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About IHSPIHSP Credits

Introduction to Medieval History:

Paul Halsall/Fordham University
HSFC1202: Sect.3 /Spring 1996
The Shaping of the Medieval World

Museum Exercise

Fordham students are fortunate to live in New York with access to what is without doubt the greatest museum of Medieval art and life in the Americas - the Cloisters, a branch of Metropolitan Museum of Art specializing in the art and architecture of the European middle ages.

Your exercise here is to visit the Medieval collection, and to locate certain objects. I have provided two maps of the relevant galleries. The maps are tagged with a series of numbers. For each of these numbers there is an attached question or questions. Some need just one word answers, but a some (marked with an *) need to be answered at length, and with a coherently put together paragraph. You must retype the questions throughout your handed in response, or you can access a plaintext version of this document electronically at the course World Wide Web page at URL /phalsall/med/mus-ex-plain.txt. [or just 'click' here]

Map I - Cloisters Main Floor


Map II - Cloisters Lower Floor




Answer all questions asked. Added comments about the various objects are encouraged, and will affect your grade.. Much of the information you will need is contained on the information notices attached to each display case, and to each object (or on the wall near the statues.) You may want to locate additional information in books or articles. The more effort you put into this, the better it will be graded. If you use illustrations, even better [but not necessary.] In a few cases I have cited the Museum number of an object. This takes the form of the year of acquisition, (sometimes month of acquisition), and then number of the acquisition, - see for example the statutes of the Virgin in Q.1.. These questions follow the order of the numbers on the maps above. I suggest you take notes as you walk around the museum. Write your answer after each question - marked as 1a, I b, etc.]

Part 1

  1. Which style of architecture does this chapel illustrate? From which country do the walls and apse originate? Describe the fresco which dominates the apse.* Look very closely at the wooden statutes of the Enthroned Virgin and Child [item numbers. 47.101.15 and 67.153 - these may also be in chapel 2 or 2a]. How were these statutes made? What emotions doe the Virgin express?* What is the relationship between the mother and the child?*


  2. Compare the doorways at either end of this room.* Suggest three changes between the earlier and later ones. Note, for later reference, the style of portrayal of the crucifixion in these early rooms.


  3. What is the function of this room? How is the ceiling held up? What is the architectural style here? What complicates the answer to this question of architectural style?*


  4. Look at the statutes of the Virgin Mary in this room [for instance 37.159]. How do they differ from the earlier Virgin and child you looked at?* Now compare the representation of the crucified Jesus here with the representations in earlier periods.* What changes? Why?*


  5. Which style of architecture does this chapel illustrate? Identify three features of such architecture. What advantages did it have for the builders and designers?* What disadvantages?


  6. When and where were the Unicorn Tapestries created? Describe the actual scene on two of the tapestries.* What interpretations have been given to the scenes?*


  7. What was the function of the various heads on the altar?


  8. In this room, first look at the walls. What are they made of? Where did they come from? Now look at the illuminated Book of Hours. What is a Book of Hours? What colors predominate? Describe the scenes represented on the day you visit*


  9. In the Treasury, locate the St. Edmundsbury Cross [item 63.12.127]. What is it made of? What do the scenes in the center, and on each of the three arms represent? Who is at the bottom of the cross? What do you think the purpose of such a cross was?


  10. This is the Flemish room. Look at the "Campin Altarpiece". What three scenes are depicted? [Compare the picture with the items in the room around you.] Suggest allegorical interpretations for two or three of the items in the central picture.


  11. Choose one other item, one that you like or that fascinates you, in the Museum and describe it. Explain what it is made of, what its purpose was, and how it was acquired by the Museum. Explain why you like the item. [You may also use item in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine at Amsterdam Ave. and 100th St, or the Medieval Collection in the Main Metropolitan Museum Building on Fifth Avenue]


Part 2

Define the following words, and give examples of items in the Cloisters Museum which illustrate the word:

  1. Romanesque
  2. Gothic
  3. Tapestry
  4. Cloister
  5. Chapter House
  6. Reliquary
  7. Manuscript
  8. Apse
  9. Fresco
  10. Allegory
  11. Altar
  12. Ciborium


The Cloisters - Hours and Directions

from MMA provided Information Sheet

The Cloisters, the branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art for medieval art, incorporates sections of European cloisters, a chapter house, chapels, and other architectural elements, both domestic and religious, all dating from the 12th through the 15th century. The Cloisters Collection includes spectacular medieval sculptures, the famed Unicorn Tapestries, exquisite illuminated manuscripts, splendid goldsmiths' work, and glorious stained glass. Other highlights include the beautiful herb garden.

Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 9:30-4:45 (November-February); 9:30-5:15 (March-October).

Highlights Tours of the Collection for individual visitors: Tuesday-Friday at 3:00; Sunday at 12:00. All group visits require advance reservations. For information call (212) 650-2280.

Admission: Free to Members of the Metropolitan Museum. Suggested contribution same as Main Building, includes admission to both on the same day.

Directions: Subway: IND A train to 190th Street and Overlook Terrace and take No. 4 bus (Fort Tryon Park - The Cloisters). Bus: No. 4 Madison Avenue (Fort Tryon Park - The Cloisters). Car: Henry Hudson Parkway north to first exit after George Washington Bridge.

Accessibility: Limited access for mobility-impaired visitors. Call (212) 923-3700 or check at entrance upon arrival.

Saturdays at The Cloisters at 12:00 and 2:00

Free with Museum admission. No advance reservations necessary, but due to limited gallery space, organized groups of 10 or more cannot be accommodated.


The Metropolitan Museum of Art now has an Internet Web Page. You can access it to find out information about the Cloisters at URL:-