Friday, February 25, 2011

Who, What is Hortulus?

When I found the motif of the monk something rang a bell in the mists of my memory. Placed in the herbaceous border I immediately thought of a medieval apothecary and I knew in all the reading I'd done in my life that I'd read of a particular herbalist monk. At larger monasteries one monk was often assigned the duty of herbalist. It was the herbalist's duty to study the many medicinal herbs grown in the monastery. The herbalist would also be responsible for the
preparation of the various ointments and lotions that the monastery's physician would have used while tending the sick. The monk-herbalist probably had a stillroom or workshop where he could dry and store the herbs and create the various tinctures and salves that were a necessary part of daily medieval monastery life.

I couldn't remember specifics but thanks to the internet I quickly came to recall reading about Hortulus.

Hortulus was a poem written by the German monk Walafrid Strabo in the 9th century. Strabo, who lived from 808-849 AD, was the Abbot of Reichenau, an island monastery located on Lake Constance in Switzerland. Hortulus, which translates to "The Little Garden", describes Strabo's personal monastery garden. The poem contains descriptions of the many herbs that were grown in his garden along with their medicinal uses.

There is a great site where you can read more about the remarkable Strabo at Medicinal Uses of Plants in Walafrid's Hortulus

So there he was in front of me, that old herbalist monk warming himself by his fire gazing lost in thought wondering what herb was needed for that ailment he was trying to cure.

And now he's growing on my fabric as I stitch him and laugh to think that maybe it is that wood violet growing all around him in the border that is what will do the trick ;)

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