SYMBOLISM IN 18TH CENTURY GARDENS

Date: September 28 – 29, 2006
Venue: Schloss Schwetzingen, Germany

SYMBOLISM IN 18TH CENTURY GARDENS: The Influence of Intellectual and Esoteric Currents, such as Freemasonry.

During the 18th century, freemasonry provided a social network for men of different walks of life, including many aristocrats, intellectuals, artists and architects.
Membership of a masonic order was socially accepted at the time and it was even fashionable to make one’s membership subtly known to others, for instance through the use of domestic objects with symbolic decorations. Also the decoration of houses could be used in this respect. In the same time period, garden design and landscape art incorporated classical, mythological and religious symbolism, and gardens became an expression of the status, personality and learning of their owners.

It was not uncommon for a garden design to include ‘hidden’ symbolism, for the path through a garden to reflect a journey of initiation, or for architectural follies to be
built in the shape of masonic temples. This symbolism was purposefully ‘hidden’, meant to be discovered by the initiated or to enlighten the visitor with new insights.
Today, we are no longer familiar with common 18th century iconography and unable to read the visual clues to the meaning of such gardens. Art historical approaches and heritage preservation policies are traditionally based on Christian iconography, and have largely overlooked the importance of masonic and esoteric symbolism to art, architecture and garden design. Recent academic studies, however, have shown the importance of masonic heritage to our cultural collective heritage and brought the hidden symbolism in historical gardens to the centre of attention.

This conference aims to provide an ntroduction into the masonic and esoteric symbolism in 18th century garden architecture, provide an overview of recent academic research into the subject, and raise awareness of the importance of preserving the remaining sites as a part of our cultural heritage.
The conference takes place at the summer residence of ‘Kurfürst’ Carl Theodor in Schwetzingen, the location of one of the oldest, most intricate and best preserved masonic gardens in the world.

Students and scholars of all disciplines are invited to submit paper proposals (in English or German) of max. 350 words, accompanied by a short c.v.For more information, submission of proposals, and registration, please contact one of the following representatives of the conference organization:
– drs. Monika Scholl, Schwetzingen, heinz.p.frey@t-online.de,
– dr. Jan Snoek, Univ. Heidelberg, Jan.Snoek@urz.uni-heidelberg.de,
– drs. Andrea Kroon, OVN info@stichtingovn.nl.