The Cloisters, Manhattan, NYC. Photo courtesy of Urban.
On the northern fringes of Manhattan there exists an almost mystical park that is resoundingly deserving of a visit. Known as the Cloisters, or more correctly, Fort Tryon Park, this unique site is a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Fort Tryon Park is perched on a hill overlooking the meandering Hudson River, far from the hustle and bustle of the usual Manhattan atmosphere. The Cloisters occupies four of the parks 67 acres, and is dedicated to showcasing the incredible artwork, architecture and gardens of the medieval period in Europe.
Architect Charles Collens was asked to design the museum in the early 1930s to house John D. Rockefeller’s famous collection of medieval art which he has acquired from American sculptor and collector George Gray Bernard in 1925 and promptly donated to the Met. Collens was not only inspired by medieval architecture, but several original cloisters from French monasteries where shipped to the US and, stone by stone, were incorporated into Collens’ design.
Today the museum features many aspects of medieval European monastic architecture, including stained-glass windows, sculptures, column capitals, medieval portals, and exquisite gardens which were planted according to information kept in manuscripts from that era.
The museum houses over 2,000 incredible works of art, and between the gardens, the architecture and the view, it is a joy to visit.
A Bit of Medieval Europe in New York
In upper Manhattan there is a less well-known branch of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, called The Cloisters. This fascinating building is dedicated to the art and architecture of medieval Europe, and the structure itself is an example of that, as it was assembled from both the domestic and religious elements that date back to the twelfth through fifteenth centuries.
The Cloisters and its surrounding gardens are located in Fort Tryon Park, in the northernmost end of Manhattan, overlooking the Hudson River on the west. A visit there is like visiting a medieval European monastery, but without the monks. In place of the monks you will find about three thousand artworks dating from as long ago as the ninth century, and no more recent than the sixteenth century.
The Cloisters is easy to get to by bus, car or subway, and from April through October the Trie Café offers light meals and snacks which are served outdoors in the French medieval Trie Cloister. If you visit now until April 22 you will be treated to a unique exhibit of what are most likely the most famous chess pieces in the world, the Lewis Chessmen. These carved ivory chessmen were discovered in 1831 on the Isle of
12th Century Lewis Chessmen
Lewis off the coast of Scotland, and date from the twelfth century. The chessmen rarely leave their home in the British Museum, but for this exhibit over thirty of the chessmen are on display, representing the largest assembly of these unique objects outside of the United Kingdom.
What helped to make these chessmen so famous is that replicas of them were used in the famous “Chess Game” scene in one of the Harry Potter movies, only enlarged to the size of people.
Check out The Cloisters and the Lewis Chessmen; It’s like a visit it Europe of the Middle Ages.