Franciscan eco-monks

July 9, 2024

Self-reliance is part of the deal for many monasteries. Building woven structures to house ducks and their offspring amongst the bushes is, on the other hand, not standard (at least as far as we know).

It is unsurprising that active consideration of animals within environments should be associated with a Franciscan monastery, given that St Francis of Assisi is the patron of animals and ecology in the Catholic faith.

That said, Logan can’t speak Croatian, so we don’t know whether the monks are eating duck egg omelettes for their breakfast most mornings.

Weaving is certainly a strong part of monks’ skill sets on Visovac Island in Krka National Park, based on the impressive vegetable garden frame pictured here (and those duck apartments). The ultimate approval rating for these woven structures is offered by the ducks themselves, who are only too willing to take up residence.

Given the age of the monastery (which is approaching 600 years old), animals and men have had plenty of time to get used to co-habitation in the garden. From the viewpoint of a landscape architect, the well-tended orchards and growth structures here (such as the grapevine frame pictured within this journal article) are of particular interest – and relevance to our thought processes during design.

We frequently discuss the aesthetics of orchards and other productive landscapes for projects, and the longstanding development of places such as this monastery can also teach one about practical aspects of landscape management – such as the potential role of ducks in maintaining balanced populations of common pests.

The images and recollections that form the basis of this journal article are provided by Logan Drummond from recent travels in the Mediterranean. As with all other images on the O2 Landscapes website, ownership resides with the photographer, and these images may not be used or reproduced without the consent of both Logan and O2 Landscapes.