Free with CUID: Checking out the Cloisters
My pilgrimage to the Cloisters Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Medieval Art Gallery, began at 10 a.m. on Sunday morning. After a quick breakfast, I consulted my handy-dandy HopStop app for directions and got on the 1 train heading uptown. I’d read some reviews on Yelp beforehand that all suggested walking the short, 10-minute distance from the subway through Fort Tryon Park to survey the landscape and get the ultimate “wow!” factor when approaching the museum.
I got off at the wrong stop and found myself 35 minutes away from the museum. There were no cabs in sight, and I was overwhelmed, to say the least. Finally, I managed to flag down a Green Cab (you know the ones Michael Bloomberg suggests you “give a try” in that video that loops in every taxi) and 10 minutes later, I arrived at the front gate.
Set atop a hill in a park that overlooks the Hudson River and, dare I say, rivals Central Park in both beauty and tranquility, the building bears more resemblance to Mont Saint Michel than a museum. Constructed in 1938, the building includes elements from five different French cloisters, giving it an incredibly authentic feel.
After walking through a dimly lit hallway and up a winding staircase, I found myself standing in the Fuentidueña Chapel, listening to one of the most spectacular sounds I’ve ever heard: The Forty Part Motet, a sound installation by Janet Cardiff which consists of 40 individual speakers that each play one section of Thomas Tallis’ 40-part motet Spem in allium, composed in 1570. Walk around the gallery passing each speaker, then stand in the middle of the room, close your eyes, and listen. You won’t feel like you’re in New York City anymore.
I continued through the rest of the galleries, all of which are modeled to look like rooms in a traditional cloister, and saw some pretty exceptional pieces. The collection has everything a medieval (or not so medieval) art fanatic could dream of, from intricate ivory carvings to stained glass windows and, most impressively, a set of fantastic, twelve foot tall Unicorn tapestries. Yes, I did say Unicorn tapestries—they’re awesome, check them out.
But I’d have to say my favorite part of the museum was, by far, its magnificent courtyard. As I stepped out of the building and walked around the lush green garden, abundant with medieval flowers and plants, I couldn’t help but tuck my iPhone out of sight. After a weekend locked in the library, the schlep was totally worth it for that peace.
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