088
Oxford         –    c. 1096
Salamanca   -    1134
Paris             –    1160
Cambridge   –   1209
Padua            –   1222
Naples           –   1224
Siena              –  1240
Montpelier    -   1289
Lisbon           –   1290
Coimbra        –   1290
Madrid           -   1293
Rome             –   1303
Perugia          –   1308
Florence        –   1321
Pisa                –   1343
Prague          –    1348
Vienna           -    1365
St Andrews   -    1410
Glasgow        –   1451
Aberdeen      -   1495

BRITISH MONARCHS

SAXON   -   802-1066

DANE (Viking) = D

Egbert        -    802-839 - Wessex
Æthelwulf   -   839-856
Æthelbald   -   856-860
Æthelbert    -   860-866
Æthelred I   -   866-871
Alfred-the-Great - 871-899
Edward the Elder - 899-924
Athelstan    -    924-939
Ælfweard    -    924
Edmund I the Elder - 939-946
Eadred        -    946-955
Eadwig the All Fair - 955-959
Edgar I - the Peaceful - 959-975
Edward the Martyr - 975-978
Æthelred II - Unready - 978-1013
Sweyn I Forkbeard - 1013-1014D
Æthelred II Unready - 1014-1016
Edmund Ironside - 1016
Canute the Great 1016-1035 - D
Harold Harefoot - 1035-1040 - D
Harthacanute - 1040-1042 - D
Edward t'e Confessor 1042-1066
Harold II    -    1066
Edgar Ætheling - 1066

NORMAN  -  1066-1154

William I    -   1066-1087
William II   -   1087-1100
Henry I      –   1100-1135
Stephen of Blois – 1135-1154

PLANTAGENET  -  1154-1485

Henry II     –   1154-1189
Richard I Lionheart – 1189-1199
John Lackland – 1199-1216
Henry III    –   1216-1272
Edw' I Longshanks – 1272-1307
Edw' II of Carnarvon - 1307-1327
Edward III  –   1327-1377
Richard II   –   1377-1399
Henry IV     –   1399-1413
Henry V      –   1413-1422
Henry VI     –   1422-1461
Edward IV   -   1461-1483
Edward V    -   1483
Richard III   -   1483-1485

TUDOR  -  1485-1603

Henry VII    –   1485-1505
Henry VIII   –   1509-1547
Edward VI   –   1547-1553
Lady Jane Grey/Dudley – 1553
Mary I/Mary Tudor – 1553-1558
Elizabeth I   –   1558-1603

STUART  -  1603-1714

James I       –    1603-1625
Charles I     -    1625-1649
Civil War     –    1642-1651
Commonwealth - 1649-1653
Protectorate  – 1653-1659
Charles II    –    1660-1685
James II (VII Scotl'd) -1685-1688
Mary & William - 1688-1694
William of Orange – 1694-1702
Anne          –      1702-1714

HANOVER  -  1714-1901

George 1   –  1714-1727
George II   –  1727-1760
George III  –  1760-1820
George IV  –  1820-1830
William IV  –  1830-1837
Victoria      –  1837-1901

SAXE-COB' GOTHA 1901-1910 

Edward VII  -  1901-1910

WINDSOR  –  1910->

George V     –  1910-1936
Edward VIII  –  1936
George VI     –  1936-1952
Elizabeth II   –  1953->

MEDICAL PROFESSION

Apothecary is the medieval name for a seller of drugs and spices, loosely equivalent to today’s pharmacist as someone who prepares and sells medicines. When the medicines are plants or their extracts the person may be called a herbalist while a book that lists these plants, with their medicinal properties and probably some illustrations, is a herbal or, as in the case of Dioscorides' work, a Materia Medica. The medicinal plants themselves may be known as botanicals, simples, or officinals and in ancient times their medicinal properties were referred to as virtues. Medicines supplied by apothecaries were generally mixtures of multiple (compound) ingredients: ‘simple’ refers to one of these basic ingredients. 'Officinal' (of commerce) suggests that these simples were sold by the apothecaries. Sometimes the medicinal drugs (or the art of medicine itself) was called physic hence a garden of medicinal plants was known as a physic garden. In more recent times someone who studies drugs and their effects in a scientific way is known as a pharmacologist and the book, often a government publication, that lists the medicines, their formulas, preparation, strength and purity, is known as a pharmacopoeia. When plants alone are the source of drugs the study may be termed pharmacognosy. A physician is a medical practitioner who is highly skilled in diagnosis (rather than surgery), a specialist who has usually had a longer training than a doctor or GP.

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