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The Met Cloisters in Manhattan, New York City

A medieval castle that is older than the United States.

Believe it or not, there is a medieval castle in Manhattan. No, that's not a simple replica. Some of its stones have indeed seen Middle Ages! And are older than the United States. Sounds impossible? Nothing is in the Big Apple.

The Cloisters is an offshoot of the Metropolitan Museum of Art situated a bit aside from the usual tourist route: it stands in Fort Tryon Park, overlooking the Hudson River from a steep hill. This Met annex celebrates the art and architecture of medieval Europe. More than 2,000 works dating from the 9th through the 16th centuries comprise its unique collection. Priceless books and manuscripts, marvelous stone sarcophagi, exquisite jewelry and carved reliquaries are all found here. Among the collection's highlights are, for instance, seven South Netherlandish unicorn tapestries, a 1250 Madonna statue from Germany and the only complete set of medieval trading cards in the world.

Valuable as it is, the Met Cloisters wouldn't have received half as much public attention unless it was for its outstanding architecture. In fact, it is a historic artifact itself. Special thanks here go to George Grey Barnard, an American sculptor and art dealer, who dismantled specific elements from French and Catalan abbeys and literally moved them to NYC. They were incorporated into the fabric of the Cloisters building that was being under construction those days. The works were sponsored by financier and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr. He also purchased the early collection of works for the future museum. 

Inside a visitor can walk through a series of chapels and themed galleries, each dedicated to different periods of the medieval culture. There are the Romanesque, Fuentidueña, Unicorn, Spanish and Gothic rooms. Outside, three medieval-style gardens remind of those Barnard once saw in Europe. They contain a variety of rare species which grew in monasteries throughout the Middle Ages. Today they are overseen with the accordance to 13th- and 14th-century gardening techniques.

The Met Cloisters is open seven days a week. Guided tours at the galleries and gardens are available.

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