Cloisters Museum – Within Reach of the Middle Ages

At the elevated northern end of Manhattan, the Cloisters Museum is located in the premises of a medieval monastery, which houses works of medieval art. The monastery itself is located in New York’s Fort Tryon Park, which gives people a great view of the meandering Hudson River.

Although the monastery building looks like a valued historical monument, it was built only in the 1930s. Its architectural style is reminiscent of the Middle Ages, it is complemented by columns and arches, corridors and halls, individual windows come from the south of France. The stonework is authentic to that of French medieval abbeys. The museum is thus a modern replica of a medieval monastery, which, however, contains many authentic elements bought from farmers and parish administrators in France.

The foundations of the Cloisters Museum were laid by the sculptor George Gray Barnard, who began collecting medieval exhibits during his stay in France. In 1925, the American multimillionaire John D. Rockefeller Jr. bought this collection from him, who wanted to add it to the already functioning Metropolitan Museum of Art. In the end, however, he chose a new location for the collections, on Fort Tryon Hill. The grand opening of the museum took place in 1938 and today it is a sort of detached branch of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET). The same ticket you buy at the MET applies here.

The museum contains a collection of around 5,000 medieval works of art from Europe, from the 12th to the 15th century. Exhibitions of sculptures, tapestries, stained glass, metalwork, paintings and manuscripts are regularly held under the local arcades. The name “Cloister” means monastery in English, but we can also express the ambit, or cross corridor, which surrounds the Garden of Eden. There is a square courtyard inside the monastery, from which it is possible to get to other monastery premises. You can therefore enter the individual galleries from all the perimeter corridors of the monastery.

Several galleries are located on the main floor of the monastery, which are hidden between cross corridors. Here you can see the interesting capitals of columns from the 12th century, which come from the Cixa Closter monastery. They are decorated with beautiful Romanesque sculptures depicting animals with two bodies and one head. Spaces called St. are also attractive. Guilhem Closter, whose name is derived from the monastery from 804, which was built by a nobleman working at the court of Charlemagne. If you move to the lower floor, you will find yourself in the premises of the 16th-century Tri Cloister nunnery, which was destroyed by the Huguenots. You will then discover a medieval herb garden in the Bonnefont Cloister from the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries.

In the museum, the chronological division of the exhibits is nicely followed, so the visitor can first look at Romanesque art, then admire the Gothic and finally see the section with the highest medieval art from the period around 1520. The main part of the museum, called the Boppard Room, hides the beautiful and popular stained glass panels from 15th century. In the Gothic Chapel, there is a monument to the crusader, who is depicted as a young man with open eyes and hands clasped in prayer.

The Unicorn Tapestries Room houses six woven tapestries dating from the 16th century in Brussels. Together they represent an allegory of the incarnation of Christ. The Treasury located on the lower floor is also worth a visit, which keeps, for example, a cross made from a walrus tusk sometime in the 12th century. Glass objects, sculptures and other tapestries can be seen in the Glass Gallery.

There is a beautiful park between the Cloisters Museum and the subway station, which is a popular place for weekend trips by New Yorkers who want to enjoy at least a little bit of nature in the noisy metropolis. You can get here on foot, for example, via the massive George Washington Bridge, which got its name from the battle that took place here in 1776 under the leadership of General George Washington.

Cloisters Museum – Within Reach of the Middle Ages