A few months ago, I took my family to the NYC Metropolitan Museum of Art, a trip I’d wanted to take for many years. I was blown away by the numerous exhibits but I kept hearing from the tour guide about a special place called “The Cloisters” farther uptown. I immediately planned my next outing.
Tucked away in Fort Tryon Park is a Gothic art museum mostly built from exhibits provided by John D Rockefeller. It is located at about 190th street, about 100 blocks north of Central Park, so not within walking distance from other NYC sights. This building is named after Medieval Cloisters, roofed quadrangles, surrounded by stone walls. Inside these walls are gardens or exhibits, and there are terrace gardens on the battlements above. It is built to have the look and feel of a Medieval castle. It continues the castle motif by housing only a few pieces in each room, most areas are expansive and bare of furnishings. All of the artwork follows suit as everything is from the Gothic era (12th to 15th century).
They have a special room for illustrated bibles, a room for glass work and jewels, and rooms filled with tapestries. There is a wonderful Gothic chapel with tombs of knights. There was a small room filled with miniatures that was extremely interesting. The best work in that room was this wooden carving of St John with its exquisite detail set against the stained glass windows.
I can’t say you’ll recognize all of the artists but there are some works by Johannes Vermeer and Domingo Ram. For those architecture fans, this museum is a treasure trove as there are different capitals, doorways and window panels in every room. Most are original to French or Dutch castles.
My favorite areas were the two rooftop gardens; one, a fragrant collection of culinary herbs, and the other a lush collection of small trees in a park setting. The entire place is a peaceful haven for museum goers and the gardens add to the experience.
Another nice feature is that the entrance fee is “pay what you want”. I was compelled to pay the recommended price but knowing the policy just adds to the tranquil environment of the museum. I felt that this was a place I’d return to simply because it was a wonderful place to visit.