Way up in the wilds of the extreme North end of Manhattan, you’ll find, perched on a rocky ledge overlooking the Hudson, a jumble of medieval French ecclesiastical buildings, filled with precious art works from the Middle Ages. This is the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s outpost for housing its impressive collection of medieval art, and it couldn’t be a more beautiful or inspiring place if it tried, not to mention a wonderfully cool, calm and relaxing retreat from the hot summer streets of Manhattan.
A couple of weekends ago, I boarded the A train up to 190th street, complete with bag full of homemade cake and plums, (very Famous Five) to meet Jenny for our excursion to The Cloisters. When I got off the subway, which itself is housed in a medieval style building, I found myself in Fort Tryon Park, a breathtakingly stunning place filled with beautiful walkways and lawns stretching along the cliffs that run down to the Hudson, providing incredible views across the river to New Jersey. I also found Jenny waiting for me, and she told me the wonderfully coincidental news that she had just bumped into Jenny and Teresa of Shelf Love, who were visiting New York with college friends. We made plans to catch up with them inside, and then meandered our way through the park and up to the Cloisters.
My first glimpse took my breath away; I could quite easily have believed that I had suddenly been transported to rural France. Stained glass windows, terracotta roof tiles, turrets…it has it all. Jenny and I wandered inside, to be met by that uniquely still, cool, slightly musty air you only seem to get inside churches and castles, and as we went from room to room, filled with the dappled light from stained glass windows and the twinkling of beautifully wrought precious metals, it was as if Manhattan had totally ceased to exist.
I can’t praise The Cloisters enough; there is truly something for everyone. You can view burial caskets, paintings, intricate tapestries, carvings, sculptures, an amazing array of gold and silver treasures, stained glass, ecclesiastical vestments and wonderful architecture, alongside authentic medieval herbs and flowers in the gardens, not to mention the spectacular river views. Partly due to its out of the way location, it doesn’t get particularly busy, which adds to its charm. Jenny and I sat for a long time chatting in the cloisters, enjoying the cool shade and the peace and quiet, feeling like we were on holiday in Umbria.
After meeting Jenny, Teresa and their friends in the lovely cafe set amidst the gardens, Jenny and I wandered off back through gorgeous Fort Tryon Park to the subway station, stopping to take in the views along the way. Hilariously we came across a group of film students making a terrible looking prequel to Harry Potter, involving Snape and Lily Potter holding hands and walking down a hillside, repeatedly. Watch out for that coming to cinemas some day…hopefully never! Speaking of Harry Potter, I saw the finale last night…I still think I should have been Hermione (I was robbed!) but it was fantastic, and a fitting end to a series that has been a prominent part of my childhood. I laughed and I cried, and I must say, Alan Rickman really has stolen the show throughout all of the films. No one else could quite have perfected that lip curl as he did, and portrayed such a tortured and brave soul!