Visiting Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion? You must join the virtual exhibition queue when you arrive. If capacity has been reached for the day, the queue will close early.

Learn more
The Cloisters: Medieval Art and Architecture

The Cloisters: Medieval Art and Architecture

Barnet, Peter, and Nancy Wu
208 pages
178 illustrations
View More Publication Info

The Cloisters, a branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, is home to an extraordinary collection of art and architecture from medieval Europe. Praised after it opened in 1938 as "the crowning achievement of American museology," The Cloisters remains a triumph of design innovation. Incorporated into the very fabric of the building are portions of five medieval French cloisters and many other monuments arranged in an environment that thoughtfully evokes the grand religious spaces and domestic interiors of the Middle Ages.

Many of the galleries at The Cloisters reflect the original functions of the architectural fragments they include, such as the Fuentidueño apse, a massive half-dome transported block by block from a church in northern Spain. Others provide a harmonious setting for the works of art on display, which to date number more than five thousand objects from the Romanesque and Gothic periods. Three of the reconstructed cloisters also enclose beautiful gardens planted with species known from medieval herbals, tapestries, and other historical sources. Of the thousands of visitors who make pilgrimages to The Cloisters each year, many come not only to experience its incomparable artistic treasures but also to enjoy its seasonal flowerings and its majestic setting in Manhattan's Fort Tryon Park, with breathtaking views of the Hudson River and the Palisades.

More than 125 highlights of The Cloisters are presented here, beginning with some of the earliest pieces in the collection, from about A.D. 800, and finishing with later works that foretell the arrival of the Renaissance in western Europe. By surveying these elaborate tapestries, delicate carvings, and other objects in roughly the historical sequence in which they were created, we glimpse the evolving styles and artistic traditions of the Middle Ages and gain a more meaningful understanding of the contexts in which many of them appeared. Among the masterpieces on display at The Cloisters are the famed Unicorn Tapestries, the richly carved twelfth-century ivory cross associated with the abbey of Bury St. Edmunds, known as the "Cloisters Cross," the exquisite triptych by the Netherlandish painter Robert Campin, and many fine examples of manuscript illumination, enameling, metalwork, and stained glass.

Complete with digital color photography, map, floor plan, and glossary, The Cloisters: Medieval Art and Architecture is a contemporary guide that will reward students and enthusiasts of the Middle Ages as well as visitors seeing the Museum for the first time.

Met Art in Publication

Plaque with Saint John the Evangelist, Elephant ivory, Carolingian
early 9th century
Plaque with Scenes at Emmaus, Elephant ivory, Carolingian
ca. 850–900
Bursa Reliquary, Bone, paint, copper gilt, iron brads, and sycamore wood, North Italian
10th century
Plaque with the Holy Women at the Sepulchre, Elephant ivory, North Italian
early 10th century
Panel with San Millán, Master Engelram and his son Redolfo  Spanish, Elephant ivory, with glass inlay, Spanish
Master Engelram and his son Redolfo
Cuxa Cloister, Marble, Catalan
ca. 1130–40
Arch with Beasts, Marble, French
ca. 1150–75
Angel, Limestone, French
ca. 1130
Enthroned Virgin and Child, Birch with paint and glass, French
ca. 1130–1140
Enthroned Virgin and Child, Walnut with gesso, paint, tin leaf, traces of linen, and possible human remains, French
Crucifix, White oak with paint, gold leaf, and tin leaf (corpus); softwood with paint and tin leaf (cross), Spanish
ca. 1150–1200
The Virgin and Child in Majesty and the Adoration of the Magi, Master of Pedret  Spanish, Fresco transferred to canvas, Catalan
Master of Pedret
ca. 1100
Leaf from a Beatus Manuscript: the Lamb at the Foot of the Cross, Flanked by Two Angels; The Calling of Saint John with the Enthroned Christ flanked by Angels and a Man Holding a Book, Tempera, gold, and ink on parchment, Spanish
ca. 1180
Portal from the Church of San Leonardo al Frigido, Biduinus  Italian, Marble (Carrara marble), Italian
ca. 1175
Game Piece with Hercules Slaying the Three-Headed Geryon, Ivory, German
ca. 1150
Plaque with the Pentecost, Champlevé and translucent enamel on copper gilt, South Netherlandish
ca. 1150–75
One of Two Doors with Ironwork, Oak and iron, French or Spanish
12th century
One of Two Doors with Ironwork, Oak and iron, French or Spanish
12th century
Chapel from Notre-Dame-du-Bourg at Langon, Limestone, French
after 1126
Leaves from a Beatus Manuscript: Bifolium with part of the Genealogy of Christ and the Adoration of the Magi, Tempera, gold, and ink on parchment, Spanish
ca. 1180
Showing 20 of 163

You May Also Like


View Citations

The Cloisters. 2006. The Cloisters: Medieval Art and Architecture. Edited by Peter Barnet and Nancy Y. Wu. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art.