Key to the Sacred Pattern

16 March 2008

A Visit to the Cloisters

One might not expect to see a replica of a medieval monetary in a park that commemorates Revolutionary War battle. As improbable as it sounds, New York City’s Tryon Park holds both a battlefield history and a refuge for medieval art and architecture known as the Cloisters.

The Cloisters is not far from the site Margaret Corbin took control of her fallen husband’s artillery battery to beat back Hussian attackers in 1776. Part of the Metropolitan, the Cloisters was opened to the public in 1938 to showcase George Grey Barnard’s collection of medieval antiquities. Barnard had gone deep into debt for construction of a gallery for his acquisitions. In the 1920’s John D. Rockefeller Jr. donated the funds to create the building that is there today.

Inside there is a stunning collection of artifacts, artwork and original architecture pieces from the 12th to 15th Century. Much of the interior scenes in the building were transported piece by piece from Europe. The “cloister” itself was taken from the French Cuxa Cloister. The fusion of original architecture and artifacts gives one the feel that you are in a historical building in Europe. If for nothing else, the step back in time is worth visiting if you’re in New York City.

Of note to those who are interested in the Margaret Starbird approach to Mary Magdalene, there is a room full of unicorn tapestries. The tapestries were donated by the Rockefeller family who had acquired them in a French Chateau. One can draw their own conclusions as to why the Rockefellers were so interested in unicorns and chalices…

If you’re thinking of visiting and looking at the Cloisters web site, beware. The site is not very user friendly and exhibition notes are not always up to date. My main goal in visiting the Cloisters last week was to see the Antioch Chalice, but alas they had moved it to the main Met. Too bad for me the web masters didn’t see fit to note this in the collection notes. If you’re looking to see a specific piece, I would suggest emailing the Cloisters directly to make sure its still there.

Getting there on Public Transportation – Take the “A” Train to the 190th Street station. From the station, the Cloisters is located about half a mile up Margaret Corbin Drive. On the way you can walk up to the Fort Tryon memorial, which is located on your left. Or if you don’t want to walk, you can take the M4 bus directly up to the Museum.

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