See J. J. Rorimer, The Cloisters (3d ed. 1963), and Medieval Monuments at the Cloisters (rev. ed. 1972); P. Barnet and N. Wu, The Cloisters: Medieval Art and Architecture (2005).
The Cloisters is the branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art dedicated to the art and architecture of the European Middle Ages. The Cloisters is located in New York City, USA, specifically Fort Tryon Park near the northern tip of Manhattan island on a hill overlooking the Hudson River. The Cloisters include the museum building and the adjacent 4 acres (16,000 m²).
Among the famous works of art held at the Cloisters are seven south Netherlandish tapestries depicting The Hunt of the Unicorn, Robert Campin's Mérode Altarpiece, and the Romanesque altar cross known as the Cloisters Cross or Bury St. Edmunds Cross, which was acquired under the curatorship of Thomas Hoving. The Cloisters also holds many medieval manuscripts and illuminated books, including the Limbourg brothers' Les Belles Heures du Duc de Berry and Jean Pucelle's book of hours for Jeanne d'Evreux.
The building housing the collection is itself a work of medieval art. It is a composite structure, incorporating elements from five medieval French cloisters: Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa, Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, Bonnefont-en-Comminges, Trie-en-Bigorre, and Froville. These disassembled European buildings were reassembled in Fort Tryon Park (1934/38) in a setting with gardens planted according to horticultural information culled from various medieval documents and artifacts. Notable works of architecture include the Cuxa cloister, with an adjacent Chapter House; and the Fuentidueña Apse from a chapel in the province of Segovia (Castilla y León, Spain).
The museum and adjacent park were created thanks to an endowment grant by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who donated the majority of his collection; it was completed in 1938. Much of the art collection came from that of George Grey Barnard, an American sculptor and assiduous collector of medieval art, who had already established a medieval-art museum near his home in the Fort Washington neighborhood. Rockefeller purchased Barnard's entire collection of art and architectural remnants as a gift to the Met; this collection, combined with a number of pieces from Rockefeller's own collection (including the Unicorn tapestries), became the core of the new Cloisters' holdings. Rockefeller subsequently purchased more than 65 acres of land north of Barnard's museum with the intention of converting it into a public park and site for the new museum. Besides purchasing this land and donating it to the city, Rockefeller also purchased and donated to the State of New Jersey several hundred acres of the New Jersey Palisades on the other side of the Hudson River in order to preserve the view for the museum.