Few places blend art and nature as thoroughly as this romantic garden in the Monasterio de Piedra, in Nuévalos, designed for the contemplation of the dramatic cascades, caves and natural lakes of its majestic landscape. In spite of its natural appearance, the garden, like any other, is artificial – that is to say, man-made – and uses nature as a raw material. But the art of gardening is to reproduce not simply the outward forms of nature – what philosophers called natura naturata – but also its inner workings, natura naturans.
Dating from 1860, this garden in the Monasterio de Piedra follows the landscape tradition in attempting to blur the boundary between it and its surroundings, by adapating itself to them. The English Fraser’s Magazine wrote at the time: ‘In regard to its scenery, the proprietor found that nature had left him little to do but to wonder and adore. Happily he had the good sense to be contented with this; merely bringing into view and making accessible curiosities and points of interest without attempting to improve what in its wild simplicity and grandeur is already perfect.’ The proprietor in question was Juan Federico Muntadas, whose superb marriage of garden and natural landscape is imbued with his taste for the romantic and picturesque, like a scene from a painting by Caspar David Friedrich, where man stands diminished by nature’s grandeur.