Still overwhelmed by Gardens

A very interesting form of garden known as hortus conclusus, is actually a walled Garden. These pleasure gardens, found in castles and fortresses were surrounded by walls and separated from the noisy, chaotic, smelly life of the castle outside their walls, and were used as places of pleasure and often of courtship. Courtly love probably flourished in them; we find references to them in the songs of the troubadors. In these songs the delights of the garden are symbols of man’s capacity to impose order on nature; an appreciation of the bounty of nature and living things; and a lightly veiled reference to sexual conquest. Boccaccio also mentions them, perhaps making fun of the idea of the garden as paradise.

The ladies of the castle could spend time surrounded by the walls in the shade of trees, among perfumed flowers and pleasing quiet except for the sound of running water. From the monastery gardens it was just a short step to linking the idea to the Biblical Song of Songs:” hortus conclusus soror mea, sponsa, hortus conclusus, fons signatus” ( giardino chiuso tu sei,sorella mia,sposa,giardino chiuso,fontana sigillata/A garden enclosed is my sister, my bride,and a sealed fountain) and thus, the garden of paradise ,Eden, has turned into a representation of Mary’s virginity. Shut out of paradise by the actions of one woman,Eve, we are allowed to get back into it through those of another woman,Mary. Like the garden her womb, her virginity, is closed, impenetrable and unviolate and has given rise to many important works of art.

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