Hop, Skip and a Jump: The Cloisters

by ROSE BRENNAN, Staff Writer

For any art, music or history enthusiast at Manhattan College, there are few better ways to spend an afternoon than at The Cloisters Museum of Art.

Located at 99 Margaret Corbin Drive, adjacent to Fort Tryon Park in Upper Manhattan, The Met Cloisters is a beautiful place to spend an afternoon, especially for those who don’t want to take the trek to the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Museum of Modern Art further downtown.

The Cloisters is one of three museums affiliated with the Metropolitan museum, along with The Met of Fifth Avenue and The Met of Breuer on Madison Avenue.

A stained-glass window depicting Christian heroes. Rose Brennan/The Quadrangle.

Though one would assume to dress somewhat nicer when attending an art museum, casual attire, particularly sneakers, are suggested for The Cloisters.  That will become somewhat evident during the grueling uphill hike from Fort Tryon Park to the museum itself.  While the hike is strenuous, the effort is completely worth it as soon as you lay eyes on the first piece of art.

The collection of art at The Cloisters is nowhere near as voluminous as its counterpart on Fifth Avenue, but this is because most of the artwork has the common root in Medieval Europe, whether in the stained glass displays, statues, tapestries or even jewelry. The building itself even falls under the medieval art umbrella. According to the Metropolitan website, “The modern museum building is not a copy of any specific medieval structure but is rather an ensemble informed by a selection of historical precedents, with a deliberate combination of ecclesiastical and secular spaces arranged in chronological order.”

The building’s architecture is directly based upon the twelfth century apse found in the Church of Saint Martin of Fuentidueña, Spain, which refers to the museum’s dual purpose as an institution dedicated to both art and its history.

One of the museum’s central plazas. Rose Brennan/The Quadrangle

The Cloisters’ name derives from the center of the building itself. Immersed between the various exhibitions are beautiful, green and lush cloisters and gardens. One in particular hosts an entire garden of plants that would likely be found in a medieval garden, annotated with helpful hints such as “for cooking,” “for cleaning” or just simply “poisonous.”

Different varieties of plants are not the only things to be found in these beautiful gardens. One in particular has a spectacular view of the Hudson River from one of the balconies situated in the cloisters. The wildlife is also abundant, with sparrows and other small creatures, all contributing to the beautiful ecosystem found in the museum.

Due to its relative proximity to the college, some professors take advantage of The Cloisters museum and send their students on cultural excursions for assignments.  One of these professors is Christopher Ogburn, who recently assigned students in his Music 150 class to find a piece of art that related medieval or Renaissance music and write an accompanying essay. And what better place is there to go for medieval art than The Cloisters?

An authentic Romanesque altar and fresco. Rose Brennan/The Quadrangle

“I require students to visit the Cloisters in an effort to shed more light on an era that is not very well understood. For most of us, the ‘medieval’ period is synonymous with the ‘Dark Ages’ and we forget the rich, vibrant culture that Europe had during that nearly thousand year span of time,” Ogburn said. “Going to the Cloisters and being surrounded by both the art and architecture of that period enlivens that culture in a way that photos in a PowerPoint simply cannot.”

Whether you’re going to relax in the tranquility of the medieval gardens or to take in the beautiful artwork of the period, The Cloisters Museum is ideal for any local excursion from the Bronx.

The suggested price for a student ticket to The Cloisters is $12.

How to get there:

Route 1 (less subway time):

-Take the 1 train from Van Cortlandt Park to Dyckman Street (6 stops)

-Walk 0.8 miles to Fort Tryon Park

Route 2 (less walking time):

-Take the 1 train from Van Cortlandt Park to 168 Street- Washington Heights (9 stops)

-Transfer to an Uptown A train to 190 Street (4 stops)

-Walk 0.6 miles to Fort Tryon Park