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THE GOTHIC CHAPEL

CLOISTERS MUSEUM

BY BRIAN MCHUGH

The Cloisters, a branch of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, located at the northern end of Manhatten in Fort Tyron Park, comprises the largest single collection of medieval art and artifacts in the United States. The building, constructed in 1935 - 1938 from Charles Collen's plans, combines five cloisters transported from southern France. The Gothic period is fully represented by paintings, statues, devotional objects and the carefully preserved architectural details of the building itself.

The church was always the most imposing feature of a monastic complex. By its size and heirarchical elaboration, it expressed many of the aspirations of the community to which it belonged. It also gave some indication of the wealth and prosperity of the monastery and, inside, would commemorate patrons who provided sustained support to the community including buried persons in tombs.

PICTURE A















The Gothic Chapel presents persons of wealth commemorated with tombs bearing their effigies. They were commonly found in family burial chapels, churches, or in monasteries. These tombs symbolized the chivalric and aristocratic ideals of the time. In the center of the chapel is the effigy of the crusader knight Jean d'Alluye. The knight is represented as young man, armed in chain armor with his sword and shield, his eyes open and his hands joined in prayer. The lion crouched at his feet symbolizes the gallant qualities of strength and courage.

 

 

*Picture of Knight Jean d'Alluye (Picture B)

Another tomb ensemble in the chapel is said to house the remains of Ermengol VII who died in 1184. These tombs were taken from the Church at Las Avellanas in Spain. The rebuilding of this church was undertaken by Ermengol X , Count of Urgel, between 1300 - 1350. Ermengol had decided he wanted to build a family burial chapel in which many family members including his parents were laid to rest. The severe style of the effigies presented an elongated figure draped in smooth descending folds and a cadaverous face.

*Tomb of Ermengol VII (Picture C)

*Tombs made for Alvaro Rodrigo de Cabrera and his wife, Cecilia of Foix, parents of Ermengol X

(Picture D)

The builders of Gothic chapels stressed the importance of bringing in light into the nave. The sunlight entering these buildings through their enormous stained - glass windows, a light from heaven, was equated with the divine radiance. The Gothic stained - glass owes much of its beauty to the deliberately flat, two - dimensional design perfectly suited to the medium. The stained - glass in this chapel is composed of pot metal glass and vitreous paint. It was taken from the Church at St. Leonhard in Austria and dates back to 1340 - 1350.



PICTURE E




This stained - glass shows figures of Apostles and Saints in bold linear style and a rich palette. The glass is also characterized by brightly contrasting colors. Saints in this glass are portrayed holding a tool or apparatus by which they were martyred.

The doorway of the Gothic chapel was covered with elaborate scriptural programs of sculptural decoration that were read by the townspeople as they entered the church. The pointed arch, a characteristic device of Gothic architecture that permits the construction of taller chapels, draws the eye upward toward God.


PICTURE F








LINKS:

  • The Cloisters
  • Cloisters Herb Garden


Bibliography: Aries, Philippe. Images of Man and Death. Cambridge, Mass. :Harvard

University Press, 1985.

Colvin, Howard Montagu. Architecture and the After - life. New Haven: Yale

University Press, 1991.

Kemp, Wolfgang. The Narratives of Gothic Stained Glass. Cambridge:

Cambridge University Press, 1997.