New York’s Cloisters Museum

The Cloisters, NYC

NYC’s Medieval treasure trove. Photo: Jeff Dobbins

The Cloisters is one of New York’s cultural treasures.  A branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the museum is devoted to the art of medieval Europe, which is showcased in a setting composed of medieval architecture.  Because of the museum’s upper Manhattan location, it is too often ignored by visitors and New Yorkers.  But transportation to the museum is relatively convenient and the astounding beauty of the artworks and their setting (as well as the lovely park surroundings) make the Cloisters one of New York’s must-see museums.

The Cloisters was a gift to New York by John D. Rockefeller Jr. (the man behind Rockefeller Center). Rockefeller funded the building, the setting in Fort Tryon Park, and the core of the museum’s collection.  We can also thank Rockefeller for the astounding view – he, along with J.P. Morgan, purchased over 12 miles of the New Jersey Palisades to preserve the bucolic view across the Hudson River.  The building incorporates actual medieval architectural and decorative elements into its structure. The Cloisters opened to the public in 1938.

Visit the Cloisters

Cloisters map, NYC

A nice stroll from the subway.

Location: The Cloisters is located in northern Manhattan’s Fort Tryon Park (at approximately West 198th Street).

By Subway/Bus: Take the A train to 190th Street and exit the station by elevator.  Walk north along Margaret Corbin Drive through the park for ten to fifteen minutes (just under a half mile).  An alternative to walking – one can transfer to the M4 Bus at the subway exit and ride north one stop.  (On weekdays the bus is scheduled approx. every 10 minutes. Weekends less frequently).

Hours: Open 7 days a week*, 10:00am – 5:15pm

The museum closes at 4:45pm November – February.

*Closed Thanksgiving Day, December 25 & January 1

Admission: Suggested donation of $25.00 Adults, $17.00 Seniors, $12.00 Students. Note that “suggested donation” means visitors may “pay-what-you-can” for admission.

Full price tickets can be purchased in advance online.

Museum admission is included for holders of CityPass, The New York Pass, and New York Explorer Pass.

Accessibility – Because of its landmark status, the Cloisters has limited accessibility for visitors with mobility impairments. Check here to learn about the museum’s programs and accommodations for visitors with disabilities.

Pontaut Chapter House, Cloisters, MYC

The serene Pontaut Chapter House. Photo: Jeff Dobbins

Highlights of The Cloisters

  • Fuentidueña Chapel – To the right of the main entrance, this incredible space is the apse of a twelfth-century Spanish church. Its contains contemporary sculptures from Italy and Spain and a magnificent fresco of Christ hanging above. This hall is the setting for the Cloisters’ wonderful concerts.
  • Langon Chapel – at the end of the Romanesque entrance hall, this chapel is comprised of elements of a twelfth-century French church and displays dazzling thirteenth-century French stained glass windows and sculpture.
  • Uniform Tapetries, Cloisters, NYC

    The famed Uniform Tapestires. Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art

    Pontaut Chapter House – a wonderful space to relax and muse, this courtyard from a twelfth-century abbey was once the daily meeting spot for monks. It includes superb palm-tree columns.

  • Cuxa Cloister and garden – this twelfth-century cloister from the Pyrenees features a central garden filled with typical medieval plants and a fountain. Be sure to inspect the wild and fanciful capitals on the surrounding columns.
  • Unicorn Tapestries – the star attraction of the museum’s collection, these vibrant and amazingly detailed tapestries depict the hunt and capture of the mythical unicorn.
  •  Gothic Chapel – this chapel includes brilliantly colored stained-glass windows from fourteenth-century Austria and carved figures from royal tombs of France and Spain.
  • The Treasury – chocked full of precious objects from medieval churches in gold, silver, ivory, and silk, as well as illuminated manuscripts, jewelry and even a set of fifteenth-century playing cards.
  • Illuminated Book, Cloisters, NYC

    Medieval masterpiece – ancient illuminated volume. Photo: Jeff Dobbins

The Cloisters also presents temporary exhibits and installations in various media.

The Cloisters offers an Audio Guide, featuring interviews with curators, conservators, and educators. Medieval music on the Audio Guide reflects the time of the artworks. Available in English, French, German, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, and Mandarin.

From April – October the museum features a café with tables in the arcades of a French medieval cloister. The café serves sandwiches, snacks, desserts and beverages.

The Cloisters offers guided tours, gallery talks, lectures by curators, family programs, concerts and performances. For more information and events calendar, see the museum website.

For the latest news about the Cloisters and its gardens, check the museum’s In Season blog.

Gothic Chapel, Cloisters, NYC

The radiant & regal Gothic Chapel. Photo: Jeff Dobbins

Have you visited New York’s Cloisters? If so, what was your favorite work or part of the museum? Tell us in the comments below.

, , , , ,