The Cloisters

The Cloisters

This past January, I had the privilege of being a chaperone for my niece’s Make-a-Wish trip to New York City – our remarkable niece has been fighting leukemia for the past couple of years.  It was such a wonder to get to see her, along with a group of other tough kids, enjoy the sights and sounds of the city.  (She has kicked her cancer to the curb, by the way!  I’m constantly humbled by her courage throughout this whole ordeal.)

In the bustle of New York City, you can head north in Manhattan and step into a Medieval wonderland…on the banks of the Hudson River, the Met presents its Medieval collection at the Cloisters.

The museum gets its name from the Medieval French cloisters that form much of the building.  It houses stunning gardens (which were mostly dormant during our winter visit but were lovely, even then) and an incredible collection of Medieval artifacts.


I floated from room to room in a bit of an “Anne of Green Gables”-type trance, swooning – I could have spent days there, reading every placard and sitting with each piece of history.

This 15th century German ‘Palmesel’ – a statue of Christ riding on a donkey, traditionally used in Palm Sunday processions – was a remarkable depiction.  The statue is made of painted limewood.

I was head over heels for a gorgeous 15th century oil triptych of the Annunciation.  It was created at the workshop of Robert Campin in Tournai, South Netherlands, and was used by its owners for private prayer.  Those robes!!  The wealth of symbolic detail!!  The show-stopping brushwork of the plants at the doorstep!!

Another captivating Mary with infant Jesus – ca. 1340, probably made in Paris.  Painted/gilded limestone.  Her smile is so lovely and endearing, and I adore the way Christ’s hand is clinging onto her mantle.

Now, I knew that the original Unicorn tapestries were residing somewhere in the Cloisters.  I grew up staring at these images, enthralled by the story of the Unicorn and marveling at the detail of the mille fleurs.  I chose to wander without looking at the map, so when I stepped into an unassuming room, I was bowled over to see the real sources of those famous images hanging on the wall.

The tears!  Every square inch of those tapestries is exquisite, my friends.  And of course I had to get a picture of myself next to the Unicorn, since we’re pals now:

The Cloisters houses some of its smallest, most precious pieces in its Treasury.  I have a deep love for Books of Hours and was thrilled to see the famed Belles Heures of Jean de France, duc de Berry among the collection.  Painted by the Limbourg Brothers (and commissioned by Jean, duc de Berry as a private devotional book) in France in the early 15th century, the brothers’ work is just unimaginably beautiful and intricate.

The Belles Heures of Jean de France, duc de Berry

Every corner I turned, every room I entered took my breath away.  Someday I hope to return when the gardens are in bloom, so I can marvel at all the plants, too!

3 responses to “The Cloisters”

  1. This is SO wonderful! What an amazing place to be…..I am in awe of all of it! I visited a friend’s home recently and she is an admirer of that Unicorn tapestry and has several reproduction pieces in her home. I cant imagine what it took to make….and that Palm Sunday rolling Jesus on the Donkey! Amazing! Can just imagine it rolling through the streets of a medieval town!

    Liked by 1 person

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