A Brief History Of The Cloisters, NYC

The Cloisters From Garden | © Jose Olivares/WikiCommons
The Cloisters From Garden | © Jose Olivares/WikiCommons
Photo of Dana deLaski
5 August 2016

The Cloisters‘ is something you often hear mentioned on a list of ‘things to do in New York,’ but if you haven’t been, you may not actually know what it is. People know it’s part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and that there are sculptures involved, but there’s so much more to know. If it’s not at the very top of your to-do list for a trip to NYC, it should be because it’s a unique attraction that provides an alternative to the standard museum experience.

The first thing to know about The Cloisters is that despite it being part of the Met, it’s not physically part of the Met. It’s instead located in Washington Heights in the very upper west corner of Manhattan. The museum specializes in European Medieval architecture, and the collection comes from John D. Rockefeller. Rockefeller initially purchased the Medieval collection from George Gray Barnard in 1925, expanded it, and bought the land where the museum now lives in 1931.

There are four actual cloisters – the Cuxa, the Bonnefort, the Trie, and the Saint-Guilhem – and each come from abbeys and monasteries of the same names in France. What exactly is a cloister? Most simply, it’s a covered walkway, but they’re often attached to cathedrals or other religious structures. These cloisters were excavated from France and rebuilt in NYC between 1934 and 1939 and are now surrounded by chapels and rooms filled with art from the time. There’s the gothic chapel with stained-glass windows from the 14th century, the Fuentiduena Chapel from Spain, and The Lagon Chapel from Burgundy, France. All of these rooms together house approximately 5,000 works of art dating back to the 12th through 15th centuries.

Clockwise from left: The Cloisters Museum & Gardens | © e_chaya/flickr l Storing up Manna, | Ralph & Jenny l Fuentiduena Chapel at The Cloisters, |Tony Fischer

There are also four acres of surrounding gardens at the museum. Today, the garden contain around 250 plant varieties that would have been typical in Medieval times, making it one of the rarest and most valuable gardens anywhere. The whole museum is designed to look and feel like life in a Medieval European monastery, making it a full sensory experience. It’s unique to be in the art in this way, and that’s why it’s become known as a gem in New York City.

It’s open seven days per week from approximately 10 am to 5 pm (it changes slightly depending on the season), and in the summers, it’s open late until 7:30 pm on Fridays. There are also events held in the gardens in the summer – everything from wine tastings to musical performances (a schedule of events can be found here). The amount you pay for a ticket is up to you, and the price includes same-day entry to the Met.

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel – and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Epic Trips, Mini Trips and Sailing Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travellers and friends who want to explore the world together.

Epic Trips are deeply immersive 8 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and enough down time to really relax and soak it all in. Our Mini Trips are small and mighty - they squeeze all the excitement and authenticity of our longer Epic Trips into a manageable 3-5 day window. Our Sailing Trips invite you to spend a week experiencing the best of the sea and land in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm – and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Cookies Policy

We and our partners use cookies to better understand your needs, improve performance and provide you with personalised content and advertisements. To allow us to provide a better and more tailored experience please click "OK"