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For Exploring Medieval Europe: "The Cloisters"

When you think about climbing to one of the highest points in Manhattan what comes to mind? Surely it’s a skyscraper. Maybe, the Empire State Building or the Chrysler Building? Those are definitely on the list. But I have recently learned also on the list of natural locations that are also one of the highest points in northern Manhattan is the Cloisters, a place I have been wanting to visit (

The Cloisters are now owned and operated in conjunction with the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Although they are not physically right near one another, there are similarities. While the museum has many collections of various kinds of objects from many eras, the Cloisters too share a history of art, culture, and artifacts. You get to move about this large castle like structure viewing these items all while transcending time and space. Since you are not in a stuffy museum the entire feel of the art is different. The layout is more like it would be if someone where living there and you happen upon it while no one was home. The rooms where the tapestries hang were just right. The brightly colored stain glass windows illuminate the gold sculptures set up beneath them.

These are some of my favorite pieces:

There are also a few external grounds where gardens can be viewed through open archways adding more space and light where they lay. While they aren’t particularly impressive by themselves the greenery is a nice splash of color against the metal and materials that lay around this building as if holding the gardens back to prevent them from growing up and out.

In 1938 this building and gardens opened to the public. Some of the collection was originally started by an American sculptor and avid art collector George Gray Barnard.  John D. Rockefeller Jr. acquired the Cloisters from Barnard in 1925 and in 1927 purchased the land they now reside in.

According to the website:

“In addition to financing the conversion of 66.5 acres of land just north of Barnard’s museum into a public park, which would house the new museum, Rockefeller donated 700 additional acres across the Hudson River to the state of New Jersey to ensure that no developments on the property would spoil the view from The Cloisters. In addition to providing the grounds and building to house the Barnard collection, Rockefeller contributed works of art from his own collection—including the celebrated Unicorn Tapestries—and established an endowment for operations and future acquisitions.”

The infamous Unicorn Tapestries:

Well Mr. Rockefeller was a genius, a generous genius at that. He was right. The best views lie across from the Cloisters. By preventing further land development these views have been uninterrupted for approximately eighty five years. There is no end in sight which is a wonderful thing considering what a lovely sight it is.

For your trip:

(For those of you who will be driving, please note there is free parking in a lot adjacent to the structure.)

(If you have time when you visit Fort Tryon Park is nearby and the Olmstead house in the park offers tours.)


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