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cloister, unroofed space forming part of a religious establishment and surrounded by the various buildings or by enclosing walls. Generally, it is provided on all sides with a vaulted passageway consisting of continuous colonnades or arcades opening onto a court. The cloister is a characteristic part of monastic institutions (see abbey), serving both as sheltered access to the various units of the group and for the recreation of the monks. Cloisters became an important architectural form in the 11th cent., a period marked by active monastery building all over Europe. They were not limited to monastic houses, but were built in some English colleges, as at Oxford and Eton, and in some churches, mostly in England and Spain. In N France many of the original cloisters have disappeared, but superb Romanesque cloisters remain in S France, Italy and Sicily, and Spain. In the typical examples the arches are supported by delicate columns, generally coupled, the elaborate capitals of the paired columns sometimes being interlaced. The 13th-century cloisters of two Roman churches, St. John Lateran and St. Paul's outside the Walls, are notable Romanesque examples, distinguished by twin spiral columns inlaid with rich glass mosaics. Of the Gothic period, the English cloisters are especially fine, as at Salisbury, Wells, and Westminster Abbey. The Renaissance cloisters are confined chiefly to Italy and Spain. In the New World the Spanish colonists began in the 16th cent. to build simple cloisters, generally arcaded, in Mexico, Cuba, and California.

Cloisters, the

Cloisters, the, museum of medieval European art, in Fort Tryon Park, New York City, overlooking the Hudson River. A branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it was opened to the public in May, 1938. Designed by architect Charles Collens (1873–1956), the building includes elements from five French cloisters, a 12th-century Romanesque chapel, and a chapter house; three of the reconstructed cloisters enclose authentic medieval gardens. The core of the collection the museum houses consists of several hundred examples of medieval painting, sculpture, and other forms of art gathered in France by George Grey Barnard. This collection was bought by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. (see under Rockefeller, John Davison), in 1925, and presented to the Metropolitan Museum. Later additions include a series of 15th-century tapestries, Hunt of the Unicorn; a tapestry series of the 14th cent., The Nine Heroes; the famous Mérode Altarpiece by Robert Campin; the Bury St. Edmunds ivory crucifix; and Les Belles Heures de Jean, Duc de Berry, an early 15th-century illuminated book of hours. The holdings also include outstanding examples of stained glass, ritual objects, metalwork, and enamels.


See J. J. Rorimer, The Cloisters (3d ed. 1963), and Medieval Monuments at the Cloisters (rev. ed. 1972); P. Barnet and N. Wu, The Cloisters: Medieval Art and Architecture (2005).

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A square court surrounded by an open arcade, a covered walk around a courtyard, or the whole courtyard.
Illustrated Dictionary of Architecture Copyright © 2012, 2002, 1998 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved


A covered walk surrounding a court, usually linking a church to other buildings of a monastery.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. Copyright © 2003 by McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. a covered walk, usually around a quadrangle in a religious institution, having an open arcade or colonnade on the inside and a wall on the outside
2. a place of religious seclusion, such as a monastery
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
The garden, which was funded entirely by community donations and took a 35-person planning committee two years to complete, is enclosed on three sides by an 8-foot wall that is a remnant of the cloistered convent and on the fourth side by an iron gate.
Canon Law and Cloistered Women: Periculoso and its commentators, 1298-1545.
While researching chronometers, Sobel studied Galileo's efforts to solve the problem of longitude and discovered a letter from his daughter, a cloistered nun of the Order of Poor Clares, asking him about repairing the convent clock.
They're from the U.S., Europe, and Asia, and they meet in cloistered forests across the U.S.
"The fact that we have chosen to live a cloistered life does not mean we can't keep up with the times," Caterina told Religion News Service.
Once in the South, even though she was a cloistered nun, Angelica began using the media to evangelize the Bible Belt, first with speeches and mini-books, later with vinyl records and cassettes.
At night, in the desolate hair shirt/of her absence, I own the lodestone of her weeping://it bespeaks the silence of her cloistered tongue--/a zone I cannot enter but whose passion I reap,//lured like geese honing off over the Danube, restlessly/obedient to laws chauvinistic and infidel--and deepening.
Although the staff at West Point has always tried to maintain a cloistered environment in which to change callow boys into dependable officers, today's plebes are a challenge.
The region, Simons argues, had a long-established tradition of religious dissent and criticism of the church hierarchy, and these women's efforts to follow a religious life without accepting the cloistered regime of a nun were, he argues, part of this.
Four cloistered years, inside iron gates, behind the confessional's trefoil screen, she learned only that she was unworthy.
In 1484, she and her companions became cloistered nuns of the Order of Saint Clare.
Marc Pottier, producer of "Avant-Garde Walk A Venezia," scouted locations for months to map a five-day art treasure-hunt that doubled as an intimate tour of Venice, meandering through magnificent private residences, hidden gardens, tiny side canals, and cloistered courtyards.