Blog Archive

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Cloisters

After less beauty sleep than I would have liked, I spent the morning with Silvia, Pia and Oliver. We sat outside my little neighborhood bakery, Oro, drinking tea and munching on some tasty pastries. We have both been traveling since this summer, and haven't had any real time to hang out. It was the perfect morning to sit outside with the dogs and catch up. So much gossip to share! 
After my lovely morning, I hopped on the terrible no good very bad train uptown to meet Jen at the Cloisters Museum. Well, at least that is what I had planned on doing. After two hours of hopping on and off trains, I eventually made it to the beautiful Fort Tyron Park. Thankfully, I was smart enough to bring my book, which I finished on the thirty minute train ride home. How and why does this lack of consistency always seem to happen within the NYC public transportation? I have no idea, but it's terribly annoying.
I met Jen outside of the beautiful Cloister. The sun was shining bright and the wind was blowing hard. We were so hungry, we couldn't tell if it was the wind or our tummy's rumbling, so we decided lunch would be our first agenda for the afternoon. 
We sat outside in the garden by the fountain, where the nuns used to pray, and ate at the little Cloister Garden Cafe. We spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the beautiful architecture, gardens, and art housed in this spectacular monument. Here are some of my favorite photos from our Cloister adventure!

The Cloisters museum and gardens, the branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art devoted to the art and architecture of medieval Europe, was assembled from architectural elements, both domestic and religious, that date from the twelfth through the fifteenth century.

The building and its cloistered gardens—located in Fort Tryon Park in northern Manhattan—are treasures in themselves, effectively part of the collection housed there. The Cloisters' collection comprises approximately three thousand works of art from medieval Europe, dating from about the ninth to the sixteenth century.

The Cloisters museum and gardens, which opened to the public in 1938, is the branch of the Museum devoted to the art and architecture of medieval Europe. Located in Fort Tryon Park in northern Manhattan, The Cloisters was assembled from architectural elements that date from the twelfth through the fifteenth century.

Located in a spectacular four-acre setting overlooking the Hudson River, the building incorporates elements from five medieval cloisters—Saint-Michel-de-CuxaSaint-Guilhem-le-D├ęsertBonnefont-en-CommingesTrie-en-Bigorre, and Froville—and from other monastic sites located in southern France. 

Three of the cloisters reconstructed at the branch museum feature gardens planted according to horticultural information found in medieval treatises and poetry, garden documents and herbals, and medieval works of art such as tapestries, stained-glass windows, and column capitals. 

Approximately three thousand works of art from medieval Europe, dating from the ninth to the sixteenth century and including exquisite illuminated manuscripts, stained glass, metalwork, enamels, ivories, and tapestries, are exhibited in this unique context.

The modern museum building is not a copy of any specific medieval structure but an ensemble of spaces, rooms, and gardens that suggest a variety of artistic aspects of medieval Europe.

Much of the sculpture at The Cloisters was acquired by George Grey Barnard (1863–1938), a prominent American sculptor and an avid collector of medieval art. 

Barnard opened his original cloisters on Fort Washington Avenue to the public in 1914; through the generosity of philanthropist and collector John D. Rockefeller, Jr. (1874–1960), the Museum acquired the cloisters and all of their contents in 1925. By 1927, it was clear that a new, larger building would be needed to display the collection in a more scholarly fashion.

 In addition to financing the conversion of 66.5 acres of land just north of Barnard’s museum into a public park, which would house the new museum, Rockefeller donated 700 additional acres across the Hudson River to the state of New Jersey to ensure that no developments on the property would spoil the view from The Cloisters. 

In addition to providing the grounds and building to house the Barnard collection, Rockefeller contributed works of art from his own collection—including the celebrated Unicorn Tapestries—and established an endowment for operations and future acquisitions.

The new Cloisters museum building was designed by Charles Collens (1873–1956), the architect of Riverside Church in New York City, in a composite yet informed medieval style that incorporated elements from Barnard’s museum as well as the Rockefeller works. 

Joseph Breck (1885–1933), a curator of decorative arts and assistant director of the Metropolitan Museum, and James J. Rorimer (1905–1966), who would later be named the Museum’s director, were primarily responsible for the interior. 

Balancing Collens’s interpretation with strict attention to historical accuracy, Breck and Rorimer created in the galleries a clear and logical flow from the Romanesque (ca. 1000–ca. 1150) through the Gothic period (ca. 1150–1520). 

The Cloisters was formally dedicated on May 10, 1938. The Cloisters’ Treasury, which contains objects created for liturgical celebrations, personal devotions, and secular uses, was renovated in 1988. The galleries containing the seven Unicorn Tapestries were refurbished in 1999.

The collection at The Cloisters continues to grow, thanks to Rockefeller’s endowment and other significant gifts.

Among its masterpieces are an early fifteenth-century French illuminated book of hours, The Belles Heures of Jean de France, Duc de Berry;

  a richly carved, twelfth-century ivory cross attributed to the English abbey of Bury Saint Edmunds;

 stained-glass windows from the castle chapel at Ebreichsdorf, Austria; stone Virgin of the mid-thirteenth century from the choir screen of Strasbourg Cathedral in France; and the so-called Merode Triptych, representing the Annunciation, by the fifteenth-century Netherlandish master Robert Campin.



Tuesday–Sunday: 9:30 a.m.–5:15 p.m.
November–FebruaryTuesday–Sunday: 9:30 a.m.–4:45 p.m.Year-RoundClosed Monday, Thanksgiving, December 25, and January 1


Fee includes same-day admission to the Main Building and The Cloisters. There is no extra charge for entrance to special exhibitions.
Seniors (65 and older)$17
Members (Join Now)Free
Children under 12 (accompanied by an adult)Free
To help cover the costs of special exhibitions, we ask that you please pay the full recommended amount.
Save time. Buy online today. Purchase express admission in advance:
Advance tickets are also available from our outside vendors:
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99 Margaret Corbin Drive

Fort Tryon Park
New York, New York 10040
Information: 212-923-3700
TTY: 212-570-3828

See Getting Here for directions to the Main Building of the Museum.

By Subway/Bus
Take the A train to 190th Street and exit the station by elevator. Walk north along Margaret Corbin Drive for approximately ten minutes or transfer to the M4 bus and ride north one stop. If you are coming from the Museum's Main Building, you may also take the M4 bus directly from Madison Avenue/83rd Street to the last stop. (Please allow more time for this option.)
By Car
Take Henry Hudson Parkway northbound to the first exit after George Washington Bridge (Fort Tryon Park—The Cloisters). This exit is only accessible from the northbound lane; if coming from the north, take Henry Hudson Parkway southbound to exit 14–15, make a U-turn, and travel north one mile to the exit marked Fort Tryon Park—The Cloisters.


Visitors to The Cloisters may use free city parking available in Fort Tryon Park.

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