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The Cloisters is a museum in Fort Tryon Park in Upper Manhattan, New York City specializing in European medieval architecture, sculpture and decorative arts, with a focus on the Romanesque and Gothic periods. The building is constructed on a steep hill and comprises of an upper and lower level. The museum's architectural centerpieces are four cloisters—the Cuxa, Saint-Guilhem, Bonnefont, and Trie cloisters— and a number of reconstructed chapels and halls sourced from medieval French monasteries and abbeys. They were dismantled in Europe between 1934 and 1939, and rebuilt in a four-acre site in Washington Heights, New York, during a large-scale and complex project resulting from the acquisitions of the American sculptor and art dealer George Grey Barnard, implemented by the architect Charles Collens, and paid for by the financier and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr.

The Cloisters
The Met Cloisters.jpg
View from the main entrance
The Cloisters is located in New York City
The Cloisters
Location within New York City
Established May 10, 1938
Location 99 Margaret Corbin Drive, Fort Tryon Park
Manhattan, New York City
Coordinates 40°51′53″N 73°55′55″W / 40.8648°N 73.9319°W / 40.8648; -73.9319Coordinates: 40°51′53″N 73°55′55″W / 40.8648°N 73.9319°W / 40.8648; -73.9319
Type Medieval art
Collection size 1,854
Public transit access Subway:
"A" train 190th Street, "1" train 191st Street
Bus: Bx7, M3, M4, M100

The museum holds approximately five thousand medieval works of art and architecture from Europe, mostly dating to the 12th to 15th centuries—that is, from the Byzantine to the early Renaissance periods. The best known include the c. 1422 Mérode Altarpiece panel painting attributed to Robert Campin and the c 1495–1505 Flemish The Hunt of the Unicorn tapestries. The varied objects include stone and wood sculptures, tapestries, illuminated manuscripts and panel paintings, the building also contains early medieval gardens and series of indoor chapels and thematic spaces, including the Romanesque, Fuentidueña, Unicorn, Spanish and Gothic rooms.[1] The museum has display space for around two thousand of these objects.

Governed by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the museum's early collection was built by Barnard. It was acquired by Rockefeller, who in 1931 purchased the site at Washington Heights as a permanent home for the works. The design, layout and ambiance of the building is intended to evoke a sense of the medieval European monastic life.[2]


Formation and historyEdit

Barnard and Clare Sheridan at his cloister in New York City, 1921

The basis for the museum comes from the collection of George Grey Barnard, an American sculptor and collector who almost single-handedly established a medieval-art museum near his home in Fort Washington. Although moderately successful as a sculptor, he was unable to support himself and his family from commissions alone. His main income came from sourcing and trading European medieval architectural artifacts, and he built up a large personal collection. Barnard was a risk taker and led most of his life on the edge of poverty.[3] During this period, most of his trade came from buying and selling with French dealers.[4] Late in 1906, Barnard changed his tactic from dealing in stand alone objects, to the discovery of in situ architectural artifacts. He became very skilled at this activity. He was a talented negotiator with the advantage a professional sculptor's eye for high quality stone carving, and amassed a high quality collection at a relatively low cost. Bernard was mining a tradition that begun with the established by the great monastic orders of widespread abbeys and churches across northern Europe in the twelfth century, but which through centuries of pillaged and burning during centuries of war and revolution, afterwhich they fell into local farmers hands.[3] Bernard's success lead him to adapt a somewhat a romantic view of himself, he recalled bicycling across the French countryside and unearthing fallen and long forgotten Gothic masterworks along the way. He claimed to have found the tomb effigy of Jean d'Alluye, face down, in use as a bridge over a small stream.[4]

John D. Rockefeller Jr. commissioned and financed the museum, including the purchase of the land. He later bequeathed it to the city of New York

During one of his frequent financial crises, Barnard sold his stock to the philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr.,[5] works and structures that became the foundation and core of the Cloisters museum.[3] Rockefeller and Barnard were polar opposites in temperament and did not get along; Rockefeller was reserved, Barnard exuberant. Roger Fry was the Metropolitan's chief European buying agent at the time, and acted as an intermediary.[6] Rockefeller eventually acquired Barnard's collection for around $700,000 and financed the construction of the museum at the 66.5-acre (26.9 ha) site at Fort Tryon Park.[7]

The design for Fort Tryon Park was commissioned by Rockefeller in 1917, when he purchased the Billings Estate and other properties in the Fort Washington area. He hired Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., son of one of the designers of Central Park and the Olmsted Brothers firm to create a park, which he donated to New York City in 1935.[8] The Cloisters building and adjacent 4-acre (1.6 ha) gardens were designed by Charles Collens. They incorporates elements from abbeys in Catalan and France. Parts from Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa, Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, Bonnefont-en-Comminges, Trie-sur-Baïse and Froville were disassembled stone-by-stone and shipped to New York City, where they were reconstructed and integrated into a cohesive whole. Construction took place over a five-year period beginning in 1934.[9][10] Rockefeller bought several hundred acres of the New Jersey Palisades, which he donated to the State of New Jersey in an effort to preserve the view from the museum.[11]



The Cloisters Cross, English, 12th century

Cloisters holds approximately five thousand individual pieces of art, mostly from the 12th to 15th centuries, and all specializing in medieval European works. The individual objects are held in a series of rooms, including the Late Gothic Hall and Boppard Room, that are separate from the Cloisters and Chapels dedicated to architectural features. The museum holds several 14th century ivory statuettes of the Madonna, which are mostly French with some English examples. The Flemish tapestries The Hunt of the Unicorn are a series of seven tapestries probably woven in Brussels or Liège c. 1495–1505. They were purchased by Rockefeller in 1922 for about one million US dollars, and are today hung in the dedicate Unicorn tapestries room on the museum's upper floor.[12] Other well known works include the Nine Heroes tapestries and the 12th-century walrus ivory Cloisters Cross, which contains over ninety-two intricately carved figures and ninety-eight inscriptions along its axis. A similar 12th century French metalwork reliquary cross contains six sequences of engravings on either side of its shaft, and across the four sides of its lower arms.[13]

The Mérode Altarpiece, Robert Campin and assistants, Netherlandish, after 1422

The museum's best known panel painting is Robert Campin's c. 1425–28 Mérode Altarpiece, a foundational work in the development of Early Netherlandish painting,[14] which has been at The Cloisters since 1956. It is well preserved, with little over-paint, glossing, dirt layers or paint loss.[15] Other panel paintings in the collection include the Jumieges panels by an unknown French master,[16] and a Nativity triptych altarpiece attributed to a follower of Rogier van der Weyden.[17]

The museum has an extensive collection of frescoes, stained glass, porcelain statuettes, reliquary wood and metal shrines and crosses, as well as examples of Gothic boxwood miniatures.[18] It holds liturgical vessels and rare pieces of Gothic furniture and metalwork.[19] Many pieces are not associated with a particular architectural setting, so their placement in the museum may vary.[20]

Some of the objects have storied provenance, including those plundered from the estates of aristocrats in the years of the French Revolutionary Army's occupation of the Southern Netherlands.[21] The Hunt of the Unicorn was for a period used by the French army to cloak potatoes and keep them from freezing over.[22] It was purchased by Rockefeller in 1922 and six of the tapestries hung in his New York home until they were donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1938.[23]

Stained glassEdit

The Virgin Mary and Five Standing Saints above Predella Panels. Pot-metal and white glass, vitreous paint, silver stain. Rhine Valley, Germany, 1440–46.[24]

The Cloisters' collection of stained glass includes almost three hundred panels, mostly French and Germanic, mostly from the 3rd to early 16th centuries.[25] A number were formed from hand made opalescent glass. The works in the collection are characterized by vivid colors and often abstract designs and patterns; many have a devotional image as a center piece.[26] The collections' pot-metal works (i.e. containing colorants) from the High Gothic period highlight the effects of light,[25] especially the transitions between darkness, shadow and illumination.[27] The Met's collection grew in the early 20th century when Raymond Picairn made acquisitions at a time when medieval glass was not highly sought by connoisseurs. Glass panels were difficult to extract and transport.[28]

"Roundel Descent of the Damned". North Netherlandish, 1500–10

Jane Hayward, a curator at the museum from 1969, believed stained glass was "unquestioningly the preeminent form of Gothic medieval monumental painting",[29] and began its second phase of acquisition.[29] She bought c. 1500 heraldic windows from the Rhineland, now in the Campin room with the Mérode Altarpiece, acquired in 1950. Hayward's 1980 addition led to a redesign of the room so that the installed pieces would echo the domestic setting of the altarpiece. She wrote that the Campin room is the only gallery in the Met "where domestic rather than religious art predominates...a conscious effort has been made to create a fifteenth-century domestic interior similar to the one shown in [Campin]'s Annunciation panel."[30]

Other acquisitions from this time include late 13th century grisaille panels from the Château-de-Bouvreuil in Rouen, glass work from the Cathedral of Saint-Gervais-et-Saint-Protais at Sées,[30] and panels from the Acezat collection, now in the Heroes Tapestry Hall."[31]

Illuminated manuscriptsEdit

The museum has collected four medieval illuminated books; the French Cloisters Apocalypse (c. 1330),[32] Jean Pucelle's Hours of Jeanne d'Evreux (c. 1325–28), the Psalter of Bonne de Luxembourg, attributed to Jean Le Noir, and the Belles Heures du Duc de Berry (c. 1399–1416) attributed to the Limbourg brothers.[33] The four books are of exceptional rarity and quality. Their acquisition was a significant achievement for the museum's early collectors—but the consensus among the ruling hierarchy was that the Cloisters should focus on architectural elements, sculpture and decorative arts, which would enhance the environmental quality of the institution. Manuscripts were considered more suited to the Morgan Library in lower Manhattan.[34]

"Psalter of Bonne de Luxembourg", Jean Le Noir or follower, French, 14th century

The Belles Heures is one of the world's finest surviving examples of manuscript illumination, and the only extant complete book from the hand of the Limbourg brothers. It was purchased in 1954 by Rockefeller Jr. from Maurice de Rothschild, with the intention that it be given to the Metropolitan.[35] The Bonne de Luxembourg manuscript had long been in private collection and known only through poor quality photographic reproductions until it was acquired by the Cloisters. Thus it had been rarely studied or widely appreciated, and was until that point also attributed to Pucelle. Following its acquisition, it was studied by variety of art historians, which a consensus developing to favour the hand of Le Noir.[36]

Exterior building and gardensEdit

The Cloisters were built into a steep hill and thus its romms are divided between an upper entrance level, and ground floor level. The exterior building is influenced by and contains elements from the 13th-century church at Saint-Geraud at Monsempron (fr), France, from which the northeast end of the building borrows especially. It was mostly designed by Collins, who was influenced by works from Bernard's collection. The exterior building contains a number of architecture elements and settings relocated mostly from four French medieval abbeys, which between 1934 and 1939 were transported, reconstructed and integrated with new buildings in a project overseen by the architect Charles Collens. Collens said to Rockefeller that the new building "should present a well-studied outline done in the very simplest form of stonework growing naturally out of the rocky hill-top. After looking through the books in the Boston Athenaeum...we found a building at Monsempron in Southern France of a type which would lend itself in a very satisfactory manner to such a treatment."[37]

Cuxa Garden

The architects sought to provide features that would memorialize the north hill's role in the American Revolution, while also providing grand views over the Hudson River. The exterior was built from 1935 and contains stone from a number of European sources, primarily limestone and granite.[38] It includes four Gothic windows from the refectory at Sens and nine arcades.[39] The rounded Fuentidueña Chapel was especially difficult to fit into the planned area.[40] The east elevation is mostly formed from limestone and contains nine arcades from the Benedictine priory at Froville, and four flamboyant French Gothic windows from the Dominican monastery at Sens.[39]

The Cloisters is fortified, as would have been the original churches and abbeys. During the periods of invasion gardens would have been essential for community survival.[41] The Cloister's three gardens, the Judy Black Garden at the Cuxa Cloister on the main level, and the Bonnefont and Trie Cloisters gardens on the lower level,[42] were laid out and planted in 1938. They contain a wide variety of mostly rare medieval species,[43] amounting to over 250 genera of plants, flowers, herbs and trees, making it one of the world's most important collection of specialized gardens. Their design was overseen during the museum's construction by James Rorimer, aided by Margaret Freeman, who conducted extensive research into the keeping of plants and their symbolism in the Middle Ages.[44] Today the gardens are tended to by a staff of horticulturalists; the senior members are also historians of medieval gardening techniques.[45]



The Cuxa Cloister, c. 1130–40

The Cuxa Cloisters are located on the south side of the building's main level, and are structurally and thematically the museum's centerpiece.[46] They were sourced from the Benedictine Abbey of Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa, on Mount Canigou in the northeast French Pyrenees, which was founded in 878.[47] The monastery was abandoned in 1791, and around half of its stonework was relocated to New York between 1906 and 1907.[47][48] Until then it had been in disrepair; its roof collapsed in 1835, followed by its bell tower in 1839.[49] Its installation became one of the first major undertakings by the Metropolitan after it acquired Barnard's collection. After intensive work over the fall and winter of 1925–26, the Cuxa Cloisters were opened to the public on April 1, 1926.[50][51]

Stone pillars and capitals

The quadrangle-shaped garden once formed a center around which monks slept in cells. The original garden seemed to have been lined by walkways around adjoining arches lined with capitals enclosing the garth. The oldest plan of the original building describes lilies and roses.[52] It is impossible now to represent solely medieval species and arrangements; those in the Cuxa garden are approximations by botanists specializing in medieval history.[52] The intersection of the two walkways contains an eight-sided fountain.[53] The walls are modern, while the original capitals and columns were cut from pink Languedoc marble from the Pyrenees.[50] The capitals were carved at different points in the abbey's history and thus contain a variety of forms and abstract geometric patterns, including scrolling leaves, pine cones, sacred figures such as Christ, the Apostles and angels, as well as monstrous creatures such as two-headed animals, lions restrained by apes, mythic hybrids, a mermaid and inhuman mouths consuming human torsos.[54][55]

The motifs are derived from popular fables,[47] or represent the brute forces of nature or evil,[56] or are based on late 11th and 12th century monastic writings, such as those by Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153).[57] The order in which the capitals were originally placed is unknown, making their interpretation especially difficult, although a sequential and continuous narrative was probably not intended.[58] According to art historian Thomas Dale, to the monks, the "human figures, beasts, and monsters" may have represented the "tension between the world and the cloister, the struggle to repress the natural inclinations of the body".[59]


Saint-Guilhem Cloisters

The Saint-Guilhem Cloisters originate from the site of the Benedictine monastery of Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert. The architectural elements date from 804 to the 1660s.[60] From 1906, around 140 pieces were transferred to New York as one of Barnard's early acquisitions, including capitals, columns and pilasters.[61] The innovative carvings on the marble piers and column shafts recall Roman sculpture and are coiled by extravagant foliage, including vines.[62] The capitals contain acanthus leaves and grotesque heads peering out,[63] including figures at the Presentation at the Temple, Daniel in the Lions' Den[64] and the Mouth of Hell,[65] and a number of pilasters and columns.[60] The carvings seem preoccupied with the evils of hell. Those beside the mouth of hell contain representations of the devil and tormenting beasts, with, according to art historian Bonnie Young, "animal-like body parts and cloven hoofs [as they] herd naked sinners in chains to be thrown into an upturned monster's mouth".[66]

The Guilhem cloisters are located in an indoor section of the museum's upper level and are much smaller than originally built.[67] The garden contains a central fountain,[68] and its plants are potted in containers which include a 15th-century glazed earthenware vase. The area is covered by a skylight and plate glass panels which conserves heat in the winter months. Rockefeller had initially wanted a high roof and clerestory windows, but was convinced by Breck to go with a skylight. Breck wrote to Rockefeller that "by substituting a skylight for a solid ceiling...the sculpture is properly illuminated, since the light falls in a natural way; the visitor has the sense of being in the open; and his attention, consequently, is not attracted to the modern superstructure."[69]


View of the Bonnefont cloisters

The Bonnefont cloisters consist of four walkways surrounding a medieval herb garden. They are assembled from a number of French monasteries, with the majority from a late 12th century Cistercian Abbaye de Bonnefont (fr) at Bonnefont-en-Comminges, southwest of Toulouse.[70] The abbey was intact until at least 1807. By the 1850s, all of its architectural features had been removed from the site, often for decoration of nearby buildings.[71] Today the Bonnefont cloisters contain twenty-one double capitals, and surround a garden that contains many features typical of the medieval period, including a central wellhead, raised flower beds and lined with wattle fences.[72] The marbles are highly ornate and decorated; some contain two registers, some with grotesque figures.[73]

The stonework was acquired by Barnard in 1937.[74] The garden contains a medlar tree, of the type found in The Hunt of the Unicorn tapestries, and is centered around a wellhead in place since the 12th century.[75]


Fountain at the Trie cloisters. Eighteen of the original building's eighty-one capitals were moved to New York.[76]

The Trie cloisters were mostly sourced from the Carmelite convent at Trie-sur-Baïse in south-western France, whose original abbey, except for the church, was destroyed by Huguenots in 1571.[77] A number of small narrow buttresses added in in New York by the curator Joseph Breck, who based his design on features at Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire, England.[40]

Like those from Saint-Guilhem, the Trie cloisters have been given modern roofing.[78] The convent at Trie-sur-Baïse featured some 80 white marble capitals[79] carved between 1484–1490.[80] Eighteen were moved to New York and contain numerous biblical scenes and incidents form the lives of saints. A number of the carvings are secular, including those of legendary figures such as Saint George and the Dragon,[79] the "wild man" confronting a grotesque monster, and a droll head wearing an unusual and fanciful hat.[79] The capitals are placed in chronological order, beginning with God in the act of creation at the north west corner, Adam and Eve in the west gallery, followed by the Binding of Isaac, and Matthew and John writing their gospels. Capitals in the south gallery illustrate scenes from the life of Christ ranging from the Annunciation to his Entombment.[81]

The Trie cloisters surround a rectangular garden which hosts around 80 species of plants and contains a tall limestone cascade fountain at the center,[82] complied from two late 15th- to early 16th-century French structures.[80]

Chapels and hallsEdit

Gothic ChapelEdit

View of the Gothic Chapel, showing the three center windows

The Gothic chapel is set on the museum's ground level, and was designed to display stained glass and large sculptures. The entrance from the upper level Early Gothic Hall is lit by stained glass double-lancet windows, carved on both sides and originating from the church of La Tricherie, France.[83] The ground level entrance is through a large door at its east wall. The hall begins with a pointed Gothic arch, leading to high bayed ceilings, ribbed vaults and buttress.[84] The three center windows are from the church of Sankt Leonhard, in southern Austria, from c. 1340. The glass panels include a depiction of Martin of Tours as well as complex medallion patterns.[84] The glass on the east wall comes from Evron Abbey, Normandy, and dates from around 1325.[85] The apse contains three large sculptures by the main windows; two larger than life-size female saints dating from the 14th century, and a Burgundian Bishop dating from the 13th.[86] The large limestone sculpture of Saint Margaret on the wall by the stairs dates to around 1330 and is from the church of Santa Maria de Farfanya (es) in Lleida, Spain.[84]

Tombs of Jean d'Alluye and of a Lady, possibly Margaret of Gloucester

The six recumbent tomb effigies are each a supreme example of sepulchral art.[87] Three are from the Bellpuig Monastery (es) in northern Spain.[87] The monument directly in front of the main windows is the c. 1248–67 sarcophagus of Jean d'Alluye, a knight of the crusades, who was thought to have returned from the Holy Land with a relic of the True Cross. He is shown as a young man, his eyes open, and dressed in chain armor, with his long sword and shield.[86] The female effigy of a lady was sourced in Normandy, dates to the mid 13th century, and is perhaps of Margaret of Gloucester.[88] Although resting on a modern base,[89] she is dressed in high contemporary aristocratic fashion, including and mantle, cotte, a jewel studded belt and an elaborate ring necklace brooch.[90]

Four of the effigies are of the Urgell family, are set into the chapel walls, and are associated with the church of Santa Maria at Castello de Farfanya, which was redesigned in the Gothic style for Ermengol X (died c. 1314).[87] The elaborate sarcophagus of Ermengol VII, Count of Urgell (d. 1184) is place on the left hand wall facing the south windows. It is supported by three stone lions and contains a group of mourners carved into the slab, which also shows Christ in Majesty flanked by the Twelve Apostles.[91] The three other Urgell tombs also date to the mid 13th century, and maybe of Álvaro of Urgell and his second wife, Cecilia of Foix, the parents of Ermengol X, and a that of a young boy, possibly Ermengol IX, the only of their direct line ancestors known to have die in youth.[88] The slabs of the double tomb on the wall opposite Ermengol VII, contain the effigies of his parents, and have been slanted forward to offer a clear view of the stonework. The heads are place on cushions, which are decorate with arms. The male's feet rest on a dog, while the cushion under the woman's head is held by an angel.[92]

Fuentidueña ChapelEdit

The Fuentidueña Apse, Spanish, c. 1175–1200

The Fuentidueña chapel is the museum's largest room.[93] It is entered through a broad oak door flanked by sculptures, including of leaping animals. The Chapel's center piece is the Fuentidueña Apse, a semicircular Romanesque recess dating c. 1175–1200, which was sourced from the Saint Joan church at Fuentidueña, Segovia.[94] By the 19th century the church was long abandoned and in disrepair. Its apse was reconstructed at the Cloisters in the late 1940s, a process that involved the shipment of almost 3300, mostly sandstone and limestone,[95] blocks from Spain to New York. The acquisition followed three decades of complex negotiation and diplomacy between the Spanish church and both countries art historical hierarchies and governments. It was eventually exchanged in a deal that involved the transfer of six frescoes from San Baudelio de Berlanga to the Prado, on an equally long term loan.[96] Each block was individually cataloged and moved to New York in a total of 839 crates.[97] It was such a large and complex reconstruction that the project necessitated the demolition of the former "Special Exhibition Room" to make way for the installation. The chapel was opened to the public in 1961, seven years after its instillation had begun.[98]

The apse consists of a broad arch leading to a barrel vault, which culminates in a half dome.[99] The capitals at the entrance contain representations of the Adoration of the Magi and Daniel in the lions' den.[100] The piers show Martin of Tours on the left and the angel Gabriel announcing to The Virgin on the right. The chapel includes a number of other, mostly contemporary medieval artwork. They include, in the dome, a large fresco dating to between 1130–50, from the Spanish Church of Sant Joan de Tredòs. The fresco's colorization resembles a Byzantine mosaic and is dedicated to the ideal of Mary as the mother of God.[101] Hanging within the apse is a c. 1150–1200 crucifix from the Convent of St. Clara (es) at Astudillo, in Spain.[102] Its reverse contains a depiction of the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God), decorated with red and blue foliage at its frames.[103]

The exterior wall holds three small windows,[100] narrow and stilted, but designed to let in the maximum amount of light. The windows were originally set within imposing fortress walls; according to the art historian Bonnie Young "these small windows and the massive, fortress-like walls contribute to the feeling of austerity...typical of Romanesque churches."[99]

Langon ChapelEdit

Langon Chapel, French, 12th century

The Langon Chapel is situated on the musuem's ground level. It's right wall is sourced from the Romanesque Cathédrale Notre-Dame-du-Bourg de Digne and dates from c. 1126.[104] The Pontault Chapter house consists of a single aisle nave, transepts[105] and is taken from a small Benedictine parish church of c. 1115 from Notre Dame de Pontaut,[106] then in neglect and disrepair. When acquired, its upper level was in use as a storage place for tobacco. About three quarters of its original stonework was relocated to New York.[105]

The chapel is entered from the Romanesque hall through a doorway compromising of a large, elaborate French Gothic stone entrance commissioned by the Burgundian court,[107] and sourced from Moutiers-Saint-Jean Abbey in Burgundy, France. Carvings on the elaborate white oolitic limestone doorway depict the Coronation of the Virgin and contains foliated capitals and statuettes on the outer piers; including two kings positioned in the embrasures and various kneeling angels. Carvings of angels are placed in the archivolts above the kings.[108]

Moutiers-Saint-Jean was sacked, burned and rebuilt a number of times. In 1567 the Huguenot army removed the heads from the two kings, and in 1797 the abbey was sold as rubble for rebuilding. The site lay in ruin for decades and lost further sculptural elements, until rediscovered by Barnard who organized for the entrances' transfer to New York. The doorway had been the main portal of the abbey, was probably built as the south transept door, facing the cloister. The sculptures of the figures on either side of the doorway probably represent the early Frankish kings Clovis I (d. 511) and his son Chlothar I (d. 561).[109][110] The piers are lined with elaborate and highly detailed rows of statuettes, which are mostly set in niches,[111] and baldly damaged; most have been decapitated. The heads on the right hand capital were for a time believed to represent Henry II of England.[112] Seven capitals survive from the original church, with carvings of human figures or heads, some of which as have been identified as historical persons, including of Eleanor of Aquitaine.[105]

Romanesque hallEdit

The Romanesque hall contains three great church doorways. The monumental arched Burgundian entrance is from Moutier-Saint-Jean de Réôme, France, and dates to c. 1150.[107] Two animals are carved into the keystones, both on their hind legs as if about to attack each other. The capitals are lined with carvings of both real and imagined animals and birds, as well as leaves and other fauna.[113] The two other, earlier doorways are from Reugny, Allier and Poitou in central France.[2] The hall contains four large early-13th-century stone sculptures representing the Adoration of the Magi and frescoes of a lion and a wyvern, each from the Monastery of San Pedro de Arlanza in north central Spain.[107] On the left of the room are portraits of kings and angels, also from the monastery at Moutier-Saint-Jean.[113] The hall contains the remnants of a church at the Augustinian church at Reugny, consisting of three pairs of columns over a door with molded archivolts.[114] The site was badly damaged during the French Wars of Religion and again during the French Revolution. By 1850 most of the structures were sold to Piere-Yon Verniere, and acquired by Barnard in 1906.[60]

Library and archivesEdit

The Cloisters contains one of the Metropolitan Museum's thirteen libraries. Focusing on medieval art and architecture, it holds over 15,000 volumes of books and journals, the museum's archive administration papers, curatorial papers, dealer records and the personal papers of Barnard, as well as early glass lantern slides of museum materials, manuscript facsimiles, scholarly records, maps and recordings of musical performances at the museum.[115] The library functions primarily as a resource for museum staff, but is available, by appointment, to researchers, art dealers, academics and students.[116]

Visual artifacts include early sketches and blueprints made during the early design phase of the museum's construction, as well as historical photographic collections. These include photographs of medieval objects from the collection of George Joseph Demotte, and a series taken during and just after World War II showing damage sustained to monuments and artifacts, including tomb effigies. They are, according to curator Lauren Jackson-Beck, of "prime importance to the art historian who is concerned with the identification of both the original work and later areas of reconstruction".[117] The prints of two important series are kept on microfilm; the "Index photographique de l'art en France" and the German "Marburg Picture Index".[117]


The Cloisters is governed by the board of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Metropolitan's collections are owned by a private corporation of fellows and benefactors, which include about 950 persons. The museum's board of trustees consists of 41 elected members, several officials of the City of New York, and persons honored as trustees by the museum. The current chairman of the board, Daniel Brodsky, was elected in 2011.[118]

Exhibitions and programsEdit

The museum's architectural settings, athmostpere and acoustics have made it a regular setting for both musical recital and as a stage for medieval theater. Notable stagings include "The Miracle of Theophilus" in 1942, and John Gassner's adaption of "The Second Shepherds' Play" in 1954.[119]

The Cloisters is a well-known New York City landmark and has been used as a filming location. In 1948, the filmmaker Maya Deren used its ramparts as a backdrop for her experimental film Meditation on Violence.[120] In the same year, German director William Dieterle used the Cloisters as the location for a convent school in his film Portrait of Jennie. The 1968 film Coogan's Bluff used the site's pathways and lanes for a scenic motorcycle chase.[120]



  1. ^ Young 1979, p. 1.
  2. ^ a b Landais 1992, p. 43.
  3. ^ a b c Tomkins 1970, p. 308.
  4. ^ a b Tomkins 1970, p. 309.
  5. ^ Hayward, Shepard & Clark 2012, p. 38.
  6. ^ Tomkins 1970, p. 310.
  7. ^ Husband 2013, p. 18.
  8. ^ Husband 2013, pp. 6 & 26.
  9. ^ New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission; Dolkart, Andrew S. (text); Postal, Matthew A. (text) (2009), Postal, Matthew A., ed., Guide to New York City Landmarks (4th ed.), New York: John Wiley & Sons, ISBN 978-0-470-28963-1 , p.213
  10. ^ "The Cloisters Museum and Gardens". The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 15 May 2016
  11. ^ Husband 2013, pp. 16–20.
  12. ^ Preston, Richard. "Capturing the Unicorn". The New Yorker, 11 April 2005. Retrieved 26 February 2018
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