When a civilization finds itself blessed with more notable history than it cares to preserve, the Met and its close associates, have repeatedly shown themselves willing to take over. When a dam-building project threatened to put an ancient Egyptian temple under water, wealthy New Yorkers brought it, brick by brick, to Manhattan. And when the French allowed dozens of medieval abbeys, cloisters, and churches, to fall into disrepair, deciding it was better occupied by farm animals than preserved, New Yorkers again bought them and moved them, brick by brick, from the European countryside to an idyllic spot atop a hill in Upper Manhattan. The new building, constructed out of pieces of the old world, has become the home of most of the Met's vast collection of Medieval Art. This is the Cloisters--the easiest and fastest way to get to Europe from New York.
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What You Will See
While the Met Fith Avenue has several galleries devoted to pre-Renaissance European Art, the bulk of the collection, together with rebuilt original architecture, is on display at the Cloisters. While Medieval Art is not a common favorite of modern art enthusiasts, the collection's in situ curation in the carefully restored abbeys adds tremendously to its charisma. The tapestries, triptychs, stained glass, jewelry, stone and wood carvings, and illuminated books take on new life in an old building. Aside from the art, the building, together with its manicured gardens and the stunning vistas from the surrounding Fort Tryon Park, make this one of the top destinations in the city.
Why You Should Go
The temptations of the Cloisters are numerous: a rare and beautiful escape from the rest of Manhattan, a vast and unique collection of art, an architectural wonder with a fascinating history, unparalleled views of the Hudson River and the Palisades, lush gardens, and a secluded park. But the address, the northernmost museum in Manhattan, far above the usual northern terminus for most Manhattanites, is intimidating and unambitious museum-goers settle for more seemingly convenient institutions. Don't be deterred. The A train moves fast, buses come regularly, parking is ample, cabs know the way, and bike paths on both sides of the island are convenient, protected, and gorgeous. Come up here for Heavenly Bodies, but come up here after it leaves, too.