A Calvary garden, a place for the contemplation of Christ’s Passion, has been created above the River Artro in Gwynedd, Wales. It may be the first of its kind in a private garden in Britain. It is located at Aber Artro, home of Paul and Carolyn Morgan, who had been developing the period gardens around their house for some 15 years before they considered creating an outdoor Stations of the Cross in a peaceful woodland setting.
Paul and Carolyn, parishioners at St Tudwal’s, near Harlech, in the Diocese of Wrexham, say that the idea was “almost accidental”.
“My first thought for this corner was to make somewhere interesting for the grandchildren,” says Paul. “I wondered about a Welsh dragon – but Carolyn vetoed that. Then, looking more carefully, I realised the site was on a steepish hillside with a small mound overlooking the rest of the garden.
“I thought it might make an atmospheric and realistic site for a Calvary garden, incorporating the 14 stations: a place where people of all religious denominations, or of none, could enjoy peace and the opportunity for reflection.”
Gardens have an intriguing role in the Christian narrative. They are the settings for three of the most significant events in the Bible: Eden, the scene of the Fall; Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed before his betrayal; and the garden where Mary Magdalene initially mistook the Risen Christ for the gardener. There is also the tradition of the Hortus conclusus (“enclosed garden”), and its widespread and symbolic associations with Our Lady, in later medieval and Renaissance art.
The natural contours of the raised ground of the Aber Artro site bring to mind early descriptions of the location of Calvary. The earliest known written document of a journey to the Holy Land describes the Crucifixion having occurred on “the little hill of Golgotha”. Aber Artro’s garden site fits perfectly with the traditional description.
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