Friday, June 4, 2010

NYC - The Cloisters

Before I moved from New York City, I visited a few favorite places and saw a few things that I had always meant to see. One of those later ones was The Cloisters - a museum dedicated to medieval Europe. I can't believe it took me so long to visit since I lived fairly close to the museum. So my husband and I decided to take a day off from packing and walk down to The Cloisters.

If you've never heard of The Cloisters or have never been, it is a must-see on my list of things to do in Manhattan.  Some people never see it though since it is a fair trip on the Subway since it is on the northern part of the island. Although I think a half an hour subway ride is totally worth the trip (Take the 1 Train local or A Train express).

The Cloisters is run by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and if you pay to see the Met then you can also pop up to The Cloisters for free that day.  Keep in mind that the Met and The Cloisters have a suggested fee but can also be payed by donation - great for students or the unemployed when money is tight, although if you have the the full amount as it is definitely worth it.

The Cloisters is located in Ft. Tryon park which is a beautiful, wooded and very hilly area.  You can see now why they call these part of Manhattan "the Heights".

My husband and I went in March so the trees are still bare.  However it was one of the first beautiful Spring days so we were lucky.  As we were walking we caught sight of this little guy in a tree. Very odd.

The Cloisters is housed in a beautiful castle looking building which are actually pieces of five different French cloisters reassembled together (thanks Wikipedia!).  It is just beautiful.  Warning: Since Cloisters are religious buildings, please treat with respect and do not chew gum - a lesson I learned. You can also take photos but just no flash.

Here's the inside of the building with my husband looking at one of the many huge tapestries.  I absolutely adored all the beautiful windows in the building:

Most of the doorways have actual arches from various Cloisters and medieval buildings.  Beautiful.

I love the stained glass windows:

I found these ladies and thought that, while they look very regal, are also a bit creepy in their decapitated state:

I have no idea who this is but the little green goblin he's stabbing made me laugh. Not sure why.

One of the main purposes of the visit to The Cloisters were to see their famous unicorn tapestries.  They are housed in a fairly dark area so they don't fade the fabric but I still managed to snag a photo in the dark:

I was absolutely amazed at how beautiful they are in person and how large! I also had no idea how many of them there were.  You can go to the Met website and check out more about these lovely pieces.

They have other tapestries as well.  This one is from a series of tapestries called The Nine Heros.  There are the Hebrew heroes: Joshua, David, Judas Maccabeus, the Christian heroes: Charlemagne, Arthur, and Godfrey of Boullion, and the pagan heroes: Hector, Alexander the Great, and Julius Caesar.  I kept on imagining these guys as the super heros of their times.  I believe this regal man is Julius Caesar...although he does look exactly how I'd picture Arthur.

Here's the entrance to a pretty solemn area with various burial statues.

Isn't the windows in here just awesome?
And another one:

Here's an interesting guy. I noticed a lot of them had their pets under their feet.

For some reason I just liked this Madonna and Child. Don't they look happy?

My husband really liked this piece of stained glass. There was a whole series of them but this one is pretty interesting.

This lady was my favorite piece in the place.  The tapestry had some 3D aspects, like her fuzzy red dress which I loved.

The Cloisters also had a lot of illuminated manuscripts on display which is one of my favorite aspects of medieval art.  I wasn't able to take photos of those though.  Afterwards, we headed outside to soak up some of the lovely sun.

I so wish I could see this when it is all in bloom.

Isn't this amazing? They had a couple of plants like this. I can't imagine how much time and effort they went into making this look exactly so.

If you go, you'll have beautiful views of the Hudson.

We were obviously not the only ones who were enjoying the sun that day:

There are all sorts of areas with fountains. Again I wish I could have seen these when they were all in bloom.

Isn't this architecture just awesome?

They were starting to grow some beautiful plants inside.  Doesn't this one just look delicious? I want one.

So, if you are ever in Manhattan and have never seen The Cloisters, it is definitely well worth it.

Thanks for touring the museum with me!


  1. This is the one thing that I regret not doing on our honeymoon in NYC. I will definitely be visiting The Cloisters next time I'm in Manhattan!

  2. SO COOL! I remember seeing that particular unicorn tapestry is various publications when I was a kid, and I had no idea where it was housed. If I ever make it to NYC I'm definitely visiting The Cloisters!

  3. Wow!

    Thanks for a fantastic tour of a great spot.

    Well worth a half hour trip :-)

  4. Once we move back up north I'm hoping we will start making visits to NYC -- I'm thinking this will be one of the first places we go! It reminds me so much of the cathedrals we saw in London and Paris. The windows, the architecture. Amazing.

  5. We visited the Cloisters a few years ago and I consider it a hidden gem! Thanks for letting me visit again :)

  6. that was nice!! Good that you didn't missed going even if you visited the place on your last few days in NYC. We get so busy with out life that we miss many fun and amazing things..... anyways, if ever i could make it to US of A. i will definetely try to get at this place. fingers crossed. i am hoping for the best.