2.2. Gardens

The garden figured already briefly in the previous discussion of the landscape, in particular in relation to the sense of beauty. The Indo-German word ‘gher’ developed into ‘ghortos’, meaning the enclosed. A garden has to be fenced off in order to distinguish a particular piece of ground from the rest of nature. Gardening is an activity characterized by the creation of boundaries. In the old days these enclosed areas functioned as a place of contemplation, like the gardens of Epicurus. This Greek philosopher (born around 324 BC on the isle of Samos) developed an outlook of life based on tranquility. He aimed at a state of ‘ataraxia’, being free of negative influences. A garden is a perfect place to do just that.

Gardens are probably as old as mankind itself, but interest in its form and function have been changing over the years. The most famous garden, from a Christian point of view, is probably the Garden of Eden. Here, according to the Bible, man was created. The four rivers associated with Paradise have a symbolic meaning, either originating in a true tetradic spirit or later used in such a context. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were another garden complex known in antiquity. It was built on top of stone arches twenty-three meters above ground and watered from the Euphrates River by a complicated mechanical system. They were built under King Nebuchadnazzar II about 600 BC and known as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It is uncertain if they were arranged in a symmetrical pattern and/or showed a particular preference for the quadripartite.

The ancient Egyptians were also familiar with gardens in relation to their temples and houses. Many features in Egyptian gardens found their way in the gardens of Greece, Rome and on into the gardens of the eighteenth century England in the form of obelisks, loggias, benches, pergolas and arbors. The lake was another major feature in the Egyptian garden. There seem to have been a floor division in an eighth to one pattern, with eighth times the amount of space devoted to gardens and 1/8 devoted to the fishponds. Gardens were symmetrical and designed along straight lines.

The sacred lakes or pools allowed the priesthood to attend their religious rites in a state of purity. The ponds were used to raise fish and grow lotus flowers. Ornamental trees were planted in front of temples, such as that of Hatshepsut (1573 – 1458 BC) at Deir el-Bahri, where pits for two trees were found. This female Egyptian pharaoh also instructed a military expedition to Palestine and Syria to bring back exotic trees for further plant exploration. Nineteen species of trees were represented in the garden of Ineni, the architect of Thutmosis I (1505 – 1492 BC), of which the tamarisk, the acacia and the willow were the most popular. The pomegranate tree, introduced in the New Kingdom, also became a popular scrub.

The first recorded garden in the Egyptian cultural history dated back from 2200 BC, but it is likely that certain types of domestic cultivated land existed much earlier. Traces of an Egyptian pharaoh’s garden of Thutmosis III were found in the temple complex at Karnak. The economic situation had so far improved by the New Kingdom (1550 – 1069 BC) that real luxurious gardens became a sign of status for the rich. High walls often surrounded the gardens. The provision of shade was an important element in the Egyptian garden. A map of an Egyptian garden, painted on wood, showed four trees and a lake (fig. 16). The symbolic relevance of this number is not known.


Fig. 16 – The plan of an Egyptian garden, painted on wood. A part of an enclosure (temple) is visible in the top left-hand corner. Four trees are plantes in the inner enclosure. The zigzag lines indicate water, a river or lake.

Gardens were present in the proximity of many medieval cloisters and abbeys. Originally, they were maintained from a practical point of view, for the growing of herbs, vegetables, and fruits. Their decoration function with the cultivation of flowers became later. Fig. 17 gives the outlay of a herb garden (or ‘herbularius’) with a square design and subdivision in sixteen beds on a Carolingian map of a cloister.


Fig. 17 – Sixteen plant beds are identified on a herbularius or herb garden, given on a Carolingian map.

The well-known plan of the cloister in St. Gallen, Switzerland – drawn around 820 AD by the Benedictine monk Eginhard – showed a square vegetable garden (hortus), with a double row of nine beds, in the southeastern corner of the plan. The orchard double-functioned as a cemetery (see also fig. 335).

The ‘hortus medicamentorum’ was often planted near the house of a medical doctor, like Johannes DUFT (1972) pointed out in his study of Notker der Arzt (around 900 – 975, St. Gallen). The Benedictine abbot Angenis of St. Wadrille was ordered by Emperor Charlemagne (in 812) to write a survey of mediaeval gardening and husbandry, the ‘Capitulare de villis vel curtis imperii’. The last chapter mentioned all the plants (73) and trees (14), which should be present in the royal gardens. Another early document (827) on gardening in the West-European cultural history was the ‘Hortulus’ or ‘Liber de cultura hortorum’ by Walahfried von Strabo, abbot of the cloister in Reichenau. The poem mentioned twenty-three beneficial herbs and plants.

At about the same time – the beginning of the ninth century – an important development (in gardening) took place in Islamic Spain in centers such as Cordoba, Toledo, Seville and Granada. The palaces and estates of Cordoba, like the Alcazar, Munyat al-Rusafa, Madinat al-Zahra, Munyat al-Nasr and many others were established in the period between 711 and 936. There were influences of the Roman and Visigothic architects and another interesting line can be drawn to Syria. The Hispano-Islamic garden history is, according to Fairchild RUGGLES (2000) at present in its infancy, except for the Alhambra. However, this later complex was built in the early thirteenth century when the fortunes of Islam on the Iberian Peninsula were on the decline.

The Munyat al-Rusafa, a palace some three kilometers northwest of Cordoba, was built during the reign of Abd al-Rahman (756 – 788), and does not hide its Arab roots in the Syrian Rusafa. The garden in the latter place, belonging to a complex of the Umayyad caliph Hisham (724 – 743), is possibly the earliest dated and excavated cross-axial example in the Islamic world (fig. 18). ‘The discoveries in Syria are conclusive in one respect’ as RUGGLES (2000, p. 44) noted, ‘they point to Arab, rather than Persian (as previously supposed), precedents for the quadripartite layout that eventually become ubiquitous in royal Islamic gardens’. This link between the (four-fold) features of Islamic Spain and the Roman-Arab roots in Syria are interesting details in the history of tetradic thinking. It may, indeed, add a distinct component to the European awareness of the four-fold in the period of its ‘first visibility’, i.e. from 750 AD onwards. This first historic prominence (with the reign of Charlemagne) derived its consciousness from a Celtic heritage, the Roman Christian presence and – last but not least – from an Arab-Syrian influence in Southern Europe.


Fig. 18 – The Umayyad garden in Rusafa, Syria is an early example (eighth century) of a cross-axial design. The Roman-Syrian architecture might have been an inspiration for the building of the palaces with gardens around Cordoba in that same period.

The versatile abbess Hildegard of Bingen (1098 – 1179) – she also wrote poems and music – gave an improvement of the Capitulare in the nine ‘books’ of her ‘Liber simplicis medicinae’ (or ‘Physica’). She described nature in a new way by cataloguing grasses, herbs and fruits. The properties of such products like flour, milk, butter, eggs, salt, vinegar and honey were given for the first time.

The design of gardens got a strong impulse from the fifteenth century onwards, as a response to the understanding that beauty was given in a mathematical expression. Leon Alberti (1406 – 1472) and his book ‘Della Pittura’ (1435 – 36), dedicated to Brunelleschi, opened the way to an appreciation of harmony. Luca Pacioli’s ‘De divina proportione’ (1509, with drawings of Leonardo da Vinci) was seen as a marker point in the attention to the principles of perspective. The books on proportions became the all-important measure to understand beauty, and gardens offered a great opportunity to express that (symmetrical) beauty.

The full application of geometric ideas can be found by Lorenz Stöer (c. 1540 – 1620) and his eleven woodcuts of perspective ‘gardens’ (‘Ruinenlandschaft’) as presented in his book ‘Geometria et Perspectiva’ (1567) (PFAFF, 1996). The skill and pleasure of drawing the complicated geometrical figures were the main purposes of this book, rather than a particular interest in gardens (fig. 19). The goldsmith Hans Lencker (1523 – 1585) and Wentzel Jamnitzer (1508 – 1585), both living in Nürnberg just like Lorenz Stöer, were also involved in the representation of the graphical perspective. The former started his book Perspectiva literaria in 1557 (it was published some ten years later in 1567); the latter (Jamnitzer) saw his book ‘Perspectiva corporum regularium’ printed in 1568.


Fig. 19 – The representation of a garden is given in a woodcut by Lorenz Stöer in his book ‘Geometria et Perspectiva’ (1567). The idea of perspective (in a garden) has reached here an overpowering presence, leaving little room for the pleasures of gardening.

The attention to the limitation of space and the ‘invention of infinity’ (FIELD, 1997) had everything to do with a limitation of division thinking. It might seem a contradiction, but the quest for infinity – as found in the attention to the perspective and geometrical figures like the circle – was, in fact, inspired by a limited mind framed in the bonds of oppositional thinking. The birth of Renaissance, as a cultural period, took place when the influence of higher division thinking faded.

The simultaneous appearance of botanical gardens all over Europe is a persuasive example of this particular state of mind. The hortus conclusus offered protection to a hostile world – just like it did in the time of Epicurus – and provided at the same time a space for early scientific research. The Hortus of Padova (Italy) was one of the first botanical gardens in Europe.   The outlay (fig. 20) had a concentric shape with a central part consisting of four compartments, each with an intricate four-fold pattern. The ring wall had a diameter of eighty-four meters (ZONNEVELD, 1985).


Fig. 20 – The Orto Botanico in Padua was one of the first botanical gardens in Europe. The building started in 1545 on the premises of the S. Giustina cloister. The circular design with the four central compartments tried to reflect existing tetradic ideas. The most famous tree in the garden is the Palma di Goethe, noticed by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 – 1832) when he visited the place on the 26th of September 1786.

The Italian architects were probably the first to apply the practical projections in the organization of gardens. They developed a system in which square compartimenti functioned as autonomous design units, usually in groups of four or eight. The Italian Renaissance gardens express all the qualities of a mind geared towards division thinking in general, born in opposition, and aiming towards higher forms (including the four-fold).

The most famous examples of this divisional approach can be found in the gardens of the Villa d’Este in Tivoli (east of Rome). The garden was designed by the painter and architect Pirro Ligorio (c. 1514 – 1583) and started around 1560 (fig. 21). He typified an architect not as ‘a plebeian architect, a mason; but he is a man who orders and defends everything to do with Art, and so must know philosophy, musical theory, symmetry, mathematics, astronomy, history, topography, analogy and perspective, and he must also know how to draw and paint.’ This recommendation was echoed in Philibert de l’Orme’s ‘Le premier tome de l’architecture’ (1567) when he described the Good Architect as a man who ‘must be ready to hear the learned and wise, and diligent to see many things, be it voyaging, or reading…’ (see fig. 6).


Fig. 21 – The gardens of Villa d’Este in Tivoli as given in an engraving by Dupérac in 1573. The general impression was one of individual compartimenti, which were arranged along a (two-fold) symmetrical axis.


The garden of Villa d’Este has many references to Ovid’s famous book ‘Metamorphoses’, which was a popular source of stories and imaginary during the heights of Mannerism. A Parish manuscript (of 1571) gave a detailed description of the Tivoli garden at that time. There is a good correspondence between the engravings and the manuscript. Thirty-four features (the palace, secret garden, pavilion of the four fountains, twenty fountains, jeu de paume (fives court), three grottoes, labyrinth, etc.) were described and the manuscript added another eighth (in the central axis). The ‘Alley of the One Hundred Fountains’ is an example of Ligorio’s unbridled imagination.

Ligorio’s book ‘Libro delle antichita di Roma’ (Book of Antiquities) was published in 1553 and contributed to his recognized expertise. Assignments came in from rich families and clergy. He designed a casino for Pope Pius IV in the Vatican gardens and Vicino Orsini asked him to create the gardens of his castle in Bomarzo, near Viterbo. This wonderful garden was called Bosco Sacro or the Monster’s Grove  (‘monster’ in its Latin meaning of ‘monstrare’ means to show or demonstrate) (fig. 21A). It was completely neglected when the French surrealistic writer André Pieyre de Mandiargues (1909 – 1991) visited the site. He wrote an essay in 1957 on ‘the sleeping garden of Bomarzo’. In the garden is a small temple – with an octagonal cell – which became the mausoleum for Giulia Farnese, Vicino Orsini’s wife (KOOLBERGEN, 1996).


Fig. 21A – Bosco Sacro – Monster’s Grove in  Bomarzo.

Many more Italian gardens are known, designed along the same lines as Ligorio’s masterpiece of Villa d’Este. The most famous examples are the Horti Farnesiani on the Monte Palatino (fig. 22), and those associated with the Villa Lante (Bagnaia, 1573), Villa Farnese (Caprarola, 1574), Pratolino (Parco Demidoff, Florence) and the Ambrogiana (1587). The large book of H. Inigo Triggs (1906) – The art of garden design in Italy – gave splendid examples and illustrations of early Italian garden architecture.


Fig. 22 – The Horti Farnesiani on the Monte Palatino in Rome, created in the middle of the sixteenth century. The Palatine Hill was the birth ground of Rome when it started as Roma Quadrata. The design in compartimenti was an inspiration for many gardens of Europe. The ideas were inspired by order and symmetry, which is typical for lower division thinking. Cross-axial patterns are an important element of the visualization.

The Italian/Renaissance design of gardens quickly spread all over Europe. In Germany, we find the great Renaissance garden of the Heidelberg Castle of which the principal buildings were erected between 1531 and 1618. The castle played a major role in the so-called Palatinate, a (failed) movement of Protestant resistance against the Habsburg powers in central Europe (CLASEN, 1963; YATES, 1972). Nevertheless, the cultural impact of the ‘Four Lions’ (The Palatinate (Heidelberg), Bohemia, England and Holland) in terms of a counterweight against the established Catholic domination was considerably. The garden design of Heidelberg Castle was by Salomon de Caus (1576 – 1626), who was called from London for this task. He published an essay on the garden in 1620, which is very helpful now by the restoration of the garden to its former glory. The Hortus Palatinus consisted of ‘felds’ measuring fifty-five feet square. There was a central role for the waterworks (fountains and water organs) and grottoes, as a tribute to the elements of water and earth (fig. 23).


Fig. 23 – A view of the Grotto (with waterworks) in the gardens of the Hortus Palatinus at the Heidelberg Castle. The Grotto was an important feature in the Renaissance garden, because of its connection with the element earth. The element water was highly popular in the pleasure garden, particular in relation to music (the water organ). This engraving is by Matthieu Marian in Salomon de Caus’ essay on the ‘Hortus Palatinus’ (1620) and reproduced by WALTHER (1990).

The earth, as an element, has always been the prime material for any sort construction activities. In the prehistoric times, it was the cave, which gave the people shelter and protection. The cavern gained a historical significance as a place of elementary living. Later, in more civilized times, the dwellings in the earth got a symbolical meaning, as already described by the Greek philosopher Plato (in The Republic). He pointed to the shadows on the walls and the conclusions drawn by the people who saw them. The designers of the Renaissance gardens were eager to take up these classical themes with their mythical overtones. The darkness of caves and grottos was the very trigger of thoughts on ancient pasts and lost histories often covered in a veil of scant knowledge.

Alexander Pope (1688 – 1744), an English poet of the eighteenth century, picked up the grotto-theme towards the end of his life as a worship to Mother Earth. He had a grotto build underneath his villa in Twickenham, west of London (fig. 24). He envisaged a grand, classical nymphaeum, and converted the place into a museum of mining and mineralogy. Many specimens are still in place today, but the villa itself has been demolished in the nineteenth century.


Fig. 24 – A view of the Grotto underneath Alexander Pope’s villa in Twickenham (west of London), looking through to the garden. This perspective, by John Searle in his ‘Plan of Mr. Pope’s Garden’ (1745), was an inspiration for many such features in horticulture and landscape gardening.

The ideas of Renaissance garden design were taken up by Hans Vredeman de Vries (1526 – 1609) in Holland. He was a versatile personality and acted as painter, architect, engineer, author and organizer of festivals. His fascination for constructions of ‘scenographic’ perspective was shared by many of his contemporaries (ZIMMERMANN, 2002).

Vredeman de Vries published his drawings in Samuel Marolois’ (1572 – 1627) important book ‘Opera mathematica ou Oeuvres Mathematiques traictans de Géometrié, Perspective, Architecture et Fortification’ (c. 1620). This book was the leading, five-parted, treatise on the principles and practice of architecture at the time. Hondius published Marolois’ great collection of geometrical and perspective plates at The Hague in 1614. The ‘Opera mathematica’ also contained plates by Vredeman de Vries, which were produced as early as 1604.

The design of a garden with arbors dated from around 1568 (fig. 25). All the structural elements were present: in front is a domed arbour acting as the center of attention, then a quieter,  enclosed and compartmentalized garden. Further, in the distance, is a round/concentric garden, resembling a maze, with another domed arbour as a centerpiece. Various berceaux, or leave-covered pathways, divide the different types of garden. Water played a modest role and few garden statues were used in this picture. In other similar representations, like the ‘Water games set before Town Garden’ in his ‘Hortorum Viridariorum’ (Antwerp, 1583; MacDOUGALL & MILLER, 1977), the fountain takes a more prominent place with its symbolism for abundance and fertility.


Fig. 25 – This woodcut shows a garden design by the Frisian architect, painter and engraver Vredeman de Vries, around 1568. This typical Mannerist garden had all the features of the cultural period like a geometric design, a round maze, arbour and arches.

Other Renaissance gardens in Holland can be found at the ‘Huis te Rijswijk’ (1647, designed by Claude Mollet), ‘Huis ten Bosch’ (c. 1650, design of the park by Pieter Post) and ‘Paleis Het Loo’ near Apeldoorn (c. 1690, park design by Daniël Marot and Jacob Roman). They were built before the influence of French garden-architect Le Nôtre became dominant, and found their inspiration in Italy rather than in France. The layout of Dutch country house gardens became strongly influenced by the French baroque from about 1680 onwards (OLDENBURGER-EBBERS, 1992).

The growing attention to geometrical design – as it found its origin in the Renaissance gardens of Italy – led to a vivid and renewed interest in the theme of ‘knots’ (fig. 26). A second, more elaborate, division followed the primary, straightforward division of the compartimenti. Herbs and scrubs were supposed to be planted according to these intricate, symmetrical patterns. The great Renaissance artists, like Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519), Michelangelo (1475 – 1564) and Raphael (1483 – 1520), studied and depicted knots in their work in an effort to capture the secrets of the ultimate visibility.

The ‘idea’ of the knot is, on a psychological level, closely related to the labyrinth (unicursal) and the maze (multicursal) (see Chapter 2.5). The reality of life is like a knot: cords are brought together in a puzzling way and offer the challenge to entangle the individual leads. The knot depicts the struggle of mankind to find a solution in the multitude of possibilities. It is for this very reason that the theme of knots, mazes and labyrinths is a worldwide phenomenon throughout the ages.


Fig. 26 – Knots or innodature gained wide interest in the middle of the sixteenth century as garden features. The will to explore the difficulties of intricate structures was part of the dualistic desire to reach as far as possible in a certain area of thought. Knots (and labyrinths and mazes) are – in a modern quadralectic interpretation – Third Quadrant entities, which symbolize the difficulties of the multitude in the Fourth Quadrant.

Francesco Colonna had given a description of innodature (‘knots’) in herb gardens in his influential book ‘Hypnerotomachia Poliphili’ (The Strife of Love in a Dream), which was printed in Venice in 1499. The book was published in French as ‘Le Songe de Poliphile’ in 1546 and became a source for ‘classical’ imagery. The English version dated from 1592 under the title ‘The Strife of Love in a Dreame’ and was printed by Simon Waterson in London.  The book contained hundred and seventy-two wood engravings, many of which represented architectural features. It remained very popular throughout the Renaissance and continued to be an enigmatic book thereafter.

The Canadian scholar Liane Lefaivre attributed the authorship of the Hypnerotomachia to the Renaissance artist Leon Battista Alberti (1404 – 1472) (LEFAIVRE, 1997). Her arguments, including the extraordinary visual character of the book, are strong enough to question the accepted authorship of Francesco Colonna. The manuscript of the Hypnerotomachia was completed in 1467. This makes it one of the first architectural treatises, along with similar books by Leon Battista Alberti (De re aedificatoria, 1450), Antonio Averlino, called Filarete (1451 – 1464) and Francesco di Giorgio Martini (1478 – 1501).

The woodcuts in the Hypnerotomachia reveal the influence of various contemporary artists, like Andrea Mantegna, Jacopo Bellini and Sandro Botticelli. Leon Battista Alberti, as the author of the Renaissance’s most respected treatise on painting (De Pictura, 1435), must have been very familiar with the works of these artists.

The compartment system dominated the gardens of the sixteenth century across Europe. The Renaissance garden in Tudor England offers many excellent examples of a layout in compartments. David JACQUES (1999) gave a comprehensive overview of the history and development of this particular type of design in his article on ‘The Compartiment System in Tudor England’ (fig. 27).


Fig.  27 – The ‘foure quarters’ are given here as part of the great square. The basic garden division was given in Gervase Markham’s book ‘The English Husbandman’ (1613). The idea of ‘compartimenti’ was well and truly established at the beginning of the seventeenth century and could harbor a history of over hundred years. However, its time was still to come in the French formal gardens, which dominated the European garden scene between 1630 and 1730.

‘Compartiment’ and the verb ‘compartition’ were used in the seventeenth century in England as a synonym for the art of garden design. The word was unknown in the sixteenth century when terms like ‘plot’, ‘square’ or ‘quarter’ were used. A plot was an area of ground set aside for making a garden. A ‘quarter’ referred to a subdivision in a garden, which was not necessary square in shape or being one-quarter of the total. It seems that the (late mediaeval) word ‘quarter’ had the same meaning as the word ‘quadrant’ in the quadralectic way of thinking, pointing to an unspecified position in a four-fold environment. Apparently, the idea of partitioning into a ‘Compartment’ – with a reference to the ‘part’ – could only develop (in England) in a progressive  two-fold environment.

The English poet Gervase Merkham (1568 – 1637) gave an example of a garden consisting of a ‘great square’ divided in four quarters. He advised, in his book ‘The English Husbandman’ (1613) to form – if the owner could afford it – a garden of eight such great squares. Merkham’s best known book on country pursuits was ‘A Way to get Wealth’, written in the latter part of his life (1631-37). The book contained treatises on agriculture and horticulture.

Royal gardens could even have more of these compartments. The garden in Blois and Amboise had ten blocks, Ancy-la-France had twelve and the garden at Chantilly featured sixteen compartments. The early Tuileries gardens in Paris, created by Catherine de Medici in 1564 and designed by Jacques Androuet du Cerceau, had an even greater variety of squares (fig. 28).


Fig. 28 – The Tuileries gardens in Paris were designed by Jacques II Androuet du Cerceau (the Younger, c. 1556 – 1614). They are shown here in an early stage, in a distinct compartimenti style. The French King Henri IV (1553 – 1610) restored the garden in 1594 and hired Pierre Le Notre, the grandfather of Andre Le Notre, to replant the parterres.  The latter – and more famous – garden architect redesigned the Tuileries in 1664 and made it the highlight of the French formal garden style.

It was mentioned earlier that the ‘Italian’ (Renaissance) impulse found its glory in the French formal garden style  (WOODBRIDGE, 1986). Great examples of the classical French design can be found at the gardens of Fontainebleau (1645), the castle of Vaux le Vicombe (1656 – 1658), the Tuileries in Paris (1664) and around the palace of Louis XIV at Versailles (1662 – 1688; fig. 29). They were created or redesigned by the ‘greatest landscape architect of all time’ André Le Notre (1613 – 1700). He used the sun (the symbol of King Louis XIV) as his iconographic theme in the design of his gardens. Two main axes followed the four cardinal directions. The perspective, with a view to infinity, was an important element in the design, together with a monumental and individual scale. Subdivisions were regular, geometric and symmetric. The use of water was ingenious and omnipresent in the form of basins, fountains, canals and cascades.


Fig. 29 – The French formal garden of Louis XIV in Versailles was designed by André Le Notre (1613 – 1700), the ‘greatest landscape architect of all time’.

The building of the palace and gardens of Versailles (fig. 29) was an ongoing project for some twenty-five years (1662 – 1688). Details were constantly changed until they reached perfection at the end of the reign of the Sun King in 1715. The plan was based on mythological schemes, reflecting the Cartesian spirit of its creators. It played with division, including quadripartite symbolism (GIRARD, 1985). The story of Apollo features prominently. The Seasons of the Year, Hours of the Day, Parts of the World, the Elements and the Humours of Man are frequently used as decorations. The French formal garden became the standard for garden architecture for a long time to come.

Interesting garden developments took place outside Europe as well. The setting and context were partly or wholly independent of the European developments, but a reference to a particular form of division thinking can, nevertheless, be made. Kirk JOHNSON (1999) distinguished an eastern tradition rooted in China and a Western tradition derived from ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. The latter two areas and cultures were separated from each other and tended to develop independently.

The rulers of the Assyrians, who conquered much of the Middle East before being crushed by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in 605 BC, had hunting parks for pleasure. The Persian monarchs continued this tradition. They called their recreational park ‘pairidaeza’, which was translated by the Greeks as ‘paradeisos’.  The word ‘paradise’ was subsequently used as a Biblical term, signifying the Garden of Eden or the place where the Creation took place. The picture of an Antwerp manuscript concerned with the ‘Vita Christi’ and dated from 1512, showed Adam and Eve leaving a church under the supervision of Christ (fig. 30). They walk into a paradisaical garden landscape with a fountain. The garden wall has four outpourings of water in the shape of animal heads.


Fig. 30 – The Garden of Eden is depicted here in a ‘Vita Christi’ manuscript in Antwerp, 1512. Christ shows Adam and Eve the way into the garden. The fountain has four outlets, symbolizing the rivers of paradise.

The Garden of Eden (Genesis 2: 10 – 14) has often been connected with the four Rivers of Paradise in the pictorial art. This tetradic aspect was enhanced by the prophet Muhammad (circa 570 – 630 AD). He loved gardens and told his followers that the righteous would live an eternal life after death in a paradise garden watered by four rivers. However, the idea of four rivers (char-bagh or four garden plan) is much older than Christianity or Islam. Persian ceramics of the fourth millennium BC showed a world divided in four sections with a pool or spring of life at the center. The earliest Persian gardens are known from around the sixth century AD.

The cross-shaped Rivers of Paradise fit into a pictorial tradition of Persian garden carpets. A preference for the four-fold was probably partly due to the square dimensions of the rug. A psychological component to explain the historical interest of the people of Persia, Turkey and adjacent areas to these motifs cannot be excluded. The famous garden carpet ‘Spring time of Khosroe’ was made during the reign of Khosroe I (531 – 579), and later stolen by the Arabs and cut into pieces. The most important time in the history of the Persian carpets was during the reign of the Safavid rulers and in particular Shah Abbas I (1571 – 1629), who created a court workshop for carpets in his new capital Isfahan.

Carpet weaving requires a persistent attention and patience. The activity, not unlike the composition of mosaics and goblins, requires a determined mind in a specific setting. The individual action – of making the knots, row after row – is tiresome, but the result  can be magnificent. Therefore, the consciousness of time should be, on the one hand, extremely short – to overcome the sense of a repetitive-monotonous action – but, on the other hand, extremely long – to provide the experience of eternal beauty. Only a strongly oppositional mind can  cope with such circumstances.

Times and places of the production of such work of beauty, be it by the Roman/Greek mosaic makers, Belgian goblin workers or the Persian carpet weavers, indicate a psychological dedication to opposition and the creative forces of duality. Historians should be aware of the production of these forms of art in order to assist in the characterization of a given historical period in a quadralectic context.

A corresponding theme of the Egyptian, Persian and Arabic gardens was the use of water as derived from irrigation systems. This commodity was not always of prime interest in the early gardens of the European culture, with their origin in an agricultural system of geometric plots, but became fashionable in an effort to copy ‘classical’ designs.

The Gardens of Isfahan in Iran (Persia) were laid out in a regular pattern (fig. 31) and rivaled the famous ‘Hanging Gardens’ of Babylon. The latter were part of the ‘Spectacula Babylonica’ and found their way into the Seven Wonders of the World. The city of Isfahan, situated some four hundred and thirty kilometers south of Tehran, was once the capital of the Persian kingdom and a lush green oasis. It was said, in a half rhyme, that ‘Isfahan nesf-e jehan’ (or nisf-i-dschahan), meaning – in a true dualistic spirit –  ‘Isfahan is half the world’ (WÜRFEL, 1974). Major architectonic achievements took place during the reign of the Seldschuken, after their ruler Toghrul Beg had besieged the city in 1051. Its (second) golden age began in the seventeenth century under the Safavid dynasty (1501 – 1722), and more specific after the above-mentioned Shah Abbas I (the Great) made the town his capital in 1598. He initiated the building of the Imam Mosque, completed in 1638, which was decorated with unique blue tiles, the Allahvardi Khan bridge over the Zayandeh Rud (river) and the famous gardens.


Fig. 31 – The Gardens of Isfahan were part of the renovations carried out by Shah Abbas I in the early seventeenth century. The tetradic nature is visible in the individual elements of the linear arranged gardens. The imperial square (Maidan) is situated at the northeast of the old town, while the Allahvardi Khan’s Bridge is the southern extension of the Chahar Bagh.

Another great tradition of garden architecture can be found in the gardens of the Great Moguls in India. The gardens (and mausoleum) of the Taj Mahal in Agra are probably the most famous (fig. 32). Emperor Shah Jahan built the world famous complex for his Persian wife (Mumatz Mahal), who died in childbirth in 1631. The emperor himself died in 1666. The Taj Mahal (meaning Crown palace) complex is built entirely of white marble, and it took over twenty-two years to complete. The construction documents showed that Ustad ‘Isa was the master architect. Muslim craftsmen were employed from such places as Baghdad, Shiraz and Bukhara to work on specialized tasks.


Fig. 32 – The garden layout of the Taj Mahal in Agra (India) is of Persian origin and consists of a quadripartite plan. The complex, with the tomb (mausoleum) of Shah Jahan’s wife, has an Islamic style devoted to the number four. Possibly, the Taj Mahal is at present the most celebrated architectonic complex in the world, and one may wonder if its ‘quadralectic’ qualities add to this fame.

The roots of the garden design can be traced to Persia and were being introduced to India by Zahiruddin Babur, the first Mogul emperor from 1526 to 1530. Unlike the Oriental gardens – which accentuate existing resources rather than formalize them – the Persian garden was based on geometric arrangements of nature without any attempt to refer to a ‘natural’ look. The Moghul gardens contained a central pavilion, which was placed in the center of reservoirs with channels and pools radiating from the various facades. These pavilions often served as a tomb for its architect or owner after he died.

The number four is the holiest of all numbers in Islam and the arrangements of the Taj complex reflect that preference. Four minarets are set symmetrically about the tomb and scaled down to emphasis the effect of the slightly bulbous dome. The garden is laid out in a quadrate plan with two canals crossing in the center, dividing the space in four equal squares. The mausoleum is, as an exception, not build in the central area but at the north end above the river. Each of the four quarters has been subdivided into sixteen flowerbeds by stone paved raised pathways.

Other gardens along the banks of the river Jumma date from the time of the Emperor Babur through to Aurangzeb, as well as the recently discovered Mahtab Bagh (Moonlight Garden) opposite the Taj Mahal. The Shalimar Bagh, about ten kilometers northwest of ‘Old’ Delhi is one of the most important Moghul gardens in the capital,  although now in a fairly advanced state of decay. Shah Jahan (who reigned from 1628 – 1658) built the pavilion of the complex, the Shish Mahal. Emperor Aurangzeb was crowned here in 1658. He ruled from 1658 until 1707.

Other Moghul gardens can be found close to Srinagar. The Cheshma Shahi was laid down in 1632. Pari Mahal, Nishat Bagh, Shalimar Bagh (planted by Jehangir for his wife Nur Jahan in 1616) are other gardens in the area. The Nasim Bagh, just beyond the Hazaratbal Mosque, built in 1586 by Akbar is the oldest of the Moghul gardens. The Yadavindra Gardens in Pinjore are about twenty kilometers from Chandigarh and known as an ancient historical and religious place. Fidai Khan, the foster brother of Aurangzab, created the gardens in the seventeenth century.

Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869 – 1944), the English architect of the ‘English Free School’, designed a modern version of the Moghul Gardens near the President’s Estate in New Delhi (formerly known as the Viceroy House) in the early twentieth century. They were a synthesis of Moghul and British style gardens. Edwin Luytens (fig. 33) became the Empire’s architect during the years 1912 – 1931 and traveled many times between Britain and India. He drew his inspiration from the great Moghul Gardens of Kashmir, the Garden of Taj Mahal, and Persian and Indian miniature paintings. Luytens tried to reform architecture along a new sense of multitude. This approach was reflected in many of his ‘Baroque’ works in England and abroad.

lutyens  Fig. 33 – Edwin Lutyens (1869 – 1944).

The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing – with some seventy-four thousand victims of the First World War who had no known graves – was designed by Lutyens and inaugurated in 1932 by the Prince of Wales. The Memorial is the largest war memorial in the world. Two towers with four arches in a classical tetrapylon style are capped by another arch. The height of the structure is some  forty-five meters, dominating the surrounding area.


Thiepval Memorial to the Missing – Drawing by Marten Kuilman.

The Chinese formal garden tradition should also be mentioned here. It had an influence on the Western way of gardening. David WATKIN (1982) speaks of the Rococo and Chinoiserie Phase, starting in the 1690’s in Paris and spreading in some forty years all over Europe. The picturesque aspect of the English and Chinese gardens reached its heydays in England in the middle of the eighteenth century. Grove House (Old Windsor) had a China House, Marybone House (Gloucester) featured a pagoda and Davenport House (Shropshire) had its gardens transformed into a rugged Chinese landscape with a bamboo bridge. The developments included sympathy for the octagonal Gothic pavilion, the circular castellated tower, artificial ruins and grotto’s.

This short survey of gardens revealed a continuous search for tranquility. The tetradic element is often present in the designs. The actual celebration of four-fold visibility is found in the compartimenti system as it was originally developed in Italy. The passion for this particular visibility moved on in the form of a reaction against the geometrical outlay. The serpentine garden of Capability Brown and the Rococo wilderness (with its Chinese temples and fake ruins) is an expression of the tetradic spirit in a lower-division confinement. The garden designer William Kent used, in Badminton (Avon), Egyptian, Chinese, Greek Doric, Roman and Gothick elements – to express the unbound architectural possibilities of a wider view, which was to come in Europe at the end of the eighteenth century.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s