Nestled in a dramatic landscape of gorges and waterfalls, the monastery of Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, from which this cloister comes, was founded in 804 by Saint William (Guilhem), legendary duke of Aquitaine and a member of the court of Charlemagne. Saint-Guilhem thrived as a pilgrim's destination on the road to the shrine of Saint James (Santiago de Compostela) in northern Spain.
The capitals attest to the skill and imagination of the medieval sculptor. Many imitate the leaf forms of ancient Roman types; others appear as if covered by vines, and one precisely represents the form of a hops plant. Still others present stories from the Bible, including Daniel in the Lions' Den. Inventively carved columns and pilasters imitate the bark of a palm tree, cascades of water, or clusters of foliage.
In the wake of the French Revolution, many elements of the cloister were acquired by local citizens. The elements seen here were purchased by the American sculptor George Grey Barnard before World War I.
The late eleventh-century limestone capital in the center (25.120.246), recut as a font, comes from the Auvergne or Guyenne region of France.
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Detail showing 25.120.5, .22, .37
Detail showing 25.120.54
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Date:late 12th–early 13th century
Dimensions:30 ft. 2 in. × 23 ft. 10 in. (919.5 × 726.4 cm)
Credit Line:The Cloisters Collection, 1925
From the abbey church of Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, near Montpellier, France; Pierre-Yon Vernière, Aniane, France ; Charles Vernière, Aniane, France ; Antoine Labrigot, Carcasonne, France ; [ Louis Cornillon, Paris] ; George Grey Barnard American, Bellefonte, Pennsylvania 1863–1938 New York, New York (until 1925)
Carlier, Achille. "L'Elginisme: Aperçu su l’étendue du fléau. Les convoitises de l’Amérique. La résistance française. Les récentes tentatives.." Les Pierres de France 1, no. 3 (1937). pp. 98–101.
Carlier, Achille. "L'Elginisme." Les Pierres de France 2 (1938). p. 2, fig. 2.
Carlier, Achille. "Le Pillage du Cloitre de Saint-Guilhem-du-Desert (Hérault)." Les Pierres de France 2 (1938). pp. 18–21, fig. 13–15, 17–18.
Lief, Zola. "The Cloisters." The Compleat Collector 3, no. 7 (May 1943). p. 3.
Tomkins, Calvin. "The Cloisters... The Cloisters... The Cloisters...." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 28, no. 7 (March 1970). pp. 308–320.
"Books - Medieval Monuments at The Cloisters: As They Were and As They Are." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 30, no. 4 (February 1972-March 1972). pp. 170–175, fig. 1–4.
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. 17–19, fig. 7–10.
Young, Bonnie. A Walk Through The Cloisters. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1979. pp. 23–29.
Shepard, Mary B. Europe in the Middle Ages, edited by Charles T. Little, and Timothy B. Husband. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987. pp. 12, 80–81, pl. 73.
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. 4, fig. 2.
Barnet, Peter, and Nancy Y. Wu. The Cloisters: Medieval Art and Architecture. New York and New Haven: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2005. no. 27, pp. 58, 194.
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. 56–58.
Husband, Timothy B. "Creating the Cloisters." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 70, no. 4 (Spring 2013). p. 4–47, fig. 8, 9, 14, 22, 71, discussed throughout.
Fozi, Shirin. "American Medieval: Authenticity and the Indifference of Architecture." Journal of the History of Collections 27, no. 3 (November 2015). p. 478, fig. 9.
Boehm, Barbara Drake. "Habit Forming: Costume in Medieval Monastic Community." In Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, edited by Andrew Bolton. Vol. 2. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2018. p. 219.
Bolton, Andrew, ed. Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination. Vol. 2. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2018. p. 220.
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