Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Cloisters - Part I

A few weekends ago, I visited The Cloisters Museum in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan.  The Cloisters is a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art that was constructed out of sections of Medieval monasteries.  The museum houses the Met's medieval collection and is famous for its tapestries.  More importantly, to me at least, are the beautiful gardens located at the Cloisters.  The museum contains four cloisters, The Trie Cloister Garden, The Bonnefont Cloister Herb Garden, The Cuxa Cloister Garth Garden and the St.-Guilhem Cloister.

Each of the cloisters follows the typical medieval monastic design.  Namely a square plot, divided into four quadrants by paths and the entire space surrounded by arcades to sit under and catch cool breezes.  There may or may not have been a central water fountain and some even contained small fish ponds.
Be prepared for a bit of a hike between the subway station and the museum.  At least you walk through lovely Fort Tryon Park.

The Trie Cloister Garden houses a collection of plants native to the meadows, woodlands, and stream banks of Europe.  The garden is supposed to evoke the grounds of medieval millefleur tapestries and indeed many of the plants in the garden can be found in the tapestries displayed in the galleries.

The Trie Cloister Garden.

Nice patch of Solomon's Seal.  
Bye Trie!
The Bonnefont Cloister Herb Garden
The Bonnefont Cloister houses plants that are grouped and labeled according to their medieval use e.g. cooking, medicine, art, housekeeping, magic.  Most of the plants in the garden have multiple uses, and all were believed to have medicinal value.  Each quadrant is centered with a beautiful quince tree.

I'm a sucker for wattle.

Flowering sage.


Espaliered pear tree.
Beautifully done.
I always wondered what Woad looked like close up.

Sea Kale.

This sun coming through the vines reminds me of a stained glass.  Au revoir Bonnefont Cloister!  More to come...


  1. Thanks for this post. I haven't been to the Cloisters in years. You remind me I want to get back there before the heat and humidity hit hard.

  2. Hello Michael:
    These cloister gardens are beautifully executed. And what a wealth of interesting plants they contain. There are so many attractive elements in these gardens from which to gain ideas.

    We particularly like the espaliered trees. Such an effective way to bring function and form together in a small space.

  3. Thank you for this fantastic visual tour of the Cloisters Michael! Such a nice afternoon escape via your blog. That pear tree is incredible!

  4. Don't think I will ever be back in Manhattan so enjoyed this trip with you. My first visit there was in 1960 and my last 1993.

  5. James - it was already quite warm that day, so don't delay!

    Jane & Lance - I remember the first time a saw an espaliered tree up close. I was mystified, bowled over, excited and puzzled all at the same time.

    W.E. - hope you're keeping cool today!

    Barbara - never say never...or ever, as the case may be! Thanks for the comment.

  6. Hey Michael

    Beautiful pictures you show.

    Welcome to fellow my blog. Photographs can sometimes say more than words.

    Kh Jørn

  7. What a beautiful posting! This brought back happy childhood memories from when my grandparents took me to the Cloisters, when I was very young. Your posting has made me determined to revisit on my next trip to New York!

  8. Thank you Jorn and Mark - the next time either of you are in NYC, look me up and we'll make a trip up to The Cloisters!

  9. What a beautiful garden. I wish we had something similar here in northern Sweden. This is really hot today, +28, there is hot air that came here from Russia. I'm enjoying the weather. Have a nice day.