Translation of Three Paradise Gardens from the Ebstorf Convent
and Mechien, around 1480.
The Monastery work of the late Middle Ages, unique in its form, consists
of art flowers comprised of gilded copper wire, bits of parchment, natural branches, and colored silk threads. Also included
are little coral beads and gilded silver tinsel. Relics are packed into silk materials with slips of parchment on which holy
names are written as well as small devotioal pictures, none or which remain. All of thes floats over gilded brass foil sewn
on to rectangular pieces of rough burlap. At the base is a cushion of a different style, green silk embroidered with colored
silk (in the form of flowers) and stuffed with flax. Approximately 21 inches high and 13.5 - 16 inches wide.
At one time the series was comprised of 24 peices. In 1932 one was given to the abbey Frauenworth
in the Chiemsee, after it had been supplemented by removing and transfering flowers onto it from other gardens. Countless
other branches of flowers had already been stripped. No piece remained intact for reasons unknown and all of the devotional
pictures had been removed save one (a tiny Alterpredella carved from wood.) More than half of the Reliquary boxes are in their
original state, probably because Protestants who later occupied the convent attached no importance to them. And for that same
reason the gardens remained hidden for centuries. This explains the excellent preservation of the colored silk threads. The
majority of the blooms resemble lilies, hedge roses, and narcissuses, fose buds, oak leaves, acorns, and strawberries; however
the colors are often unnaturally represented.
After their rediscovery in 1966, three of the Paradise Gardens were cleaned and preserved by the museum
through they are no longer fit for exhibition. The remaining 20 were so badly damaged that the remaining flowers were concentrated
onto ten gardens and the damamged brass foil was replaced with a sutible golden aluminum foil. In the monastery chronicle
of 1487 they are called "small boxes" (lat Capsellae): > the small boxes are artfully prepared, with a delicate linen covered
lattice (trellis) above it decorated to look like a wall, so that one can regard the whole as a tapestry. In the small boxes
Relics of the holy ones are kept.< Rusty nail holes in the burlap prove the Paradise Gardens had once been fastened to
a wall. The lattice of linen was probably carved wood covered with gilded veils as the alters of the time. (In Ebstorf the
is a 19th century record of ten such veils from the end of the 15th century being attached, however all the gold plating had
been painted over in black.) It could be determined that there were 288 total relics, evenly distrabuted and sewn down on
copper handles thru the burlap between the flowers. Eash was labeled in red or blue ink on parchment and of those, 145 are
still readable. Besides the patron of the place, (Mauritus, 6 times and the Ebstorf martyr 11 times) other local saints can
be found. Alaxander (4), Saint Blasius (4), and the 11,000 virgins (7). The Blessed Katharina (5) who is buried in a nearby
No doubt that the relics were selected in Ebstorf and were mounted together with the art flowers.
The chronicles of the time tell us that Abbess Matthias of the Knesebeck, abbess at the time, let the Paradise Gardens be
secured to the wall, aligned them, that they seperated the nuns choir on the western wall. Here the novises knelt, took vows,
and became Christ's brides. This crowning event is what justified the special expense in the visibility of the cloister. The
Abbess probably even contributed art flowers of her own. There is no other series of Paradise Gardens known to have existed.
One knows of similarly fabricated art flowers in Walsrode, Rheine, Koln, Kalkar, Xanten, Arres, and more so in Belgium in
Antwerp, Diest, Herentals, Kontich, Balen-Neet and very especially in Mecheln. There stand in the Gasthuis Once Lieve Vrouw
[I think it's a hospital] of the Beguien house, seven powerful glazed shrines full of art flowers, figures, and relics. That
speaks to the fact that the Bequien of Mecheln at one time produced such a quanity of flowers as to drive out other exported
handicrafts. In the southern Netherlands the shrines equipped with art flowers are called Besloten Hofjes.