Sacred Landscapes and the Early Medieval European Cloister: Unity, Paradise, and the Cosmic Mountain

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Mary W. Helms, Emeritus Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:

Abstract: The architectural format of the early medieval monastery, a widespread feature of the Western European landscape, is examined from a cosmological perspective which argues that the garden, known as the garth, at the center of the cloister reconstructed the first three days of creational paradise as described in Genesis and, therefore, constituted the symbolic center of the cloister complex. The monastery is then further interpreted as representative of the cosmic mountain on whose summit paradise was believed to be situated. Outside its walls monasteries as symbolic mountains anchored and defined the focal points of the medieval European sacred landscape.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2002
europe, symbolism, medieval monasteries, gardens, sacred spaces, sacred gardens, cosmic mountain, sacred landscape

Email this document to