Gardens During The Crusades

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The Crusades had a marked effect in developing the gardens of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. In the peaceful intervals of their stay in the Holy Land, Crusaders were often kindly received by their adversaries and given many opportunities to study Oriental luxuries and add them to their bare homes in England. A great change was thus brought about in the details as well as in the general style of European architecture and fountain building, and its result was shown, not only in the way the gardens of the knights homes were laid out, but in adding to the ornamental appearance of ever larger fountains and garden statuary.

There are a few architectural features and fountains now to be seen in English gardens, which can be directly attributed to Oriental influence. Bath Houses, for instance, were an Oriental luxury. Edward I is said to have imported the idea of their use from Palestine, and to have built the one existing near Leeds Castle in the thirteenth century. It is now used as a boat-house. Tents and canopies were another accessory to a garden adopted by the Crusaders. They were made of rich tapestries, for which the English were among the first of European nations to obtain a reputation.

The planting of the Oriental gardens was also much admired by the Crusaders, and had its influence on European horticulture. Where water flowed freely, large fountains were constructed to channel and preserve the water. Oriental flora were now cultivated throughout the west and north of Europe, as at an earlier period they had penetrated throughout Italy and other southern countries. The rose and the lily, both flowers of Oriental origin, had reappeared as early as the time of Aldhelm, the eighth century.

The yellow Persian rose was especially celebrated by the ancient Mussulman writers, and its European naturalization is said to date from this period. Another variety known as the rose of Provence was brought back by Thibaut IV, Count of Champagne, to Provins, where it grew until recently in the suburbs of the town. The name of the damask (Damascus) rose also betokens its Eastern origin. Not long ago Syrian daffodils still grew upon the ancient site of Horseley Castle, and Armenian violets survived in several places. Many other exotics, now considered almost as native plants since they are so familiarly known in Europe, were the fruit of Crusaders’ pilgrimages in the East.

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