The Cloisters, a branch of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art dedicated to the art and architecture of the European Middle Ages, is located in Fort Tryon Park near the northern tip of Manhattan island on a hill overlooking the Hudson River. The Cloisters collection contains approximately five thousand European medieval works of art, with a particular emphasis on pieces dating from the twelfth through the fifteen centuries.
The museum, designed by its first curator,, James J. Rorimer, in conjunction with architect Charles Collens, and the adjacent 4 acre-park were created in 1938 thanks to an endowment grant by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who donated the majority of his collection. Much of the art collection came from that of George Grey Barnard, an American sculptor, who had already established a medieval-art museum near his home in Fort Washington. Rockefeller purchased Barnard's entire collection, which, combined with a number of pieces from his own collection, became the core of the new Cloisters' holdings. Rockefeller subsequently purchased more than 65 acres of land north of Barnard's museum and donated it to the city. He also purchased and donated to the State of New Jersey several hundred acres of the New Jersey Palisades on the other side of the Hudson River in order to preserve the view for the museum.
The building housing the collection is itself a work of medieval art. It is a composite structure, incorporating elements from five medieval French monasteries: Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa, Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, Bonnefont-en-Comminges, Trie-en-Bigorre, and Froville. These disassembled European buildings were reassembled in the park setting with gardens planted according to horticultural information culled from various medieval documents and artifacts.