Gardens at The Cloisters

Last week, I was in NYC for Book Expo, but I had a little bit of extra time. I spent a good bit of that time at one of my favorite sites in New York, The Cloisters. This museum is part of the Metropolitan Museum and is located in Fort Tryon Park at 190th Street. Here’s a bit from their brochure:

“Welcome to The Cloisters, the branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art devoted to the art and architecture of medieval Europe. Set on a hilltop with commanding views of the Hudson River, The Cloisters is designed in a style evocative of medieval architecture specifically for the display of masterpieces created during that era. Arranged roughly chronologically and featuring works primarily from western Europe, the collection includes sculpture, stained glass, tapestries, painting, manuscript illumination, and metalwork. The extensive gardens feature medieval plantings, enhancing the evocative environment.

History of the Museum
John D. Rockefeller Jr. generously provided for the building, the setting in Fort Tryon Park, and the acquisition of the notable George Grey Barnard Collection, the nucleus of The Cloisters collection. Barnard, an American sculptor whose work can be seen in the American Wing of the Metropolitan, traveled extensively in France, where he purchased medieval sculpture and architectural elements, often from descendants of citizens who had appropriated objects abandoned during the French Revolution. The architect Charles Collens incorporated these medieval elements into the fabric of The Cloisters, which opened to the public in 1938.”

Just to give you a sample of why I love this place so much, here are some pictures taken at The Cloisters last week. Here I am at the entry.

Claire Delacroix at the CloistersThere are four cloisters incorporated into The Cloisters, and the first one you visit on entering the museum is the Cuxa cloister. This comes from a Benedictine monastery called Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa near Canigou in the Pyrenees and is distinctive not only for its pink stone but for its carvings. The cloister dates from the 12th century and is planted in a style typical of monastic gardens.Cuxa Cloister taken by Claire Delacroix at The Cloisters Cuxa Cloister taken by Claire Delacroix at The Cloisters Cuxa Cloister taken by Claire Delacroix at The Cloisters It’s tough to take pictures inside the museum, as camera flashes are not allowed and it was a dingy day. We did manage a few, though. This is the entrance to the Langon Chapel, which includes architectural details from a 12th century church from Notre-Dame-du-Bourg at Langon near Bordeaux. The doorway shows Charlemagne and Clovis as donors of the chapel, so it must have been built on a donation from those kings. The picture is taken from the Saint-Guilhem Cloister.

Langon Chapel entrance taken by Claire Delacroix at The Cloisters

The artifacts inside the museum are amazing, from sculpture to stained glass to textiles (the Unicorn Tapestries are here as well as the Nine Heroes). There are also marvelous works in the treasury, including boxes in ivory, reliquaries and medieval books of hours. Every time I visit, I notice something new and wonderful. Here’s a window in the Boppard Room, which gives you a glimpse of the stained glass – these windows are from a 15th century convent in Boppard-am-Rhein.

Stained glass in the Boppard room taken by Claire Delacroix at The Cloisters The fourth cloister is my favourite, so I’ve saved it for last. The Bonnefont Cloister is home to medieval plants, planted in an arrangement characteristic of a monastery. There’s a central font, with beds arranged around it, and the plants are sorted according to their use. Dye plants are in one bed, medicinals in another, culinary in another, etc. They’re also supported with wattled fences, which are a medieval garden feature.

In this shot, we’ve just stepped into the garden and are looking right, toward the culinary plants. We’re going to walk to that next corner and stop by the three steps. The Bonnefont Cloister garden at the The Cloisters in New York taken by Claire DelacroixThis shot is taken from the foot of those three steps. On the right are culinary plants against the wall; on the left in the foreground are dye plants. The two trees growing against the chapel wall at the far end (behind the very modern sign!) are espaliered pear trees. This chapel (the Gothic Chapel) showcases stained glass windows from 14th century Austria. The railing is where we’ll eventually exit the garden. Notice the pots of herbs on the stone wall – there’s rosemary and houseleek and thyme there, as well as one I’ll show you last. Let’s walk toward the yellow sign.The Bonnefont Cloister garden at the The Cloisters in New York taken by Claire DelacroixThis is a little shy of that next corner, looking back to the door where we entered the garden. Those glorious yellow flowers are woad in bloom – medieval people made a blue dye from woad, a plant indigenous to northern Europe. Even after indigo was available and much admired for the deep blue colour it created, its expense meant that woad was still used. Woad makes a more medium blue colour (sky blue) that fades.The Bonnefont Cloister garden at the The Cloisters in New York taken by Claire DelacroixNow we’ve gone to the final corner and are looking back to the font. We’ll leave through the door on the left. The chapel and the pear trees are on our left, out of view. These plants in the foreground are medicinal. The four trees growing in the middle of the garden are quince trees. The Bonnefont Cloister garden at the The Cloisters in New York taken by Claire DelacroixThe font.The Bonnefont Cloister garden at the The Cloisters in New York taken by Claire DelacroixBack to the medicinal garden, standing a little closer to the chapel and turned back toward the entry. You can see the low wall on the right (probably south) side. You can see the big leaves of elecampane at the left. The Bonnefont Cloister garden at the The Cloisters in New York taken by Claire DelacroixAnd a very pretty lily, growing in a pot on the wall before we go back inside. The Bonnefont Cloister garden at the The Cloisters in New York taken by Claire DelacroixThanks for visiting The Cloisters with me! You can read more about the museum on their website, right here.

Thanks to ORWA

This past weekend, I travelled to Ottawa to teach my Business of Writing workshop at the Ottawa Romance Writers (ORWA). I had such a good time! Thanks to everyone at ORWA who made this possible, all of those who attended my workshop, and all of you who facilitated the event. It was wonderful to see some familiar faces, as well as meet some writers new-to-me.

I’d particularly like to thank Shirley, who was my liaison with ORWA and my fairy godmother while I was there.

Thank you all!

A Book About New York

I like to read books about other places, both fiction and non-fiction. And there are several cities that figure prominently in the collection of books I’ve acquired over the years. I tend to pick up books about New York City, Paris and Venice. Mr. Math picks up books about broader swaths of territory, like Russia, Belize and Chile. Last fall, before going to New York City, I did some collecting of appropriate books to read. It was my intention to spend some more time as a tourist than has usually been the case when I’ve gone to Manhattan – I usually spend a lot of time meeting with publishing industry people. This is a good thing, but I was starting to feel that I’d been through Manhattan but never really been there. And I like what I’ve seen. So, I added a couple of days to my trip to play tourist.

One of the books I found at the library was so intriguing that I returned it there and bought a copy. I’ve only just finished reading it. It was a chewy book, one that was both thought-provoking and intriguing. The book is Waterfront: A Journey Around Manhattan by Phillip Lopate. It’s a beguiling and distinctive mix of memoir, history, observation and travelogue. In a way, it’s a hybrid of genres, both guidebook and memoir, plus a history of the waterfront regions of the city. The author begins his journey at the southern tip of the island of Manhattan and works up the west side in increments, then returns to that same southern tip to work his way up the east side. Along the way, he shares stories about the city and its history, along with his own experiences in certain neighborhoods. He also discusses fiction set in New York, non-fiction and movies, giving a view of the popular ideas associated with each location. All the while, he explores the question of how a city should meet the water, once the industrial port is gone. How do city residents use the waterfront? How should they be able to? What should be there? The discussion of politics and policy and public will is fascinating, and makes me realize how hard it is to create change in a large city.

I grew up in Toronto, another city with a strong relationship to the water – Lake Ontario, in that case – and also one with a once-bustling port that is now much less busy. There are a lot of industrial properties and brownlands where Toronto meets the lake, with some parks and bike trails interspersed. There is a highway restricting both access to the water and glimpses of it, as well as a number of luxury high rise condominiums. Much of what Mr. Lopate observes in New York is also visible in Toronto. Overall, there’s an inescapable sense that opportunity is being lost in this area of Toronto, although there are no obvious answers as to how it could better evolve. I was very struck by the author’s discussions of vibrant streetscapes and his desire to see the bustle of the city extend into these neglected areas. I liked his idea of leaving room for spontaneity on waterfront lands. It got me to thinking about Toronto and how it could evolve, as well as making me want to go back to New York and explore some more.

Overall, Mr. Lopate was a wonderful guide to his native city. I really enjoyed this book, and recommend it to anyone curious about New York or about the evolution of waterfront lands.

Have you read anything that surprised and intrigued you lately?

Be Vewy Vewy Quiet…

It’s going to be quiet on the blog this week, as I’ll be away and probably offline. I’m going to the Novelist’s Ink conference in New York and doing some research in the city as well. I’m looking forward to seeing old friends, making some new ones, talking far too much and maybe drinking a little bit of wine. So, behave yourselves and I’ll check back in before I go to the World Fantasy conference in Toronto next week. (Then I’ll put away my suitcase until the RWA National conference in Atlanta next July.)

Here’s a little something to keep you company while I’m gone…

Coming Soon!
No Halo Required is a novella linked to the Prometheus Project – it follows that trilogy – and is Tupperman’s story.
Read more right HERE.

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In 2013, Dragonfire continues with the Dragon Legion Novellas. Read more about them, right HERE.