Art and architecture of medieval Europe
The Met Cloisters, which opened to the public in 1938, is the branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art devoted to the art and architecture of medieval Europe. Located in Fort Tryon Park in northern Manhattan, on a spectacular four-acre lot overlooking the Hudson River, the modern museum building is not a copy of any specific medieval structure but is rather an ensemble informed by a selection of historical precedents, with a deliberate combination of ecclesiastical and secular spaces arranged in chronological order.
Elements from medieval cloisters—Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa, Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, Trie-sur-Baïse, Froville, and elements once thought to have come from Bonnefont-en-Comminges—and from other sites in Europe have been incorporated into the fabric of the building.
Three of the reconstructed cloisters feature gardens planted according to horticultural information found in medieval treatises and poetry, garden documents and herbals, and medieval works of art such as tapestries, stained-glass windows, and column capitals. Approximately 2,000 works of art from medieval Europe, largely dating from the 12th through the 15th century and including exquisite illuminated manuscripts, stained glass, metalwork, enamels, ivories, and tapestries, are exhibited in this unique context.
The Cloisters opened to the public on May 10, 1938. In 1958, the 12th-century limestone apse from the church in Fuentidueña, Spain, arrived to become part of the structure. The Treasury, which contains objects created for liturgical celebrations, personal devotions, and secular uses, was renovated in 1988. Major improvement to the infrastructure, climatization, and gallery spaces has continued to this day, including a new skylight in the cloister from Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, a new objects conservation lab, the preservation of limestone windows in the Early Gothic and Late Gothic Halls, and many others.
The collection at The Met Cloisters continues to grow, thanks to Rockefeller's endowment and other significant gifts.
Among its masterpieces are an early 15th-century French illuminated book of hours, The Belles Heures of Jean de France, Duc de Berry; a richly carved, 12th-century ivory cross attributed by some to the English abbey of Bury Saint Edmunds; stained-glass windows from the castle chapel at Ebreichsdorf, Austria; a stone Virgin of the mid-13th century from the choir screen of Strasbourg Cathedral in France; and the Merode Triptych, representing the Annunciation, by the workshop of the 15th-century Netherlandish master Robert Campin.
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