THE GOTHIC CHAPEL
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
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
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.
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
- 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.