cloister

cloister

[kloi-ster]

Open arcaded cloister of Saint-Trophǐme, Arles, Fr.

Four-sided enclosure surrounded by covered walkways and usually attached to a monastic or cathedral church; also, the walkways themselves. The earliest cloisters were open arcades, usually with sloping wooden roofs. This form was generally superseded in England by a range of windows lighting a vaulted ambulatory (aisle). In southern climates, the open-arcaded cloister remained standard. An especially fine example is Donato Bramante's two-story open arcade at Santa Maria della Pace, Rome (1500–4).

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A cloister (from Latin claustrum) is a part of cathedral, monastic and abbey architecture. A cloister consists usually of four corridors, with a courtyard or garth in the middle. It is intended to be both covered from the rain, but open to the air. The attachment of a cloister to a Cathedral church usually indicates that it is (or was once) a monastic foundation.

Cloistered (or "Claustral") life is also another name for the life of a monk or nun in the enclosed religious orders; the modern English term enclosure is used in contemporary Catholic church law to mean cloistered, and cloister is sometimes used as a synonym for monastery.

In medieval times, cloisters served the primary function of quiet meditation or study gardens.

The worldwide biggest cloister (12000 m²) is in the Certosa di Padula in southern Italy.

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