Cloister column capitalsClimb on the M4 bus on Madison Avenue and follow it to the end for a fascinating look at less familiar parts of the city.  The ride culminates at one of the City’s gems – The Cloisters of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Located in northern Manhattan in Fort Tryon Park, the Cloisters celebrates its 75th anniversary this year.

Cuxa Cloister The generosity and vision of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. created this outpost of the MMA which houses the Museum’s collection of Medieval Art and Architecture.

Cloisters Stained glassThe buildings are an ensemble of secular and medieval ecclesiastical structures which form around garden courtyards.

Cloistered GardenThe collection was formed from Medieval work collected by George Gray Barnard, who had his own museum nearby.  Rockefeller purchased Barnard’s museum and land and combined it with his own collection which is most famous for the Unicorn Tapestries.

 Cloister structureTwo of the courtyard gardens are completely enclosed but this one is open to the park surrounding the museum which is sited on one of the highest points of the island.

 Cloisters with Hops vinesDrama is created by this rope trellis which guides a luxurious crop of …Hops!

Cloisters Willow StructureThis mostly herb garden overlooks the Palisades of New Jersey a similar cliff face which Rockefeller bought to preserve the view from the Museum.  Beautiful and sturdy willow structures are used for climbing plants.

Mandrake plants at the Cloisters They are used her for Mandrake, Mandragora autumnalis, a favorite herb of Medieval gardners.  A member of the nightshade family, it was used for fertility, as an aphrodisiac, to relieve pain and as a sleep aid.  Pretty versatile until you discover it can also cause delerium and madness!

Cloisters campanulaIn another courtyard, campanula blooms.  Check out a charming blog about the Cloister gardens at

Horseradish plantsHorseradish, Amoracia rusticana, grows with a pretty mass of long leaves.  In the Middle Ages it was used as a medicine but soon became a condiment – maybe to disguise the taste of less fresh meat?  Oddly it is poisonous to horses.

French Cloister by Susan DetjensCloisters are magical spaces which speak to serenity and peace.  This French cloister is n the collection of Mrs. Olana.  Now that the Met is open 7 days a week, take your own trip up Manhattan.

Due to technical problems, still not solved, it has taken three days and constant logging on and off to post this.  Let’s hope it clears up.  Cheers!



About Susan

Susan Detjens is a former landscape painter, she lectures, demonstrates and runs workshops on floral design for museums, horticultural organizations and garden clubs across the US.
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