Unicorn Tapestries at the Cloisters
Even if it weren’t the branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art devoted to medieval art, the Cloisters’ location alone would inspire. It rises from a promontory high above the Hudson River, in Fort Tryon Park on the northern tip of Manhattan. The cliffs of the New Jersey Palisades are visible on the opposite shore.
The Cloisters’ architectural elements—including chapels, sections of monastic cloisters, and chapter house—date from the 12th through 15th centuries. They were brought from various sites in France and reconstructed between 1935 and 1938, when the museum opened to the public.
Its collections comprise medieval objects such as the renowned illuminated book of hours, Belles Heures, of Jean, Duke of Berry; exquisite stained glass chapel windows; stone sculptures; painted icons; and a carved ivory cross. The Treasury exhibit space houses priceless pieces meant for liturgical celebrations, personal devotions, and secular uses.
Begin with a guided tour of the galleries, where one can discover the allegorical Unicorn Tapestries, and the three gardens, which focus on horticulture in medieval Europe and were planted following medieval designs. Free time is available to wander through serene interior spaces or to sit and contemplate in one of the gardens. There is also a gift shop.
A box lunch is served en route to New York, and there is time to purchase an evening meal on the return trip. Art historian Ursula Wolfman leads the tour.
World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1/2 credit*
Know Before You Go
- Registration for this tour will end by 2 p.m. ET on Thursday, September 28, 2023.
- Smithsonian is a mask-friendly environment. Masks are strongly recommended to be worn on buses at all times and may also be required at various indoor sites.
- For additional tour information:
*Enrolled participants in the World Art History Certificate Program receive 1/2 elective credit. Not yet enrolled? Learn about the program, its benefits, and how to register here.