If you’re in New York City, a subway ride uptown is all you need to be instantly transported from the hustle and bustle of the city to medieval Europe. Inside the Cloisters—the nation’s only museum devoted entirely to the medieval arts—the West Terrace overlooks the Hudson River and the New Jersey Palisades. The river runs beneath the George Washington Bridge (visible on the left hand side), and the Palisades—jagged, steep cliffs—rise above the shore at over 500 feet in height. This terrace offers not only a stunning view but solitude for its visitors.
One of the Met’s distinguished branches, the Cloisters were founded by sculptor and art collector George Grey Barnard. In 1925, John D. Rockefeller Jr. purchased 56 acres of land (now known as Fort Tyron Park), where he relocated the museum in addition to acquiring its extensive collection of art.
The museum was rebuilt by architect Charles Collens, who worked closely with museum director James Rorimer and decorative art curator Joseph Breck to create the galleries with historical accuracy. It opened to the public in 1938, featuring art from the Romanesque period to the Gothic period.
The four cloisters, the Cuxa, Saint-Guilhem, Bonnefont and Trie, as well as the gardens and chapels, are designed to be a place for visitors to rest and contemplate as they transitioned from one gallery to the next, similar to a monastic life. The museum showcases over 2,000 works of art including illuminated manuscripts, paintings, sculptures, stained glass, and the mysterious Unicorn Tapestries.
Know Before You Go
Take the A train to 190th st. and walk uphill through Fort Tyron Park along Margaret Corbin Dr. The museum is also accessible by car by taking the Henry Hudson Parkway.