A Bishop’s Garden (Part Two)

Yesterday I showed you the grounds of the newly recreated bastion garden “Hortus Eystettensis (Garden at Eichstätt).

This is Basilius Besler, the famous German botanist who fulfilled Prince-Bishop Johann Konrad von Gemmingen’s dream of a botanical garden devoted to flowering plants in the early 17th century.

(Isn’t that a great name for a botanist? I bet his friends called him Basil…)

Bishop Konrad, an enthusiastic botanist who dearly loved the Hortus Eystettensis, sadly did not live to see its completion. However, he had requested a record of all the plants growing there, which meant that Besler was responsible for commissioning a collection of copper plate engravings of the plants, also called the Hortus Eystettensis.

The engravings were printed in 1613, and the resulting book (again called Hortus Eystettensis) contained over 1,000 plants, partly in colour, often near life-size.  (The pages are 54 x 45cm and the book weighs 14kg!) Flowers such as tulips and sunflowers – common garden flowers for us today – were at that time precious rarities. Yet the exotic was placed on pages next to the commonplace; German flowers, herbs, fruits and vegetables were shown in all their glory alongside lilies, aloe, the fig or the aubergine. It must have been a fabulous collector’s item of its age!

It was a wise decision to document the garden with these engravings, since the garden was destroyed by Swedish troops in 1634. These engravings were used as the basis for planning the new site in 1998.

I recently found a paperback containing 73 of the plates from the original work, and their detail and accuracy is fabulous. Besler’s Book of Flowers and Plants is a much more affordable version of the Hortus Eystettensis! I am fascinated by botanical drawings and this book does not disappoint.

For a glance through the original herbarium, take a look at this short video here… such beautiful pictures!

The view from the garden across the town of Eichstätt is also wonderful. It has the only Catholic university in Germany and is still the seat of the Catholic bishop.

I’ll post Part Three in a couple of days; a few more pictures of the plants and flowers I saw there…

Thanks for stopping by, and have a good week!