the Cloisters, museum of medieval European art, in Fort Tryon Park, New York City, overlooking the Hudson River. A branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it was opened to the public in May, 1938. Designed by architect Charles Collens (1873–1956), the building includes elements from five French cloisters, a 12th-century Romanesque chapel, and a chapter house; three of the reconstructed cloisters enclose authentic medieval gardens. The core of the collection the museum houses consists of several hundred examples of medieval painting, sculpture, and other forms of art gathered in France by George Grey Barnard. This collection was bought by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. (see under Rockefeller, John Davison), in 1925, and presented to the Metropolitan Museum. Later additions include a series of 15th-century tapestries, Hunt of the Unicorn; a tapestry series of the 14th cent., The Nine Heroes; the famous Mérode Altarpiece by Robert Campin; the Bury St. Edmunds ivory crucifix; and Les Belles Heures de Jean, Duc de Berry, an early 15th-century illuminated book of hours. The holdings also include outstanding examples of stained glass, ritual objects, metalwork, and enamels.
See J. J. Rorimer, The Cloisters (3d ed. 1963), and Medieval Monuments at the Cloisters (rev. ed. 1972); P. Barnet and N. Wu, The Cloisters: Medieval Art and Architecture (2005).
clois·ter / ˈkloistər/ • n. a covered walk in a convent, monastery, college, or cathedral, typically with a wall on one side and a colonnade open to a quadrangle on the other. ∎ (the cloister) monastic life. ∎ a convent or monastery. ∎ any place or position of seclusion: college is a cloister apart from the cares of the world. • v. [tr.] seclude or shut up in or as if in a convent or monastery. DERIVATIVES: clois·tral / ˈkloistrəl/ adj. ORIGIN: Middle English (in the sense ‘place of religious seclusion’): from Old French cloistre, from Latin claustrum, clostrum ‘lock, enclosed place,’ from claudere ‘to close.’
cloister, unroofed space forming part of a religious establishment and surrounded by the various buildings or by enclosing walls. Generally, it is provided on all sides with a vaulted passageway consisting of continuous colonnades or arcades opening onto a court. The cloister is a characteristic part of monastic institutions (see abbey), serving both as sheltered access to the various units of the group and for the recreation of the monks. Cloisters became an important architectural form in the 11th cent., a period marked by active monastery building all over Europe. They were not limited to monastic houses, but were built in some English colleges, as at Oxford and Eton, and in some churches, mostly in England and Spain. In N France many of the original cloisters have disappeared, but superb Romanesque cloisters remain in S France, Italy and Sicily, and Spain. In the typical examples the arches are supported by delicate columns, generally coupled, the elaborate capitals of the paired columns sometimes being interlaced. The 13th-century cloisters of two Roman churches, St. John Lateran and St. Paul's outside the Walls, are notable Romanesque examples, distinguished by twin spiral columns inlaid with rich glass mosaics. Of the Gothic period, the English cloisters are especially fine, as at Salisbury, Wells, and Westminster Abbey. The Renaissance cloisters are confined chiefly to Italy and Spain. In the New World the Spanish colonists began in the 16th cent. to build simple cloisters, generally arcaded, in Mexico, Cuba, and California.