Monthly Archives: March 2012

The Cloisters

The Cloisters

Right now my family is enjoying a little European vacation. I’m extremely jealous, to put it mildly. So, I thought I’d write about the closest I’ve come to Europe in the past month: The Cloisters. It’s a castle-like building in northern Manhattan, built from 12th-15th century materials. Inside there are tons of cool castle-y artifacts and treasures. The grounds are beautiful too, just try not to pick a day when the wind can blow you right over. It’s run by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the entrance fee is ‘suggested’, so pay what you want.

Exterior, The Cloisters

Face details, The Cloisters

Exterior, The Cloisters

Exterior (and Hudson River), The Cloisters

For someone who loves castles, it’s exceptionally fun to just walk around the building. All the architectural elements have been brought over from real European castles, so it’s all authentic. There are different courtyards as well, so there are some sheltered outdoor areas. One of the aspects that I most enjoyed was the different elements. Columns didn’t match, decorative moldings were different at each doorway. It was a nice eclectic twist on the medieval castle.

Weathered carving above a column.

Mismatched columns.

Sculptural herbivory in a courtyard.

Being a museum, there are tons of artifacts as well. These date from the 9th to 16th century. The centerpiece of this museum is a unicorn theme (can’t beat a legitimately unicorn themed museum!) There are a bunch of beautiful tapestries depicting themes centered around unicorns. I can’t remember exactly, but it has something to do with christianity, and I don’t have time to look it up right now. I’ll pay better attention next time…

Unicorns! This is the most famous tapestry.

Capturing a unicorn.

Besides the whole unicorn theme there are a lot of other cool things. Like the first playing cards, and a treasury. There’s also a neat hallway with some cool stained glass circles depicting different scenes.

First playing cards known to exist. Crazy suits.

Medieval sarcophagus. Or whatever they would have been called.

Huge fireplace.

Besides the castle there is a nice big park to walk around in, and some other buildings and a restaurant. We didn’t have time, or heat capacity (it was chilly) to explore the rest of the grounds, but I guess that will give me an excuse to head back some time.

It’s a great trip for those who are craving a European adventure (because their family ditched them, ahem, ahem), but can’t afford the price tag or vacation time.  You can always follow it up with a night out at a french bistro or british pub to round out the experience!