The Cloisters Museum and Gardens

The Cloisters Museum and Gardens

The Cloisters Museum is in Fort Tryon Park in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City. The building is a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and was constructed in the 1930s. It resembles the architectural characteristics of many European abbeys during medieval times. The Museum exhibits art and architecture from Medieval Europe.

The Cloisters is also fascinating because it incorporates parts from five French cloistered abbeys. The buildings at Saint-Guilhem-le-Desert, Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa, Bonnefront-en-Comminges, Trie-en-Bigoree and Froville were all put together brick by brick before they were shipped to New York. Between the years of 1934 and 1938, the features of the museum were put back together at Fort Tryon Park. The area around the museum was landscaped was gardens that were planted according to the horticultural details that were gathered from medieval artifacts and writings, and the structure also includes several medieval-style cloistered herb gardens. The Cloisters, along with Fort Tryon Park, are listed as historic districts on the National Register of Historic Places.

The museum and gardens were opened to the public in 1938. The site is constructed on four acres of land that overlook the Hudson River. In addition to the beautiful gardens, tapestries, stained glass windows, column capitals are also featured at the museum. There are around 3,000 works of art from Medieval Europe, dating from the 9th through 16th centuries.

Much of the sculpture at the museum was acquired by George Gray Barnard (1863-1938), who was a prominent American sculptor who also collected medieval art. Barnard opened his original cloisters along Fort Washington Avenue in 1914, due to the generosity of art collector and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr. (1874-1960). In addition to providing the grounds and the building for the Barnard collection, Rockefeller contributed artwork from his own collection, including the Unicorn Tapestries. Rockefeller also established an endowment for future acquisitions and operations.

Charles Collens, the architect of Riverside Church in New York City, designed the new Cloisters museum building. Collens combined elements from Barnard’s museum and Rockefeller’s works. Joseph Break was a curator of decorative arts and the assistant director of the Metropolitan Museum, and James Rorimer would be the museum’s director. These men were primarily responsible for the museum’s interior.

The location was formally dedicated in 1938, on May 10. The galleries that contained the seven Unicorn Tapestries were refurbished in 1999. The Cloisters collection continues to grow to this day, thanks to Rockefeller’s gifts and endowment. Among the fascinating works in the museum is the French illuminated book of hours, “The Belles Heures of Jean de France, Duc de Berry.”

The Cloister is located at 99 Margaret Corbin Dr. For more information, call the museum at 212,923.3700, or visit



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