The Dominicans' Orchard

Looking for clues in the orchard - the Dominicans' orchard

The people of Kalkar owe their Dominicans' orchard to the Borgias. Pope Callixtus III was a member of this infamous family and it was he who approved the foundation of the Dominican Monastery in Kalkar. Duke John I of Kleve also gave approval for it to be located in his town, as did the archbishop of Cologne. For a mediaeval town, this was like moving up to the premier division. Since the order could only live off alms, a town had to be of a certain size to be able to maintain a Dominican establishment. As a preaching order, they brought change and a degree of liberalness to the rigid system of mediaeval parishes. However, there was also some resistance. The priest of the town parish church of St Nicolai feared the better educated competition and loss of income. The council was worried that the Dominicans would become some of the most important landowners in the town as a result of inheritances. All of these reservations had to be dealt with before the first monks were permitted to settle in Kalkar in 1456. The Dominicans' orchard is the last remnant of the monastery here. The purpose of the orchard was both to edify and feed the monks. It was part of the monastery enclosure and was completely walled. As well as fruit trees there was also a fish pond; we can see its shape in the form of a hollow at the side of the wall. It has long since dried out but it still gives an impression of the ingenuity of the Dominicans. If you look at the back boundary wall, you will see the remains of a wall next to a thick tree trunk at the edge of what was once a pond. They are part of a former water regulation system; water pipes of this kind were invented in monasteries. This one linked the fish pond to the Ley, which flowed past the town walls. So these were not unworldly recluses who enriched religious life here in Kalkar, but qualified and expert planners and engineers who were able to get the best out of their plot of land.

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