Klašter Osek. Kloster Osek. Osek Monastery.

The Osek Monastery

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The Gardens and water system of the Osek Monastery

Gardens existed in Osek since the founding of the monastery in the 12th century. The room-like impression of the medieval Paradise garden is still recognizable inside the Gothic cloister. The medieval orchard, vegetable and herb gardens are no longer detectable, but the earlier traditions of orchardry and carp breeding still exist in Osek. 

The success of the Osek abbey after the end of the Thirty Years' War galvanized the Osek abbots to undertake an enormous construction project. The substantial Baroque expansions at the time of the "second founding" changed the old abbey signifi-cantly and bit by bit shaped the work of art that is Osek into the dimensions and appearance that have been handed down to us. The great kitchen garden that lies on the other side of the monastery gate may be the oldest maintained Baroque garden in Osek. Since it was laid out in 1661 it has served - as it continues to do today - as the garden for cultivating fruits and vegeta-bles.  

The influence and economic strength of the monastery find their expression, above all, in the large showcase gardens from the beginning of the 18th century. The abbot's garden, the convent garden, and the novices' garden, richly decorated with pavil-ions, pools, fountains, parterres, and statuary, were established under Abbot Hieronymus Besnecker in 1726. A generous or-chard continues to provide the abbey with fresh fruit. In the course of the 19th century, the ornamental Baroque parterres were redesigned in the landscape style; the structural elements, the axial relationships and views, however, remain unchanged.

In the early years of the 20th century, the abbot's garden was again showcased formally with pollarded chestnuts, boxwood topiaries, beds of roses, allees of lime trees and colorfully planted circular flowerbeds. The last redesign of the garden took place between 1923 and 1926.  

After the end of the Second World War, the monastery lost its economic basis and fell victim to failed policies which didn't spare the gardens. The nuns interned in Osek used the convent garden for fruit and vegetable growing, but could do little to care for the historic structure. The gardens fell rapidly into disrepair. After the monastery was named a historic monument in 1964, the State Historic Trust began to invest in significant renovation work in the 1970s. The work ended abruptly with the fall of Communism, leaving the abbot's garden largely empty to the present day. In 1995, the monastery and its gardens were made national historic monuments of the Czech Republic. 

The splendid architectonic structure of the Baroque gardens remains to this day despite many redesigns and neglect. The con-tinuing absence of care over the past few decades, however, is leading to the loss of this garden-architectural legacy. The urgent task is the preservation of the historic fabric of the design. 


The Abbot's Garden 

The showcase garden, with flowering parterres, fountains and garden pavilions on both sides, for the abbot and his guests was built on a small terrace in front of the prelature in 1726, most likely according to designs from Octavian Broggio. Through the end of the 18th century, a dramatic tiered Baroque garden emerged, step by step, with a total of four terraces and numerous water features, stairways, wandering paths, and rich statuary. The expansion was finally completed in the 1780s with the sala errena, a room opening onto the gardens, at the end of the 270-meter-long garden axis. The ingenious waterworks of the monastery made use of the topographic advantage in different ways: in the midst of the retaining walls of the second and third terraces is a waterfall with horses spouting water; fountains accentuate the secondary axes as well. A large pool defines the at-mosphere of the upper part of the abbot's garden. 


The Convent Garden and Novices' Garden 

The convent garden for the monks of the monastery was built in 1728 and consists of two large, tranquil terraces that were originally divided into elaborately planted parterres. Small fountains enliven the garden experience. The summer wing of the convent buildings and the grotto-like chapel on the monastery's southern wall create the main axis of the garden. A balustrade with a sweeping staircase creates the Baroque garden's cross axis, whose ends consist of pavilions richly decorated with parapets, decorative vases and allegorical statues. 

From the west pavilion, a double staircase leads to the novices' garden. This garden is higher and offers interesting views to the convent garden. At the end of the 19th century, the novices' garden was enlarged and a fish pond that had lain outside the monastery grounds was integrated. Today large parts of both gardens are planted with fruit trees. 


The Orchard and Kitchen Garden 

The orchard encompasses the entire southern part of the monastery grounds. Here countless apple and pear trees grow, bring-ing a rich harvest in the fall. Parts of the garden are fenced in for fallow deer. 

Outside the monastery wall lies the large kitchen garden, still used today by the people of Osek for cultivating vegetables. It was laid out in 1661 as a fruit and vegetable garden and is parceled today as it was in the panorama from 1738. The stately gate to the kitchen garden lies directly across from the monastery gate. In the upper part of the garden, an old monastery cementery still exists for deceased members of the convent.


The water system

The northerly Osek stream which was caught in the form of cascade ponds due to the southern steep slope of the Ore Mounatins (Krusne Hory Mountains). The second resource built the spring of the immediate vicinity of the monastery. 

In accordance to a map of 1898, both water resources are reflected in two independent water systems. One system managed the water of the Osek stream, comprising open canals, ditches and the aforementioned ponds for the water catchment. In contrast, the spring water was supplied as drinking water in subterranean pipes.

A more or less third water system was used for the drainage and as a sewage system. This system comprises subterranean tunnels and canals which distributed the rainwater and the sewage to the different parts of the monastic area. Before leaving the area of the monastery, the water was led through so-called cleaning ponds and afterwards through ornamental ponds

The water system of the Osek Monastery was mainly used for the maintenance of fresh spring water and sewage. Especially the economic facilities and the brewery had an enormous demand of fresh spring water.

The Baroque drainage system is only partly preserved because the main part was separated in a sewage and rainwater system in 1978. The origin total length of the canals and tunnels was reduced from 5,577 ft (1,700 m) to 2211 ft (674 m).

Although all social facilities of the monastery were still connected to the origin drainage system, the functionality of the whole water system was severely disturbed.

Yet, the water was not used only for the general water supply. It was also used as one of the main designing elements for the stagnant and running water within the monastic area. 

The ingenious waterworks of the monastery made use of the topographic advantage in different ways: in the midst of the retaining walls of the second and third terraces is a waterfall with horses spouting water; fountains accentuate the secondary axes as well. A large pool defines the atmosphere of the upper part of the abbot's garden. 


Today, the main part of the damages of the building fabric and the gardens of the monastery can be derived from dysfunctions and the destruction of the historical water system. Great parts of the buildings show damages caused by moisture and the leakages or altered ground water flow lead to settlement-induced damages, respectively.

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