Utility and symbolic meaning of medicinal plants on the Plan of the Abbey of Saint Gall (beginning of the 9th century) Cover Image

Użytkowe i symboliczne znaczenie roślin leczniczych na planie opactwa Sankt Gallen (pocz. IX wieku)
Utility and symbolic meaning of medicinal plants on the Plan of the Abbey of Saint Gall (beginning of the 9th century)

Author(s): Norbert Mojżyn
Subject(s): History, Social Sciences, Sociology, Ethnohistory, Local History / Microhistory, Special Historiographies:, Cultural Anthropology / Ethnology, Sociobiology
Published by: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego
Keywords: Saint Gall; abbey; Benedictines; gardens; plants; medicine

Summary/Abstract: The world of the Latin Middle Ages was marked by the spiritual-corporeal binomial: the real space was connected with many threads with the spiritual space. Religious symbolism and imagination played a huge role in this binomial. A particular concentration of symbolic and mystical-allegorical meanings was present in the monastic space (Latin claustrum). Monks living in monasteries were separated by a double barrier from the world: real – by walls and symbolic – internal discipline (rule). This separation was archetypal – in monasteries there was a border between the cosmos and chaos, between the earthly paradise (paradisus terrestris) and the damned world (terra damnata). In such an antithetical, terrestrial and supernatural key, the culture of the Middle Ages read various elements of monastic life, defi ned by the vectors of time and place, ranging from the symbolism of the temple as the eschatological Heavenly Jerusalem, through buildings and monastery gardens (biblical Eden), ending with the plants cultivated in them. Plants were grown in monasteries for functional (edible and medicinal) reasons, as well as for spiritual reasons (they were attributed apotropaic properties) and for aesthetic reasons (beauty was also considered a spiritual factor). Medicines were seen in medicinal plants for the body and soul. They had an important symbolic and religious meaning in the monastic life, they symbolized virtues or sins. Such an understanding of plants can be found in an important document that was created in the Carolingian era, the plan of the Benedictine abbey in Saint Gall. The abbey plan provides precise information not only about the structure of the monastery buildings, but also about medicinal plants, individual species and places of their cultivation within the monastery walls.

  • Issue Year: 29/2023
  • Issue No: 1
  • Page Range: 221-242
  • Page Count: 22
  • Language: Polish