Tyburn the Monastic Garden
In the heart of Bombay, on the rural outskirts of Auckland City, lies Tyburn Monastery where a community of Catholic Nuns live. What a privilege it is in this modern era to be able to visit a monastery garden with park-like grounds, native bush walks, and quiet places of peace and contemplation.
Tyburn is a garden of its own time, its own being, possessing its own outstanding originality and style.
Green is both transparent and opaque, varying in the refinements of leaf formation in each plant. At Tyburn green is provided in infinite variations, lush verdant greens and variegated leaves, green tinged with lemons and yellows, green overlaid with silver greys, brown-greens, blue-greens, light greens, deep dark greens, red greens, all crisp, fresh, clean and soothing.
Tyburn Bombay is one of 2 Tyburn monasteries in New Zealand, and one of a group of monasteries the world over, one link in a chain of Tyburn Monasteries that have provided uplifting gardens, refuges, and secluded retreats for many visitors over the world who needed a sanctuary, for hundreds of years.
Traditionally small monasteries like Tyburn were miniature villages of monks and nuns that needed to be self-sufficient. In centuries past gardening, baking bread and cooking to feed everyone, were major tasks to be performed, second only to praying and meditating.
Such knowledge and skills often made them the most advanced gardeners, farmers, and manufacturers in their communities. Monasteries not only used ancient plants but also bred derivatives, suggesting the state of horticulture and botany were very advanced. Gregor Mendel (1822 – 1884) the meteorologist, mathematician, biologist, and father of modern genetics, who discovered the fundamental laws of genetic inheritance, was a reflection of the enlightened horticultural practises encouraged in monasteries.
Equally important was the spiritual and religious meaning of the monastic garden, which saw the garden as a natural symbol for Heaven or the lost Garden of Eden. Traditionally many monastery flowers were grown for their precise symbolic meaning, such as the red rose as a symbol of the blood of Christ, or the white rose which symbolised the Virgin Mary. Avenues with pergolas adorned with vines, enclaves and garden rooms with seats were important places for adoration and worship, meditation and prayer. Flowers were not only grown for aesthetics, but would also have been grown for their perfume, like jasmine, to be used as offerings to church figures, and decorations for the chapel.
Visiting a monastery like Tyburn is an important link to understanding the past, glimpsing a way of life common in medieval communities, whose origins stretch back thousands of years.