Rockefeller wanted the objects to speak for themselves in harmonious surroundings that were not subject to modern whims or fashions. The Cloisters has been described: “as a structure… integrated with its monuments and objects, the reciprocal relationship being fundamental to the whole.”*
The Cloisters display up to 5,000 art works. If you can get to this gem in uptown Manhattan, you won’t be disappointed. If you cannot get there, here’s a tour of the highlights. Enjoy!
Picturesque doorway ~ History, restored
The Nativity tapestry (1500-1520) hangs by the doors leading to The Late Gothic Hall.
This 27 by 13 foot artwork was vandalized prior to its acquisition by The Cloisters in 1938. In 1967, the Department of Textile Conservation identified that the tapestry had been cut into four irregular pieces and badly stitched back together.
This prompted its laborious restoration. Conservators Alice Blohm and Tina Kane led the meticulous conservation process from 1973 to 2009. The team restored missing yarns, weaved holes together, and reconstructed missing areas.
A 12th Century Canvased Camel
The camel seems to have been associated with the lands of the Bible. But also with power, luxury, and the exotic ~ The Cloisters
The Fuentiduena Chapel
The cavernous Romanesque chapel features a barrel vaulted ceiling, and is filled with grand paintings and sculptures.
The interior of the half dome is decorated with a Catalan fresco depicting the Virgin and Child in Majesty and the Adoration of the Magi from the church of the Virgin near Tredòs, and a magnificent twelfth-century painted Spanish wood crucifix hangs from the arch. ~ The Met Museum
Splash of Colour
In the 12th century, The Chapter House was a meeting space. Fast forward 900 years, and it was a stable.
Whenever any important business has to be done in the monastery, let the Abbot call together the whole community and state the matter to be acted upon.” So Saint Benedict began “Chapter 3 of his Rule for Monasteries.” ~ The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Wooden benches line The Chapter House, whose stone pillars, decorated with rose and pine cone carvings, support a rib-vaulted ceiling. The space is infused with soft light thanks to the arched windows along one side.
The Merode Room, named for the Merode Altarpiece, displays art used in private devotion.
Columns, such as the one below, were used as decoration in the Benedictine abbey of Notre-Dame de la Grande Sauve. Can you see the leaf motifs?
The surronding gardens are waiting for spring, but the flowers adorning the Unicorn Tapestries are always abloom. Its millefleurs (millions of flowers) reflect the museum’s Trie Cloister Garden.
Traditionally known as The Hunt of the Unicorn, these tapestries were woven in wool, metallic threads, and silk, and include the depiction of 101 species of plants, of which over 85 have been identified. The vibrant colors still evident today were produced with three dye plants: weld (yellow), madder (red), and woad (blue). ~ The Met Museum
The pomegranate tree, featured in several of the tapestries, symbolized the chastity of the Virgin Mary, the union of faith, and peace. The fruit’s red juice represented Christ’s blood, and redemption in a paradise garden. ~ Corey Eilhardt, The Cloisters
As light shines through 14th Century Austrian stained glass windows, The Gothic Chapel’s tomb effigies come alive under splashes of colour.
A doorway looking into Langon Chapel.
The uneven driveway is made of original Belgian blocks from old New York streets.
*Landmarks Preservation Commission, 1974, Number 4, LP-0835
More Information: The Burgos Tapestry: A Study in Conservation.