Margery’s Turret Talk

La maith duit, Good day to you in Irish Gaelic.

In my last blog, I spoke of the many topics I would cover over the next year or so. Then I thought, in what order shall they go ? Should I start with gardening since I love digging in the soil, historic sites, since I am a flight attendant and have been to many medieval sites,  or the decorative arts. So many roads to travel, but where to begin ? Then it hit me. I was working a flight last Wednesday from Chicago/O’Hare to New York/LaGuardia. As we were on our final approach we flew over a site in upper Manhattan which I had flown over many times, as well as visited numerous times in my life. While enjoying the place, I never really gave it a second thought.  I knew it like the back of my hand. That’s when it hit me. I was gazing down as we passed over The Cloisters Museum. That’s what my first official blog would be about.

The Cloisters museum in Fort Tryon Park in Washington Heights, Manhattan, New York City, specializes in European medieval architecture, sculpture and decorative arts, with a focus on the Romanesque and Gothic periods. Governed by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it contains a large collection of medieval artworks shown in the architectural settings of French monasteries and abbeys. Its buildings are centered around four cloisters—the Cuxa, Saint-Guilhem, Bonnefont and Trie—which were purchased by American sculptor and art dealer George Grey Barnard, dismantled in Europe between 1934 and 1939, and moved to New York. They were acquired for the museum by financier and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Other major sources of objects were the collections of J. P. Morgan and Joseph Brummer.

The museum’s collection of artworks consists of approximately five thousand individual pieces. They are displayed across a series of rooms and spaces, mostly separate from those dedicated to the installed architectural artifacts. The Cloisters has never focused on building a collection of masterpieces, rather the objects are chosen thematically yet arranged simply to enhance the atmosphere created by the architectural elements in the particular setting or room in which they are placed.

The building is set into a steep hill, and thus the rooms and halls are divided between an upper entrance and a ground-floor level. The enclosing exterior building is mostly modern, and is influenced by and contains elements from the 13th-century church at Saint-Geraud at Monsempron, France, from which the northeast end of the building borrows especially. It was mostly designed by the architect Charles Collens, who took influence from works in Barnard’s collection.

The Gothic chapel is set on the museum’s ground level, and was built to display its stained glass and large sculpture collections. The entrance from the upper level Early Gothic Hall is lit by stained glass double-lancet windows, carved on both sides.

The Fuentidueña chapel is the museum’s largest room, and is entered through a broad oak door flanked by sculptures which include leaping animals. Its centerpiece is the Fuentidueña Apse, a semicircular Romanesque recess built between about 1175 to 1200.

The Langon chapel is on the museum’s ground level. Its right wall was built around 1126 for the Romanesque Cathédrale Notre-Dame-du-Bourg de Digne. The chapter house consists of a single aisle nave and transepts taken from a small Benedictine parish church built around 1115.

Wonder to your hearts content, and be transported back in time to Medieval Europe (all in air conditioned or heated comfort, depending upon the season). Gaze upon Illuminated manuscripts, tomb effigies, room sized tapestries, carved furniture, stained glass windows, carved stonework, religious artwork & jewelry, paintings and so much more. When you have fully enjoyed the interiors, stroll through the many courtyards and loggias brimming with period plantings of trees, flowers and herbs. All set against a backdrop of the serene Hudson River of upper Manhattan Island to one side, and Fort Tryon Park to other side.

If you visit New York, I sincerely urge you to visit this absolute treasure.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about this most extraordinary site. Please do include it in your travel plans. The next time you decide to visit NYC.

Yours in continued service to the shire and larger SCA community,

Margery Draper






Scroll to Top