In our garden, you’ll find more than half of the 130 or so plant names that appear in the Bible. Take Boswelia sacra, for instance, the frankincense bush. Its fragrance evokes the sweet-smelling resin presented to Jesus at his birth by the Three Wise Men from the East.
Roses and lilies, flowers associated with of Mary -- or the fast-growing Ricinus communis, the castor plant, which once provided shade to the long-suffering prophet Jonah. Jesus spent his last night of freedom beneath the olive trees on the Mount of Olives, and grapes are still used to make the wine drunk in church at communion.
Flax, Linum usitatissimum, was used by people in biblical times to make clothing. And in Europe, people carry box tree branches on Palm Sunday in place of palm fronds. None of the plants in our Bible and Herb Garden are here by accident! They all have a meaning that needs to be deciphered.
One of the abbots on the island of Reichenau was called Walahfrid Strabo. In the mid-9th century, he wrote one of the most important botanical works of the Middle Ages, the "Liber de cultura hortorum", known as “Hortulus” for short -- "little garden". It’s a didactic poem that names 24 medicinal plants and gives advice on their use.
Walahfrid's knowledge of plants inspired us to establish the garden in front of the Bible Gallery. Even the rigorously geometrical layout of the beds and pathways harks back to him. But the Meersburg Bible and Herb Garden isn’t a monastic garden in the strict sense. It reflects the wealth of plant life in the Bible and is an invitation to discover the living worlds of the Bible in a different way.
Meersburg isn’t Jerusalem. But thanks to the sheltered space in what was once the courtyard of the Dominican convent, even Mediterranean plants such as the fig tree thrive here – it even produces delicious fruit year after year. But that tree isn’t the only thing that lends the old convent walls the air of a miniature Garden of Eden. Welcome – come and see, feel, smell and taste – and discover a wealth of interesting facts.
In case you were wondering: the Bible and Herb Garden is always open.
All depictions: © Bibelgalerie Meersburg