(redirected from cloisters)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus.


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).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.


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 ?
This is not to say that all the garments arranged in the Cloisters are monastic and muted.
The Cloisters sits in Fort Tryon Park, with splendid views of the Hudson River.
"The Cloisters has attracted occupiers from a really broad range of sectors and industries, from building surveyors and planners to a media company."
Food and drink producers from across the North East will be displaying a wide range of local produce in the cloisters' atmospheric surroundings, including home-made cheese, fish, meat, cakes, breads, traditional sweets, game and poultry, sausages and craft beers.
This special market in the Cathedral Cloisters is one of a number of events being organised to commemorate St Cuthbert's Day 2015.
Printed images, ancient models, and handmade drawings in Renaissance architectural theory" (3) and the same kind of inquiry was directed to some of the most emblematic Renaissance cloisters in Portugal such as the cloister of the Monastery of Jeronimos (1517-1519); the cloister of the Se de Viseu (152-830); the cloister of the Manga of the Monastery of Santa Cruz in Coimbra (1533-1535); the Great Cloister of the Convent of Christ in Tomar (1558); and the cloister of the Convent of Serra do Pilar (1574).
Thus New York has a particular relationship to Cardiff's work, and its present installation at The Cloisters rethinks the meaning of this work of art as a layered experience of sound, historicity, and space.
On a wooded hill overlooking the Hudson River, though, the Cloisters Museum is not only a surprise, but a real breath of fresh air in one of the biggest and busiest cities in the world.
IT is sad to see the present state of the Great Hall, Cloisters and War Memorial of the former Sir William Turner's School, also known, in my day, as Coatham Grammar School, Remember When (25.6.12).
The Cloisters is a collection of one and two-bedroom apartments, the majority featuring balconies overlooking the medieval abbey.
MY neighbour and friend Hilda Noreen Griffiths, of Flat 29, The Cloisters, St John's Road, St Leonards-on-Sea, died in The Conquest Hospital, Hastings, on October 13.