Tall stoneware pot with pink foxglove

Wyrtig

OE wyrtig, adj: Garden-like, full of plants;
On anum wyrtige hamme, Homl. Skt. ii. 30:312
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Charlemagne's Royal Estate at Asnapio
in 9th Century France

 

In a winter in the early 800s CE, Charles the Great, better known to us as Charlemagne, commanded his stewards to inventory a royal estate called Asnapio, located near modern Villanueve d 'Ascq in northeastern France.

 

The detailed inventory they gathered profiles an enterprise so successful that it was the model for Charlemagne's Capitulare de Villis, a document that spelled out what a royal estate should provide.

 

Asnapio, home to more than 100 people, centered on a "great house" or mansio, surrounded by smaller dwellings. Every royal estate took pride in being self-sustaining, and typically included a number of smaller manors or and farmsteads near the mansio. Such a royal estate would also include workshops, barns, granaries, dairies, breweries, ovens, fields, gardens, vineyards, and orchards. The complete inventory (in Latin) of Asnapio is preserved in the Monumenta Germanie Historica (Legum), Vol 1:178-179, and is fascinating reading.

 

Asnapio also provided mounts for Charlemagne's cavalry, which explains why the inventory lists more than 60 horses. Other livestock included 100 cattle, nearly 300 hogs, nearly 500 sheep, more than 60 goats, and poultry that included chickens, geese, and peacocks. Charlemagne’s steward wrote,

We found at the imperial estate of Asnapio a royal house well-built of stone, three rooms. Balconies surround the whole house [similar to the house at right]. [There are] eleven apartments for women; below, one cellar; two porticos. Seventeen other houses within the court are made of wood, with all rooms and other additions well constructed. [There is] one stable, one kitchen, one mill, one granary, [and] three barns.

The courtyard is strongly defended by a hedge with a stone gateway, and above is a balcony from which distributions can be made. Similarly another courtyard, enclosed by a hedge, is carefully laid out, and planted with various kinds of trees.

An example of a Romanesque house with balconies

Food for man and beast was important, and the stewards reported supplies of barley, oats, spelt, wheat, peas, beans, and rye; some stored, some, planted.  The smaller manors of Grisio and Repperimus, also part of Asnapio, were likewise inventoried. At Repperiminus,

Medieval French house with overhanging half-timber solar

...we found in that lodging a royal house with stone exterior and well-built wooden interior, two rooms, two solaria [perhaps similar to this at left]. Of other wooden cottages within the courtyard, 8 had attached overhanging rooms, and one well-built stable. [There is] a kitchen and bakery in one holding, and three granaries without grain. The courtyard is surrounded by a hedge well defended above by thorns, with a wooden gate. A little court is likewise encircled by a hedge.

The inventory  lists the plants found in two of the gardens of Asnapio:
 

Modern name - Name in the inventory

Agrimony - Acrimonia Parsley - Petresilum
Beets - Betas Rue - Rutam
Betony - Vittonican Sage - Salviam
Cabbage - Caules Savory - Satureiam
Calendula - Solsequia Scallions - Scalonias
Catnip - Neptam Tansy - Tanazitam
Celery - Apium Wild Mint - Mentastrum
Chervil - Cerfolium Wormwood - Abrotanum
Chives - Brittolos

Trees

Clary Sage - Sclareiam Apples - Pomarios
Coriander - Coliandrum Cherries - Cerisarios
Costmary - Costum Hazelnuts - Avelanarios
Garlic - Alia

Juniper - Savinam

Kohlrabi - Ravacaules Medlars - Mispilarios
Leeks - Porrum Mulberries - Morarios
Lily - Lilium Peaches - Persicarios
Lovage - Libesticum Pears - Pirarios
Mallow - Malvas Plums - Prunarios
Marshmallow - Mismalvas Quinces - Cotoniarios
Onions - Cepas Walnuts - Nucarios

 

Romanesque house with overhanging second story

 

 

The Capitulare de Villis

Plants of the Capitulare

The Plan of St. Gall

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Botanists are among those who know that, in spite of the rude shocks of life,
it is well to have lived, and to have seen the everlasting beauty of the world.
F.D. Drewitt

 

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