THE CLOISTERS

THE CLOISTERS

1024px-Penn_Station_NYC_main_entranceJust imagine. This image depicts the busiest hub in the world. Seriously. This is Penn Station, NYC at Madison Square Garden. We were there picking up our house guest. Lana, my editor’s daughter from South Africa, came to get the best tour ever of New York City, after four weeks with her daughter and new baby in Virginia. Tom manned the MDX, and I paced the sidewalk. We had never met and she had never been to the States. We had skyped briefly once or twice, so we knew what each of us looked like. She didn’t have to wear a red rose and neither did I, but just imagine finding each other in this people maze. We did it. She recognized me first, and a moment hence, I recognized her. She arrived mid-afternoon, Thursday, the 4th. The plan was not to waste a moment. The timing was perfect to visit the Cloisters on the way home. The first of many sights. We had every minute  of each day planned until she had to leave on Monday, the 8th. So, here goes. I will share what we experienced on this day. I hadn’t been to the Cloisters since the days of historic investigations while in interior design school, long, long ago.

The tower at the Cloisters

The tower at the Cloisters

The Cloisters is a museum located on a hill overlooking the Hudson River, in Fort Tryon Park in the Washington Heights section of Upper Manhattan, New York City. It is a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, used to exhibit the museum’s extensive collection of art, architecture and artifacts from Medieval Europe.

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Lana in the cloistered garden

Lana in the cloistered gardens

The area around the buildings was landscaped with gardens planted according to horticultural information obtained from medieval manuscripts and artifacts, and the structure includes multiple medieval-style cloistered herb gardens.

 

Cloistered columns

The cloistered columns

The Cloisters was designated a New York City landmark in 1974, and Fort Tryon Park and the Cloisters were listed together as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

History

One of the many tapestries

One of the many tapestries

The 66.5-acre Fort Tryon Park was created by the philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr. beginning in 1917, when he purchased the Billings Estate and other properties in the Fort Washington area and hired Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., son of one of the designers of Central Park, and the Olmsted Brothers firm to create a park, which he then donated to New York City in 1935. As part of the overall project, Rockefeller also bought the extensive medieval art collection of George Grey Barnard, an American sculptor and collector, who had already established a medieval-art museum near his home in Fort Washington, and gave it to the Metropolitan along with a number of pieces from Rockefeller’s own collection, including the Unicorn Tapestries. These became the core of the collection now housed at the Cloisters.

Vaulted ceiliings

Vaulted ceiliings

The museum was designed by Charles Collens who incorporated parts from five cloistered abbeys of Catalan, Occitan and French origins. Buildings from Sant Miquel de Cuixà, Sant Guilhèm dau Desèrt, Bonnefont-en-Comminges, Trie-en-Bigòrra, and Froville were disassembled stone-by-stone and shipped to New York City, where they were reconstructed and integrated by Collens into a cohesive whole by simplifying and merging the various medieval styles in his new buildings.

Collection

Medieval depiction of Christ on the cross. Notice the stiffness of this early work of art.

Medieval depiction of Christ on the cross.

The Cloisters collection contains approximately five thousand European medieval works of art, with a particular emphasis on pieces dating from the 12th through the 15th centuries. The Cloisters also holds many medieval manuscripts and illuminated books.

 

 

 

 

 

Library and Archives

The Cloisters Library is one of the Metropolitan Museum’s thirteen libraries. It contains 15,000 volumes of books. The Library and Archives contains Museum Administration papers, the personal papers of George Grey Barnard, early glass lantern slides of museum materials, curatorial papers, museum dealer records, scholars records, recordings of musical performances at the museum, and maps.

Italian Savonarola chair 15th-16th century. Back splat is embossed leather

Italian Savonarola chair 15th-16th century. Back splat is embossed leather

Although the Cloisters was established specifically to house Medieval Art, we noticed that over the years the collection grew, encompassing the art of later centuries up to and including the seventeenth century.

Friendly birds looking for handouts. We were seated right beside them.

Friendly birds looking for handouts. We were seated right beside them.

We enjoyed a rest and cool bottled water. Lana was shocked that the two waters, one carbonated, cost $8.00. So did we, in fact.

 

 

Come back for more of what we did during the days of Lana’s visit. It was amazing.

Did you find anything here inspiring you to visit the Cloisters? Be sure to take the tour.  Fascinating.

 

 

 

TENNIS ANYONE? From the 12th century…

TENNIS ANYONE? From the 12th century…

Henry VIII Chateau. Tennis was played inside.

Henry VIII Chateau. Tennis was played on the inside courts.

The word “Tennis” came into use in English in the mid-13th century from Old French, via the Anglo-Norman Term Tenez. By poet John Gower in his poem titled In Praise of Peace dedicated to King Henry IV and composed in 1400. “Of the tenetz to winne or lese a chase, Mai no lif wite er that the bal be ronne”. (Whether a chase is won or lost at tennis, Nobody can know until the ball is run).

Tennis in Newport, RI

Tennis in Newport, RI

Tennis is mentioned in literature as far back as the Middle Ages. In The Second Shepherd’s Play (c. 1500) shepherds gave three gifts, including a tennis ball, to the newborn Christ. it’s been said that the early tennis balls were made from wool. The Medieval form of tennis is termed as Real Tennis. Real tennis evolved over three centuries from an earlier ball game played around the 12th century in France.

King Henry VIII

King Henry VIII

Royal interest in England began with Henry V (1413–22).

Henry VIII (1509–47) made the biggest impact as a young monarch; playing the game with gusto at Hampton Court on a court he built in 1530. It is believed that his second wife Anne Boleyn was watching a game when she was arrested and that Henry was playing when news of her execution arrived. During the reign of James I (1603–25), London had 14 courts.

From the royal courts of England and France to centre court at Wimbledon, from Henry VIII to Federer the great, the game of tennis is steeped in history and tradition. The precise origins of tennis are disputed, with some historians dating it back to Ancient Egypt. According to the official website for “Royal Tennis,” the game was played in the fifth century Tuscany in Italy when villagers struck balls in the street with their bare hands. A more definable version was played by European monks, mostly in Italy and later France, in the 12th century, based around a closed courtyard. Francis I of France, who reigned from 1515-47, was reputedly an enthusiastic player and was responsible for the building of many courts and also promoted the sport among a wider cross section of people.

Federer the great

Federer the great

Yale bowl has tennis in New Haven this week. We had tickets and great seats through my good friend, Lorraine. We got there early, had a bite to eat, Ben and Jerry’s low fat Banana Peanut Butter frozen yogurt… OMG. Walked around picking up trinkets and freebies, when just as the matches were scheduled to begin at 7 pm, it began to rain.

Caroline Wazniacki

Caroline Wazniacki

The ticket holders held their breath. Will it stop raining?

Would they get to see tennis?  We all stood huddled under the eaves. Finally… the rain stopped some. Wait again… finally… it stopped. A parade of high schoolers came out with squeegees and began drying the courts. Followed by fifteen leaf-blowers, controlled by fifteen high schoolers, finishing the job, when it began to rain again. This time they used towels as well as blowers to dry the courts. It was fascinating to watch this process. So the first match between Caroline Wazniacki of Denmark and Shuai Peng of China began around 9 pm. Shortly after, they announced  the second match of the night was cancelled, and moved to the next day. Ms. Wasniacki was favored to win, but readily lost the first set 6-2.  Wasniacki was ahead 3-0 in the second set when Peng called the trainer to her chair. We watched in horror while they took her blood pressure. We are big tennis buffs and had never seen this before. Something was very wrong. No… she got up and went back to play, She was serving, ran up, returned the ball, but bent over, possibly dizzy. She tried serving once more, and won her serve. Next thing we knew, she shook her head, called her opponent over, shook hands and retired from play. Peng announced she could not continue. So we spent about five hours in New Haven and watched less than an hour of tennis. Unexpected entertainment, fun of sorts, or was it sort of fun?

Tennis dryers

Tennis dryer

William the Conqueror, I wonder if he played tennis? He sure had enough castles to play in. Next week we’ll have a visit there. For now, here’s a fun video to watch if you have a few minutes. Tennis, watch Real Tennis for your enjoyment.

Do you play? What do you ‘love’ about tennis, besides a score of LOVE/40, yours?

Lawn tennis

Lawn tennis

Mark, a USPTA colleague, sat behind us at Yale…, it was fun to meet a fellow member United States Professional Tennis Association. The USPTA is the largest and most prestigious professional tennis teaching organization in the country. Teaching and playing tennis was a significant part of my life. They had asked me to execute a painting for their 75th Anniversary. It was wonderful to create the watercolor for them.

USPTA Houston, Texas. watercolor by Ingis Claus

USPTA Houston, Texas. watercolor by Ingis Claus

 

NORMAN STYLE

NORMAN STYLE

Durham Castle note crenelation on top of structure

Durham Castle–later a Cathedral (note crenelation on top edges, typical of fortified structures)

Durham Castle, seen here with its crenelated top edge was fortification.The Normans, upon conquering England, fortifications came first, they provided shelter and protection. But churches were also built, small and grand. Medieval churches were often hurried affairs in a wood design, replaced later with rusticated stone. The churches eventually grew into cathedrals, larger than life structures. Since religion was the dominant interest of Europe, architecture consisted primarily of church construction.

Bracewell in Lanchashire church

Bracewell in Lancashire church

Bracewell is a small village just northwest of Barnoldswick, Lancashire. The church of St Michael’s is a lovely old Norman building, dating to around the year 1100. It was not established as a parish church, but as a private chapel for the Tempest family.

 

church PC GreenstedGlassSt Michael stained-glass can be seen from inside the church.

Greensted Church north wall - wood

Greensted Church north wall – wood

Greensted Church

Greensted Church

It has been told that Greensted Church, in the small village of Greensted-juxta-Ongar, near Chipping Ongar in Essex, England, is the oldest wooden church in the world and probably the oldest wooden building in Europe still standing, albeit only in part, since few sections of its original wooden structure remain. The oak walls are often classified as remnants of a palisade church or a kind of early stave church, dated either to the mid-9th or mid-11th century. Its full title is The Church of St Andrew, Greensted-juxta-Ongar. It is, however, commonly known simply as Greensted Church. Greensted is still a functioning church and holds services every week. The most interesting feature is probably the south doorway, which is typically Norman, the chancel arch, also Norman, and the tower arch, which dates to the 14th century and an early example of the soon to come Pointed Gothic style. Very little of the original medieval glass remains, but there are fragments of 14th century glass depicting coats of arms of local gentry. The nave pews are by the famed Kilburn woodworker, Rober Thompson, aka ‘The Mouseman’, and show Thompson’s favoured mouse motif. The church was featured on a British postage stamp issued in 1972.

800px-Durham_Cathedral_from_the_south-2This is the Cathedral side of the ‘castle’ seen above in the first image. Durham Cathedral replaced the 10th century “White Church”, built as part of a monastic foundation to house the Shrine of Saint Cuthbert of Lindisfarne. The Chapter Library contains one of the most complete sets of early printed books in England, the pre-Dissolution monastic accounts, and three copies of the Magna Carta. Durham Cathedral occupies a strategic position on a promontory high above the River Wear. From 1080 until the 19th century the bishopric enjoyed the powers of a Bishop Palatine, having military as well as religious leadership and power. It was built as the residence for the Bishop of Durham. Initially, a very simple temporary structure was built from local timber to house the relics of Cuthbert. The shrine was then transferred to a sturdier, probably wooden, building known as the White Church, later replaced by a stone building by the same name. The flow of money from pilgrims of power embodied in the church ensure that a town formed around the cathedral, establishing the early core of the modern city.

Durham interior zigzag and diamond patterns on columns

Durham interior zigzag and diamond patterns incised on columns and arches. Ceiling ribs have the patterns incised as well.

Norman

The current Cathedral was designed and built under William of Calais, who was appointed as the first prince-bishop by William the Conqueror in 1080. Since then, major additions and reconstruction has been prevalent. But, the greater part of the structure remains true to the Norman Design. This is a term related to the styles of Romanesque architecture by the Normans in lands under their influence in the 11th and 12th centuries.

There were other structures as well, all characterized by the usual Romanesque rounded arches particularly over windows and doorways.

Norman Arch

Norman Arch

The buildings show massive proportions in simple geometries, the masonry with small bands of sculpture, perhaps as blind arcading, and concentrated spaces of capitals and round doorways and in the tympanum under an arch. The “Norman arch” is the round arch and sometimes slightly pointed as in the Durham interior ceiling here above. Norman mouldings are carved or incised with geometric ornament, such as chevron patterns, frequently termed “zig-zag mouldings”. The cruciform churches often had deep chancels and a square crossing tower which has remained a feature of English ecclesiastical architecture. Hundreds of parish churches were built and the great English cathedrals were founded from 1083.  As Gothic with its pointed arches became more popular, Norman eventually became a modest style of provincial building.

Do you have a favorite ecclesiastical architecture, past or present?

Look for more next week…

 

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