Page The cloister was a garden du site de la commune de Chamalières sur Loire en Haute-Loire 43

The cloister was a garden

The garden is a reminder that the monks grew plants and fruits.

The cloister was enclosed to the west by a rampart and to the north by the Loire. It is in the form of a square opening onto the celestial vault. This symbolises the passage from body to soul, from the material to the immaterial, from earthly to celestial life. The paths form a cross according to the four cardinal points. A pond is situated at the centre, foundations of which were found during the archaeological digs in 2018. Linking the sky and underground, the pond appears as a third branch of the cross. It also forms a three dimensional cross, mirroring the plan of the church (nave, transept, bell tower and crypt).

The cloister was not just a garden; it was a mystical garden, a garden par excellence. The plants provided a good example to the monks : attracted to the light, promising fruits, and, at the arrival of winter, waiting patiently underground for resurrection.

The garden was a place of meditation, reading and discussion. Vegetables were also grown (hortulus), fruits (pomarius - the orchard) and medicinal plants.

The medicinal garden was called the ‘herbularius’, and medicinal plants played an important role in treating the monks. Patients could walk among the paths inhaling the comforting fragrances which would help them recover their health….

This medieval garden was completed in 2018, and gives visitors a perfect opportunity to discover a wide variety of plants, and a glimpse into what used to be grown in the cloister in medieval times.