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Romanesque & Gothic ("Middle Ages", 800-1500)

From this time on, two climbing plants have dominated Central Europe: Ivy and Grape Vines. While Ivy grew up without invitation, the breeding of grapevines was a deliberate facade greening of houses. Introduced by the Romans in the first millennium after Christ, grape wine was needed, especially as a sacramental offering for their cult, but also as a comforter for toil and trouble and - distilled- as a disinfectant and anesthetic for medicine. But there were always problems with the ripening of the berries.  What was found in the ancient barrels often resembled acidic vinegar instead of drinkable wine. Because the native south vines lacked the warmth, and the German monks were trying to breed very early maturing varieties it made for sour grapes.

Grapevine near a monastery church of the 12th century

Walls That Can Naturally Warm Grapevines

When grapevines were put on protective monastery walls, vineyard walls, or on house walls, they warmed up, matured better, and became very sweet indeed. Clearly, from such fruits (or from what children and a sweet toothed left on the vine) alcohol-rich grapes went immediately to the wine press. Wall greening was thus operated under quite a practical point of view... 

Therefore, vines were always useful when buildings were greened in the middle ages. Everywhere such buildings were, viticulture followed! But today there are modern, fungus tolerant varieties to be preferred.

Vines on an old vineyard cottage, Freyburg / Saxony-Anhalt
Old vineyard cottage

Ivy as a Local Wall Climber

The question of whether the ivy on medieval castles was always there  is up for debate. Tourists don't question it, they simply find it "beautiful." In any case, Ivy is always appropriate when large-scale greenings are desired on very old masonry.

Ivy Castle Kronach / Bavaria
Greened fortress

More evidence of historical plants

Honeysuckle and especially Roses were detected within this period. Not our modern cultivated species, but the wild roses such as Rosa Canina, the 1000-year-old (Millenial) Rose at the cathedral in Hildesheim. Also espalier fruit and Hops were also interesting options to be found. Other plants can look very nice now, but they are only an encore of our modern times, not Middle Age originals. Also base greening comes into question.

Rose, Monastery Bernburg / Sachsen-Anhalt
medieval window with rose

Picture Gallery

You can find more examples of re-greened buildings from the Middle Ages. Please click on the photos.

Millenial Rose ' rosa canina', 1000 year roses, Dom Hildesheim / Niedersachsen
Rosa Canina at the cloister in Hildesheim, Lower Saxony
Modern Roses, Romanesque church in Hallenberg Böll / Saxony Anhalt
Base of the buildings greened with different plants. Bernburg / Sachsen-Anhalt
Newer grape trellis, Gothic ruins in Bautzen / Sachsen
Grapevine Bush, Romanesque village church Lüttchendorf / Saxony-Anhalt
Old Pear tree, Chapel of 1487/88 (tree-ring dating), Louis City / Bavaria
Vines, cloister of the Cathedral of Merseburg / Saxony-Anhalt
Start of greening, Sunflowers, St. Aegidien, Bernburg / Saxony-Anhalt
Vines on wires, base of a medieval water tower, Jessen / Sachsen-Anhalt
Cloister with ivy in the medieval cathedral of Merseburg / Saxony-Anhalt
Early Gothic Franciscan monastery with Wisteria, Saalfeld / Thuringia
Monument protected courtyard with roses on steel cable, early Gothic Franciscan monastery with Wisteria, Saalfeld / Thuringia
Vine on an old wine house "Vinzenc Richter" Meißen / Saxony
Roses in Lübeck / Schleswig-Holstein
Vine on the Neuchâtel, Freyburg an der Unstrut / Sachsen-Anhalt
This late medieval building - a well known photo motive - was subsequently greened with Wisteria. Market of Meersburg at Lake Constance / Baden-Wuerttemberg
Wisteria with autumn foliage on a patrician house from the 15. century that was greened later on. Lindenstr. 9 in Überlingen / Baden-Wuerttemberg
Thicket creeper and historic flower boxes at the Gothic city hall of Quedlinburg / Saxony-Anhalt