Thursday, August 25, 2011

Seeing a Unicorn in New York


The Cloisters 
In the past, whenever I was in New York, I somehow managed to miss visiting the Cloisters. I always had some excuse: it was too far uptown; medieval art is boring; the price of admission too high, etc. However, during this visit, I finally made it. Even though the price of admission was steep ($25) and getting there time consuming, my visit to the Cloisters turned out to be very interesting. 

Central Garden at the Cloisters
The Cloisters is part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is devoted to the art and architecture of medieval Europe. It was reconstructed in the 1930s from the architectural elements of several European medieval abbeys. The cost of its construction and much of its collection was donated by John D. Rockefeller. Located in Fort Tryon Park and overlooking the Hudson River, the Cloisters is a nice escape from the hectic pace of Manhattan. You really feel like you're in the french countryside while at the Cloisters. Perhaps, the best thing about the Cloisters is its location!

View overlooking the Hudson River at Fort Tryon Park
While its collection didn't thrill me, I did enjoy the Garden Tour, which is offered daily at 1:00 pm. The highlight of the tour was a discussion of the Unicorn Tapestries and their relationship to the medieval garden.

After taking this tour, I can honestly say that I'm an expert on the Unicorn. For example, the Unicorn was a commonly used figure in medieval art that was a symbol of purity and grace. According to legend, the Unicorn had the power to make poisoned water potable and to heal sickness. Moreover, the Unicorn could only be captured through the use of trickery from a virgin.

If you visit the Cloisters, don't miss the Narwahl tusk (a tusk from the small Narwahl whale) located in the Tapestry Room near the fireplace. In medieval times, this tusk was thought to be from the Unicorn. 

The Cloisters can be reached by taking the A Train to Dyckman then walking through Fort Tryon Park up a steep hill; or for those of you who want a more leisurely excursion, take the M4 bus from the W185 Station. 

No comments: