Catalan; from the Benedictine monastery of Saint–Michel–de–Cuxa (Sant Miquel de Cuixà), near Perpignan, France
Marble; 90 ft. x 78 ft. (2,743 x 2,377 cm)
The Cloisters Collection, 1925 (25.120.398,.399,.452)
The medieval elements that are incorporated into this cloister all come from the abbey of Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa, constructed under its abbot, Gregory, between 1130 and 1146. The capitals are vigorously carved; the planes are simple and clearly defined; and the decorative and figural motifs, concentrated at the corners, provide strong visual support for the abaci and arcading above them. In addition to examples with volutes in acanthus and palmette patterns, the capitals in this particular arcade are variously decorated with hunkering lions, beasts with unconsumed human legs dangling from their mouths, conjoined lions enframing human heads, and conjoined mermaids. The mermaid capital was originally part of the tribune at Cuxa rather than the cloister (other sculptural elements from the Cuxa tribune are installed along the cloister’s east wall). The eight-sided fountain in the center (26.79) dates to the thirteenth century and comes from the nearby monastery of Saint-Génis-des-Fontaines.
The monastery was sacked in the seventeenth century and had fallen into ruin by the nineteenth. As reconstructed here, the cloister is about one-quarter the size of the original, but the proportions remain approximately the same. The modern stone required for reconstruction was obtained from the original twelfth-century quarry.