The Cloisters Museum, New York, United States

The Cloisters is a museum in Fort Tryon Park in Washington Heights, Upper Manhattan, New York City, specializing in European medieval architecture, sculpture and decorative arts, with a focus on the Romanesque and Gothic periods. Governed by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it contains a large collection of medieval art-works shown in architectural settings sourced from French monasteries and abbeys. Its buildings are centered around four cloisters—the Cuxa, Saint-Guilhem, Bonnefont and Trie cloisters— which, following their acquisition by American sculptor and art dealer George Grey Barnard, were dismantled in Europe between 1934 and 1939, and relocated in New York. They became part of the Metropolitan Museum’s Cloisters collection when acquired by financier and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr. The cloisters were reconstructed in a design by architect Charles Collens.

The museum is built into a steep hill and comprises upper and lower levels. It contains medieval gardens and series of indoor chapels and thematic display spaces, including the Romanesque, Fuentidueña, Unicorn, Spanish and Gothic rooms. It holds approximately five thousand works of art and architecture from Europe, mostly dating from the 12th to 15th centuries—that is, from the Byzantine to the early Renaissance periods. The varied objects include stone and wood sculptures, tapestries, illuminated manuscripts and panel paintings, of which the best known include the c. 1422 Early Netherlandish Mérode Altarpiece and the c. 1495–1505 Flemish Hunt of the Unicorn tapestries.

The Cloisters’ early collection was built by Barnard and acquired by Rockefeller in 1925 for the Metropolitan Museum. Rockefeller purchased the site in Washington Heights in 1931 as a permanent home for the works. The design, layout and ambiance of the building is intended to evoke a sense of medieval European monastic life. On its opening, the museum was described as a collection “shown informally in a picturesque setting, which stimulates imagination and creates a receptive mood for enjoyment”.

Formation and history
The basis for the museum comes from the collection of George Grey Barnard, a renowned American sculptor and collector who almost single-handedly established a medieval-art museum near his home in Fort Washington. Although a successful sculptor, his income was not enough to support his family. Barnard was a risk taker and led most of his life on the edge of poverty. He lived in Fontainebleau, France, between 1905 and 1913, where he traded European 13th and 14th century objects to supplement his earnings. In the process he built a large personal collection, at first from buying and selling stand-alone objects with French dealers, before graduating to the acquisition of in situ architectural artifacts.

Barnard was primarily interested in the abbeys and churches founded by monastic orders from the twelfth century. Following centuries of pillage and destruction during wars and revolutions, stones from many of these buildings were reused by local populations. A pioneer in seeing the value in such artifacts, his acquisitions were often met with hostility from local and governmental groups. Yet Barnard was an astute negotiator who had the advantage of a professional sculptor’s eye for high quality stone carving and by 1907 had amassed a high quality collection at relatively low cost. Reputably he paid $25,000 for the Trie buildings, $25,000 for the Bonnefort and $100,000 for the Cuxa cloisters. His success lead him to adapt a somewhat a romantic view of himself. He recalled bicycling across the French countryside and unearthing fallen and long forgotten Gothic masterworks along the way. He claimed to have found the tomb effigy of Jean d’Alluye face down, in use as a bridge over a small stream. By 1914 he had amassed enough quality artifacts to open a gallery in Manhattan, New York.

Barnard often neglected his personal finances, and was so disorganized that he often misplaced the origin or provenance of his purchases. He sold his collection to John D. Rockefeller, Jr. in 1925 during one of his recurring monetary crises. They had been introduced by the architect William W. Bosworth. Purchased for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the acquisition included structures that would become the foundation and core of the Cloisters museum. Rockefeller and Barnard were polar opposites in both temperament and outlook and did not get along; Rockefeller was reserved, Barnard exuberant. The English painter and art critic Roger Fry was the Metropolitan’s chief European buying agent at the time, and acted as an intermediary. Rockefeller eventually acquired Barnard’s collection for around $700,000, with Barnard retained as an advisor.

Rockefeller offered to build the Cloisters for the Metropolitan in February 1930. Under consultation with Bosworth, he decided to locate the museum at the 66.5-acre (26.9 ha) site at Fort Tryon Park, leading to purchase of land and buildings from the Billings Estate and other properties in the Fort Washington area. In 1927 he hired Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., son of one of the designers of Central Park and the Olmsted Brothers firm to create a park, which he donated to New York City in 1935. The Cloisters building and adjacent 4-acre (1.6 ha) gardens were designed by Charles Collens. They incorporate elements from abbeys in Catalan and France. Parts from Sant Miquel de Cuixà, Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, Bonnefont-en-Comminges, Trie-sur-Baïse and Froville were disassembled stone-by-stone and shipped to New York City, where they were reconstructed and integrated into a cohesive whole. Construction took place over a five-year period from 1934. Rockefeller bought several hundred acres of the New Jersey Palisades, which he donated to the State in an effort to preserve the view from the museum.


The museum’s collection of art works consists of approximately five thousand individual pieces. They are displayed across a series of rooms and spaces, mostly separate from the spaces dedicated to the installed architectural artifacts. The Cloisters holds several 14th century ivory statuettes of the Madonna, mostly French with some English examples. Its most well known tapestry is the Flemish The Hunt of the Unicorn, a series of seven textiles woven in Brussels or Liège c. 1495–1505. They were purchased by Rockefeller in 1922 for about one million US dollars, and are today hung in the dedicated Unicorn tapestries room on the museum’s upper floor.

The museum’s best known panel painting is Robert Campin’s c. 1425–28 Mérode Altarpiece, a foundational work in the development of Early Netherlandish painting, which has been at The Cloisters since 1956. It acquisition was funded by Rockefeller and described at the time as a “major event for the history of collecting in the United States”. The triptych is well preserved with little over-painting, glossing, dirt layers or paint loss. Other panel paintings in the collection include a nativity triptych altarpiece attributed to a follower of Rogier van der Weyden, and the Jumieges panels by an unknown French master. Other works include the Nine Heroes tapestries and the 12th-century walrus ivory Cloisters Cross, which contains over ninety-two intricately carved figures and ninety-eight inscriptions along its axis. A similar 12th century French metalwork reliquary cross contains six sequences of engravings on either side of its shaft, and across the four sides of its lower arms.

The museum hold an extensive collection of frescoes, stained glass, porcelain statuettes, reliquary wood and metal shrines and crosses, as well as examples of the very rare Gothic boxwood miniatures. It holds liturgical vessels and rare pieces of Gothic furniture and metalwork. Many pieces are not associated with a particular architectural setting, so their placement in the museum may vary. Some of the objects have dramatic provenance, including those plundered from the estates of aristocrats during the French Revolutionary Army’s occupation of the Southern Netherlands. The Hunt of the Unicorn was for a period used by the French army to cloak potatoes and keep them from freezing over. It was purchased by Rockefeller in 1922 and six of the tapestries hung in his New York home until they were donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1938.

Stained glass
The Cloisters’ collection of stained glass consists of around three hundred panels, generally French and Germanic and mostly from the 13th to early 16th centuries. A number were formed from hand made opalescent glass. Works in the collection are characterized by vivid colors and often abstract designs and patterns; many have a devotional image as a centerpiece. The collections’ pot-metal works (that is containing colorants from the High Gothic period highlight the effects of light, especially the transitions between darkness, shadow and illumination. The Met’s collection grew in the early 20th century when Raymond Picairn made acquisitions at a time when medieval glass was not highly regarded by connoisseurs, and were difficult to extract and transport.

Jane Hayward, a curator at the museum from 1969 who began the museum’s second phase of acquisition, describes stained glass as “unquestioningly the preeminent form of Gothic medieval monumental painting”. She bought c. 1500 heraldic windows from the Rhineland, now in the Campin room with the Mérode Altarpiece, acquired in 1950. Hayward’s addition in 1980 led to a redesign of the room so that the installed pieces would echo the domestic setting of the altarpiece. She wrote that the Campin room is the only gallery in the Met “where domestic rather than religious art predominates…a conscious effort has been made to create a fifteenth-century domestic interior similar to the one shown in [Campin]’s Annunciation panel.” Other acquisitions from this time include late 13th century grisaille panels from the Château-de-Bouvreuil in Rouen, glass work from the Cathedral of Saint-Gervais-et-Saint-Protais at Sées, and panels from the Acezat collection, now in the Heroes Tapestry Hall.”

Illuminated manuscripts
The museum has collected a number of illuminated books, including the French Cloisters Apocalypse (c. 1330), Jean Pucelle’s Hours of Jeanne d’Evreux (c. 1325–28), the Psalter of Bonne de Luxembourg, attributed to Jean Le Noir and the Belles Heures du Duc de Berry (c. 1399–1416) attributed to the Limbourg brothers. In 2015 it acquired a small Netherlandish Book of Hours illuminated by Simon Bening. Each of these book are of exceptional quality, and their acquisition was a significant achievement for the museum’s early collectors; the consensus was that the Cloisters should focus on architectural elements and sculpture and decorative arts to enhance the environmental quality of the institution, where as manuscripts were considered more suited to the Morgan Library in lower Manhattan.

The Belles Heures is widely regarded one of the finest extant examples of manuscript illumination, and the only surviving complete book from the hands of the Limbourg brothers. It was purchased in 1954 by Rockefeller from Maurice de Rothschild, with the intention that it was donated to the Metropolitan.

The Bonne de Luxembourg manuscript, having long been in a private collection, was known only through poor quality photographic reproductions until acquired by the Cloisters in 1969. Thus it had been rarely studied or widely appreciated, and was until that point also attributed to Jean Pucelle. Following its acquisition, it was studied by a number of art historians, after which attribution was given to Le Noir.

Exterior building
The building is set into a steep hill, and thus the rooms and halls are divided between an upper entrance and ground floor level. The enclosing exterior building is mostly modern, and is influenced by and contains elements from the 13th-century church at Saint-Geraud at Monsempron, France, from which the northeast end of the building borrows especially. It was mostly designed by the architect Charles Collens, who took influence from works in Barnard’s collection. The building contains a number of architecture elements and settings relocated mostly from four French abbeys, which between 1934 and 1939 were transported, reconstructed and integrated with new buildings in a project overseen by Collins. He said to Rockefeller that the new building “should present a well-studied outline done in the very simplest form of stonework growing naturally out of the rocky hill-top. After looking through the books in the Boston Athenaeum … we found a building at Monsempron in Southern France of a type which would lend itself in a very satisfactory manner to such a treatment.”

The architects sought to both memorialize the north hill’s role in the American Revolution, and provide a sweeping view over the Hudson River. Construction of the exterior began in 1935. The stonework originates from a number of European sources, primarily limestone and granite, and includes four Gothic windows from the refectory at Sens, and nine arcades. The dome of the Fuentidueña Chapel was especially difficult to fit into the planned area. The east elevation is mostly formed from limestone and contains nine arcades from the Benedictine priory at Froville, and four flamboyant French Gothic windows from the Dominican monastery at Sens.

The museum is a well-known New York City landmark and has been used as a filming location. In 1948, director Maya Deren used its ramparts as a backdrop for her experimental film Meditation on Violence. That year, German director William Dieterle used the Cloisters as the location for a convent school in his film Portrait of Jennie. The 1968 film Coogan’s Bluff used the site’s pathways and lanes for a scenic motorcycle chase.

During periods of political unrest and military invasion, gardens became essential for community survival. The Cloister’s three gardens, the Judy Black Garden at the Cuxa Cloister on the main level, and the Bonnefont and Trie Cloisters gardens on the lower level, were laid out and planted in 1938. They contain a variety of rare medieval species, with a total of over 250 genera of plants, flowers, herbs and trees, making it one of the world’s most important collections of specialized gardens. The garden’s design was overseen by curator James Rorimer during the museum’s construction. He was aided by Margaret Freeman, who conducted extensive research into the keeping of plants and their symbolism in the Middle Ages. Today the gardens are tended to by a staff of horticulturalists; the senior members are also historians of 13th and 14th century gardening techniques.


The Cuxa Cloisters are located on the south side of the building’s main level and structurally and thematically are the museum’s centerpiece. They were sourced from the Benedictine Abbey of Sant Miquel de Cuixà on Mount Canigou, in the northeast French Pyrenees, which was founded in 878. The monastery was abandoned in 1791, with around half of its stonework relocated to New York between 1906 and 1907. Until then the abbey had been in disrepair; its roof collapsed in 1835, its bell tower fell in 1839. The installation became one of the first major undertakings by the Metropolitan after it acquired Barnard’s collection. After intensive work over the fall and winter of 1925–26, the Cuxa Cloisters were opened to the public on April 1, 1926.

The quadrangle-shaped garden once formed a center around which monks slept in cells. The original garden seemed to have been lined by walkways around adjoining arches lined with capitals enclosing the garth. It is impossible now to represent solely medieval species and arrangements; those in the Cuxa garden are approximations by botanists specializing in medieval history. The oldest plan of the original building describes lilies and roses. Although the walls are modern, the capitals and columns are original and cut from pink Languedoc marble from the Pyrenees. The intersection of the two walkways contains an eight-sided fountain.

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The Saint-Guilhem cloisters were taken from the site of the Benedictine monastery of Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, and date from 804 AD to the 1660s. Their acquisition around 1906 was one of Barnard’s early purchases. The transfer to New York involved the movement of around 140 pieces, including capitals, columns and pilasters. The carvings on the marble piers and column shafts recall Roman sculpture and are coiled by extravagant foliage, including vines. The capitals contain acanthus leaves and grotesque heads peering out, including figures at the Presentation at the Temple, Daniel in the Lions’ Den and the Mouth of Hell, and a number of pilasters and columns. The carvings seem preoccupied with the evils of hell. Those beside the mouth of hell contain representations of the devil and tormenting beasts, with, according to Young, “animal-like body parts and cloven hoofs [as they] herd naked sinners in chains to be thrown into an upturned monster’s mouth”.

The Guilhem cloisters are located in an indoor section of the museum’s upper level and are much smaller than the originally build. Its garden contains a central fountain and plants potted in ornate containers, including a 15th-century glazed earthenware vase. The area is covered by a skylight and plate glass panels which conserves heat in the winter months. Rockefeller had initially wanted a high roof and clerestory windows, but was convinced by Joseph Breck, curator of decorative arts at the Metropolitan, to install a skylight. Breck wrote to Rockefeller that “by substituting a skylight for a solid ceiling…the sculpture is properly illuminated, since the light falls in a natural way; the visitor has the sense of being in the open; and his attention, consequently, is not attracted to the modern superstructure.”

The Bonnefont cloisters were assembled from a number of French monasteries; the majority from a late 12th century Cistercian Abbaye de Bonnefont (fr) at Bonnefont-en-Comminges, southwest of Toulouse. The abbey was intact until at least 1807, and by the 1850s all of its architectural features had been removed from the site, often for decoration of nearby buildings. Barnard purchased the stonework in 1937. Today the Bonnefont cloisters contain twenty-one double capitals, and surround a garden that contains many features typical of the medieval period, including a central wellhead, raised flower beds and lined with wattle fences. The marbles are highly ornate and decorated, some with grotesque figures.

The inner garden has been set with a medlar tree of the type found in The Hunt of the Unicorn tapestries, and is centered around a wellhead placed at Bonnefont-en-Comminges in the 12th century.

The Trie cloisters was complied from two late 15th- to early 16th-century French structures. The cloisters were mostly sourced from the Carmelite convent at Trie-sur-Baïse in south-western France, whose original abbey, except for the church, was destroyed by Huguenots in 1571. A number of small narrow buttresses were added in New York by Breck. The rectangular garden hosts around 80 species of plants and contains a tall limestone cascade fountain at it’s center.

Like those from Saint-Guilhem, the Trie cloisters have been given modern roofing. The convent at Trie-sur-Baïse featured some 80 white marble capitals carved between 1484–1490. Eighteen were moved to New York and contain numerous biblical scenes and incidents form the lives of saints. A number of the carvings are secular, including those of legendary figures such as Saint George and the Dragon, the “wild man” confronting a grotesque monster, and a grotesque head wearing an unusual and fanciful hat. The capitals are placed in chronological order, beginning with God in the act of creation at the north west corner, Adam and Eve in the west gallery, followed by the Binding of Isaac, and Matthew and John writing their gospels. Capitals in the south gallery illustrate scenes from the life of Christ.

Chapels and halls

Gothic Chapel
The Gothic chapel is set on the museum’s ground level, and was built to display its stained glass and large sculpture collections. The entrance from the upper level Early Gothic Hall is lit by stained glass double-lancet windows, carved on both sides, and acquired from the church of La Tricherie, France. The ground level entrance is through a large door at its east wall. This entrance begins with a pointed Gothic arch leading to high bayed ceilings, ribbed vaults and buttress. The three center windows are from the church of Sankt Leonhard, in southern Austria, from c. 1340. The glass panels include a depiction of Martin of Tours as well as complex medallion patterns. The glass on the east wall comes from Evron Abbey, Normandy, and dates from around 1325. The apse contains three large sculptures by the main windows; two larger than life-size female saints dating from the 14th century, and a Burgundian Bishop dating from the 13th. The large limestone sculpture of Saint Margaret on the wall by the stairs dates to around 1330 and is from the church of Santa Maria de Farfanya (ca) in Lleida, Catalonia (Spain).

Each of the six recumbent effigies have been described as supreme examples of sepulchral art. Three are from the Bellpuig Monastery (ca) in present Catalonia. The monument directly facing the main windows is the c. 1248–67 sarcophagus of Jean d’Alluye, a knight of the crusades, who was thought to have returned from the Holy Land with a relic of the True Cross. He is shown as a young man, his eyes open, and dressed in chain armor, with his longsword and shield. The female effigy of a lady was sourced in Normandy, dates to the mid 13th century, and is perhaps of Margaret of Gloucester. Although resting on a modern base, she is dressed in high contemporary aristocratic fashion, including a mantle, cotte, jewel studded belt and an elaborate ring necklace brooch.

Fuentidueña Chapel
The Fuentidueña chapel is the museum’s largest room, and is entered through a broad oak door flanked by sculptures which include leaping animals. Its centerpiece is the Fuentidueña Apse, a semicircular Romanesque recess dating c. 1175–1200, which was sourced from the Saint Joan church at Fuentidueña, Segovia. By the 19th century the church was long abandoned and in disrepair. It was acquired by Rockefeller for the Metropolitan in 1931 to be incorporation into the Cloisters. The structure was removed from the site and rebuilt at the Cloisters in the late 1940s, a process that involved the shipment of almost 3300 blocks—mostly sandstone and limestone—from Spain to New York. The acquisition followed three decades of complex negotiation and diplomacy between the Spanish church and both countries’ art-historical hierarchies and governments. It was eventually exchanged in a deal that involved the transfer of six frescoes from San Baudelio de Berlanga to the Prado, on an equally long-term loan. Each block was individually cataloged and moved to New York in one of 839 crates. It was such a large and complex reconstruction that the project necessitated the demolition of the former “Special Exhibition Room” to make way for the installation. The chapel was opened to the public in 1961, seven years after its instillation had begun.

The apse consists of a broad arch leading to a barrel vault, and culminates with a half-dome. The capitals at the entrance contain representations of the Adoration of the Magi and Daniel in the lions’ den. The piers show Martin of Tours on the left and the angel Gabriel announcing to The Virgin on the right. The chapel includes a number of other, mostly contemporary medieval artwork. They include, in the dome, a large fresco dating to between 1130–50, from the Spanish Church of Sant Joan de Tredòs. The fresco’s colorization resembles a Byzantine mosaic and is dedicated to the ideal of Mary as the mother of God. Hanging within the apse is a c. 1150–1200 crucifix from the Convent of St. Clara (es) at Astudillo, Spain. Its reverse contains a depiction of the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God), decorated with red and blue foliage at its frames.

The exterior wall holds three small, narrow and stilted windows, which are nevertheless designed to let in the maximum amount of light. The windows were originally set within imposing fortress walls; according to the art historian Bonnie Young “these small windows and the massive, fortress-like walls contribute to the feeling of austerity…typical of Romanesque churches.”

Langon Chapel
The Langon Chapel is situated on the museum’s ground level. Its right wall is sourced from the Romanesque Cathédrale Notre-Dame-du-Bourg de Digne and dates from c. 1126. The chapter house consists of a single aisle nave, transepts and is taken from a small Benedictine parish church of c. 1115 from Notre Dame de Pontaut, then in neglect and disrepair. When acquired, its upper level was in use as a storage place for tobacco. About three quarters of its original stonework was relocated to New York.

The chapel is entered from the Romanesque hall through a doorway compromising of a large, elaborate French Gothic stone entrance commissioned by the Burgundian court, and sourced from Moutiers-Saint-Jean Abbey in Burgundy, France. Carvings on the elaborate white oolitic limestone doorway depict the Coronation of the Virgin and contains foliated capitals and statuettes on the outer piers; including two kings positioned in the embrasures and various kneeling angels. Carvings of angels are placed in the archivolts above the kings.

Moutiers-Saint-Jean was sacked, burned and rebuilt a number of times. In 1567 the Huguenot army removed the heads from the two kings, and in 1797 the abbey was sold as rubble for rebuilding. The site lay in ruin for decades and lost further sculptural elements, until rediscovered by Barnard who organized for the entrances’ transfer to New York. The doorway had been the main portal of the abbey, and was probably built as the south transept door. The large figurative sculptures on either side of the doorway represent the early Frankish kings Clovis I (d. 511) and his son Chlothar I (d. 561). The piers are lined with elaborate and highly detailed rows of statuettes, which are mostly set in niches, and are baldly damaged; most have been decapitated. The heads on the right hand capital were for a time believed to represent Henry II of England. Seven capitals survive from the original church, with carvings of human figures or heads, some of which as have been identified as historical persons, including Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Romanesque hall
The Romanesque hall contains three great church doorways. The monumental arched Burgundian entrance is from Moutier-Saint-Jean de Réôme in France and dates to c. 1150. Two animals are carved into the keystones, both rest on their hind legs as if about to attack each other. The capitals are lined with carvings of both real and imagined animals and birds, as well as leaves and other fauna. The two earlier doorways are from Reugny, Allier and Poitou in central France. The hall contains four large early-13th-century stone sculptures representing the Adoration of the Magi, frescoes of a lion and a wyvern, each from the Monastery of San Pedro de Arlanza in north central Spain. On the left of the room are portraits of kings and angels, also from the monastery at Moutier-Saint-Jean.

The hall contains three pairs of columns over a door with molded archivolts taken from the Augustinian church at Reugny. The site was badly damaged during the French Wars of Religion and again during the French Revolution. By 1850 most of the structures were sold to Piere-Yon Verniere, and acquired by Barnard in 1906.

Library and archives
The Cloisters contains one of the Metropolitan’s thirteen libraries. Focusing on medieval art and architecture, it holds over 15,000 volumes of books and journals, the museum’s archive administration papers, curatorial papers, dealer records and the personal papers of Barnard, as well as early glass lantern slides of museum materials, manuscript facsimiles, scholarly records, maps and recordings of musical performances at the museum. The library functions primarily as a resource for museum staff, but is available by appointment to researchers, art dealers, academics and students.

Visual artifacts include early sketches and blueprints made during the early design phase of the museum’s construction, as well as historical photographic collections. These include photographs of medieval objects from the collection of George Joseph Demotte, and a series taken during and just after World War II showing damage sustained to monuments and artifacts, including tomb effigies. They are, according to curator Lauren Jackson-Beck, of “prime importance to the art historian who is concerned with the identification of both the original work and later areas of reconstruction”. The prints of two important series are kept on microfilm; the “Index photographique de l’art en France” and the German “Marburg Picture Index”.

The Cloisters is governed by the board of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Metropolitan’s collections are owned by a private corporation of fellows and benefactors, which include about 950 persons. The board of trustees comprise 41 elected members, several officials of the City of New York, and persons honored as trustees by the museum. The current chairman of the board, Daniel Brodsky, was elected in 2011, having previously served on its Real Estate Council (1984), as a trustee of the museum and Vice Chairman of the Buildings Committee.

Acquisition and deaccessioning
The Cloisters regularly acquires new works although as a specialist museum rarely deaccessions. In the early years, Rockefeller financed the purchase of new works, often buying independently and then gifting to the museum. More recently, the Metropolitan Museum of Art does not publish separate figures for the Cloisters, but the entity as a whole spent $39 million on acquisitions for the fiscal year ending in June 2012.

The Cloisters seeks to balance its collection between religious and secular artifacts and art works. With secular pieces, it typically favors those that reflect the range of artistic production in the medieval period, and according to art historian Timothy Husband, “reflect the fabric of daily [medieval European] life but also endure as works of art in their own right.” In 2011 it purchased the then recently discovered The Falcon’s Bath, a Southern Netherlands tapestry dated c. 1400–1415. It is of exceptional quality, and one of the best preserved surviving examples of its type. Other recent acquisitions of significance include the 2015 purchase of a Book of Hours attributed to Simon Bening.

Exhibitions and programs
The museum’s architectural settings, atmosphere and acoustics have made it a regular setting for both musical recital and as a stage for medieval theater. Notable stagings include “The Miracle of Theophilus” in 1942, and John Gassner’s adaption of “The Second Shepherds’ Play” in 1954. Recent significant exhibitions include “Small Wonders: Gothic Boxwood Miniatures” which ran in the summer of 2017 in conjunction with the Art Gallery of Ontario.