A branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Cloisters is devoted to the art and architecture of medieval Europe. Opened in 1938, this modern structure built in modified medieval style incorporates elements of five medieval buildings dating from the 12th through the 15th centuries, including chapels, monastic abbeys and a chapter house. Known particularly for its Romanesque and Gothic architectural sculpture, it also features stained glass, metalwork, paintings, illuminated manuscripts and tapestries.
Its beautiful gardens, great views of the Hudson and remarkable art and architectural elements make it one of New York's most popular museums, well worth the trip to Inwood in upper Manhattan. Early in the last century, American sculptor George Grey Barnard amassed the core collection at The Cloisters today. When it was put up for sale in the 1920s, John D. Rockefeller donated funds to the Met for its purchase and exhibition, adding works of his own. Later, Rockefeller gave the land to the city that would become Fort Tryon Park—reserving the high hilltop overlooking the Hudson River for a large medieval art museum—then went further still, donating 15 miles of riverbank on the New Jersey side in order to preserve the fine view from The Cloisters. Charles Collens, architect of Riverside Church, designed the building.
The Cloisters uses the Google translate function to provide translations of its website in many languages. Spanish-language gallery workshops for children and their families take place the last Saturday of each month. The museum audio guide is available in English, French, German and Spanish.
Several 45-minute Gallery Workshops, free with museum admission, are offered for children ages 4 to 12 and their adult friends. Recent workshops have included Queens and Heroines, with a focus on legendary women; Windows, a closer look at the radiant stained glass windows in the collection and how they were made; and Holiday Celebrations in the Middle Ages, a special celebration of the Christmas season, in which children make a decoration to take home.
In addition to guided tours, The Cloisters offers school groups several programs that focus on different aspects of the collection. Guided tours and gallery programs are 1 ½ hours long and can be geared to the ages and needs of the class.
A Medieval Bestiary: Younger students can search for animals depicted in medieval works of art. Popular legends are enlivened by beasts portrayed in a variety of media and settings. Sketching material provided.
Stories and Legends in Medieval Art: This program helps children discover the relationship between medieval art and literature while exploring images of saints, mythical beasts, biblical heroes, knights and medieval pilgrims.
Walls: This general introduction to the art of the Middle Ages focuses on medieval architecture and architectural decoration. The program can culminate in building arches with blocks to demonstrate the basic structural principles of medieval architecture.