The museum boasts nearly five thousand works of art from the 12th through the 15th Century, exhibited in a unique setting that truly transports visitors to medieval Europe. The Cloisters we know today, opened in 1928, and is a unique architectural amalgam of five medieval French monasteries.
Along with the architecture, the museum treats visitors to superb works of art including manuscripts, stained glass, metalwork, enamels, ivories, and tapestries (including the world-famous unicorn tapestries). The spaces, rooms, and gardens provide a harmonious setting where visitors can experience the tradition of medieval artistry.
The Cloisters: A Brief HistoryAfter returning from World War I, George Grey Barnard, a prominent American sculptor and an avid collector of medieval art, created the first incarnation of what was to become The Cloisters. After years of collecting, Barnard opened a public gallery on Fort Washington Avenue filled with his personal collection - considered the first exhibit of medieval art of its kind in the U.S.
In 1925, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. helped the Metropolitan Museum of Art acquire Barnards museum. Over the next two years, it became clear that a much larger building would be needed to display the growing collection.
To assist, Rockefeller donated a very large section (over 60 acres) of riverfront land to the City for a public park with the new museum to be built right smack in the middle. Rockefeller then donated an additional several hundred acres on the New Jersey side of the Hudson to ensure that the views from The Cloisters would remain unspoiled.
Then, just to ensure the eternal devotion of the city, Rockefeller donated priceless medieval works of art from his own personal collection (including the famous set of seven South Netherlandish tapestries depicting "The Hunt of the Unicorn").
Plan Your Visit to The Cloisters