The Benedictine monastery of Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa, located at the foot of Mount Canigou in the northeast Pyrenees, was founded in 878. In 1791, Cuxa's monks departed in the wake of the French Revolution, and much of the monastery's stonework was subsequently dispersed. The monastery's cloister, built during the twelfth century, originally measured some 156 by 128 feet, or approximately twice its current size at The Cloisters, much of whose architecture is modern. Like the ensemble from Saint-Guilhem, elements were purchased by George Grey Barnard and brought to the United States; part of the cloister survives at the monastery which, once again, houses a community of monks.
The cloister was the heart of a monastery. By definition, it consists of a covered walkway surrounding a large open courtyard, with access to all other monastic buildings. Usually attached to the southern flank of the church, a cloister was at the same time passageway and processional walkway, a place for meditation and for reading aloud. At once serene and bustling, the cloister was also the site where the monks washed their clothes and themselves.
The warm beauty of the native pink marble used at Cuxa harmonizes this cloister's many elements, such as the varied capital sculptures carved during different periods in its construction. Some of these are fashioned in the simplest of block forms, while others are intricately carved with scrolling leaves, pinecones, animals with two bodies and a common head (a special breed for the corners of capitals), lions devouring people or their own forelegs, or a mermaid holding her tail. While many of these motifs may derive from popular fables or depict the struggle between the forces of good and evil, the conveyance of meaning seems to have been less important for the Cuxa artists than the creation of powerful works capturing the energy and tension between the forms depicted.
From the Benedictine monastery of Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa (Sant Miquel de Cuixà), near Perpignan, France; George Grey Barnard American, Bellefonte, Pennsylvania 1863–1938 New York, New York (until 1925)
The references listed below include the bibliography for the object group 25.120.398–.954, Cuxa Cloister.
Lief, Zola. "The Cloisters." The Compleat Collector 3, no. 7 (May 1943). p. 3.
Cahn, Walter. "Romanesque Sculpture in American Collections. VI. The Boston Museum of Fine Arts." Gesta 9, no. 2 (1970). p. 62, (capitals mentioned).
Rorimer, James J. Medieval Monuments at The Cloisters: As They Were and As They Are, edited by Katherine Serrell Rorimer. Revised ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1972. pp. 13-16, fig. 1-6.
Young, Bonnie. A Walk Through The Cloisters. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1979. pp. 47-57.
Horste, Kathryn. "Romanesque Sculpture in American Collections. XX. Ohio and Michigan." Gesta 21, no. 2 (1982). p. 126.
Howard, Kathleen, ed. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1983. no. 3, p. 361.
Simon, David L. "Romanesque Sculpture in North American Collections. XXIV. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Part IV: Pyrenees." Gesta 25, no. 2 (1986). no. 1, pp. 245-258.
Cazes, Daniel, and Marcel Durliat. "Découverte de l'effigie de l'abbé grégoire créateur du cloître de Saint-Michel de Cuxa." Bulletin Monumental 145, no. 1 (1987). pp. 7-14.
Husband, Timothy B., and Charles T. Little. Europe in the Middle Ages. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987. no. 60, pp. 68-69.
Forsyth, Ilene H. "The Monumental Arts of the Romanesque Period: Recent Research." In The Cloisters: Studies in Honor of the Fiftieth Anniversary, edited by Elizabeth C. Parker. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1992. p. 2, fig. 1.
Howard, Kathleen, ed. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. 2nd ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1994. no. 3, p. 395.
Dale, Thomas E.A. "Monsters, Corporeal Deformities, and Phantasms in the Cloister of St-Michel-de-Cuxa." The Art Bulletin 83, no. 3 (September 2001). pp. 405–30, fig. 3, 5–7, 12–14, 16–17, 19–23.
Barnet, Peter, and Nancy Y. Wu. The Cloisters: Medieval Art and Architecture. New York and New Haven: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2005. no. 6, pp. 29, 193.
Barnet, Peter, and Nancy Y. Wu. The Cloisters: Medieval Art and Architecture. 75th Anniversary ed. New York and New Haven: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012. pp. 28–29.
Husband, Timothy B. "Creating the Cloisters." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 70, no. 4 (Spring 2013). pp. 4-46, fig. 14-16, 37, discussed throughout.