The gardens behind the abbey building were reconstructed twenty or so years ago to look just as the Maurist monks created them in 1683, considerably enlarging the medieval garden which had existed up until that time. They were influenced by the late Renaissance style and mingled the heritage of the medieval gardens in with that of Italian-style gardens, adapted to French tastes which were somewhat plainer.
The organisation into four terraces spaced out on the hillside is characteristic of Italian gardens. Here at Boscherville, they are laid out around a majestic central axis, rising up from the monastic building to the wind pavilion, this elegant building which dominates the scene.
The laying out of the gardens matches the majestic architecture of the buildings. The yew trees cut into the shape of a pyramid give a restrained, meticulous feel which is very much in the French style.
Down below the square borders with a mixture of vegetables, flowers and medicinal herbs are the heritage of the Middle Ages, when geometric order was established in contrast to chaos, which is essentially satanic. In these gardens there are four parts rising from bottom to top in tiers. First of all we find two levels of produce being grown:
There are a lot of mazes which appear on the paving of our cathedrals: Chartres, Amiens, etc. Worshippers would kneel and follow the complex drawing, symbolising the difficulties and hazards of life before reaching the heavenly city of Jerusalem. At Boscherville, near the wind pavilion, a maze has recently been planted with yew trees, adding a fun dimension to this historic reminder.
There are two other levels above which are strictly for pleasure: the flowerbeds and the charming groves. So the gardens combined a useful purpose with something more pleasurable.