Pergolas have long enjoyed a reign as a top garden feature for homes both large and small, shading walkways and adding beauty to modern backyards and ancient ones alike. In fact, there is ample evidence of pergolas represented in art as far back as the 12th century BC in Ancient Egypt. The word pergola originates from the Latin word, “pergola,” which references a “projecting eave, roof, or vine arbor.” Further defining the term, Jeff Wilkinson, in his article in the Old-House Journal states that the definition of a pergola is “a covered walk in a garden usually formed by a double row of posts or pillars with joists above and covered with climbing plants.” 

Pergolas have served many purposes throughout history. Naturally, one might immediately think of pergolas as being a garden structure used to display and support flowering plants and vines (often times for the elite), which does happen to be a pergola’s main purpose. However, they also have served as being a functional structure for certain harvestable vegetation, as well as being used to shade oneself from the sun or even from a late spring shower. Pergolas assist in creating an enchanting environment for the spectator and have often historically showcased the homeowner’s abundant wealth and architectural prowess.     

As stated previously, pergolas have enjoyed a profound niche throughout history, often times  represented in various forms of artwork. One might inquire, though, how the idea of a pergola migrated from Ancient Egypt to becoming a recognized garden structure in the modern era. During the late 15th century, Charles VIII of France was busy attempting to gain control of several areas in Italy. As a result of this invasion, Frenchmen who were involved took notice of pergolas prominent in the Italian architecture. Wanting to mimic this metropolitan style, the idea and use of pergolas began to extend out into the French countryside. By the 17th century, pergolas were a popular and fashionable structure for the French elite and nobility to gather and discuss current topics of their time.            

Given its extended history, it is interesting to note that the term pergola does not seem to emerge until John Evelyn (a 17th century writer, gardener, and diarist) first mentions the now popular garden structure in context around 1645. According to the British Library, Evelyn was at the forefront of the “intellectual, social, political, and ecclesiastical world of his day.” Having traveled to the monastery of Trinita dei Monti in Rome, he encountered this particular term and subsequently cited it within his diary, making the term fashionable. Arguably, due to Evelyn’s influence in society, “pergola” appears to have remained an adequate word for describing this particular garden structure, thus becoming the recognized term it is today.

From their first appearance in Ancient Egypt to becoming a quintessential garden structure of the modern backyard, pergolas are timeless structures that add elegance and simplicity to flowering plants, as well as providing the comfort of shade. Today, pergolas remain an important piece of garden architecture that serve to beautify outdoor spaces and invite one to slow down and enjoy the splendor of life from their own backyard—even if one is just a commoner.   

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    Stonehenge Fence & Deck

    140 N. 1200 W. Orem

    Stonehenge Fence & Deck

    140 N 1200 W, Orem, UT 84057
    (801) 607-5733

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