Updated: Feb 1
Many people are surprised to discover that they can take in an authentic medieval monastery, castle, nunnery, chapel and abbey all in one visit to the Cloisters in Upper Manhattan. The Cloisters is a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art located in the tree-lined oasis of Fort Tryon Park overlooking the Hudson River. The setting is reminiscent of Avignon in France with the medieval atmosphere enveloping visitors as soon as they arrive in the wooded parking area. Parking is free and bus access is also easy on the M4 which runs north on Madison Avenue from Penn Station. Stops include the Met Breuer branch and The Met Fifth Avenue.
The Langon Chapel features architectural elements from the 12th century church of Notre-Dame de Boug at Langon, near Bordeaux.
The Cuxa Cloister and Judy Black Garden features pink stone from a French 12th century Benedictine monastery in the Pyrenees.
The medieval museum has been open since 1938 when John D. Rockefeller Jr. funded the purchase of sculptor George Grey Barnard's extensive collection of medieval art. Architect Charles Collens brilliantly meshed the pieces into a cohesive assembly that visitors would swear have been together since the 1200 and 1300s when they were built in different parts of Spain, France, Belgium and Austria. In order to really understand the visit, we recommend renting the $7 audio guides. If you visit on the first full weekend of any month and have a Bank of America charge or debit card, admission is free.
Game of Thrones fans will love this dragon fresco from the 1200s that came from a Spanish monastery.
Stained glass windows from the 13th century now overlook the Hudson River.
Christ on a donkey with wheels was pulled in Medieval processions.
Our favorite exhibit was the Unicorn Tapestries Room where the hunt for the rare unicorn is depicted on a series of world-famous tapestries made in the 1500s. The audio guide explains the Christian symbolism behind the capturing of the unicorn and truly makes the bloody hunt a fascinating tale.