In conjunction with their Main Lesson on Parzival, a medieval Romance written by the Bavarian knight Wolfram von Eschenbach more than 800 years ago, the juniors traveled “back in time” to the Cloisters, home to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s medieval collection of sculpture, paintings and Romanesque architecture. The Cloisters is a composite of five medieval monasteries that were removed from Europe and transported, stone by stone, to Manhattan’s Washington Heights. Among the highlights at the museum were the unicorn tapestries, an elaborately woven series of images that lends itself to co-existing secular and sacred interpretations, similar to the way Parzival functions both as a medieval romance and as a spiritual allegory.
The students continued on to Morningside Heights to visit Saint John the Divine Cathedral to learn about Gothic architecture and the use of symbols in religion. To experience the building fully, the students were led on a vertical tour up a network of hidden staircases to the triforium, clerestory, and finally the foret, a framework supporting the roof over the cathedral’s vaulted ceiling. On the tour, the class serendipitously met a retired art history professor from New York University, who explained some of the more esoteric features of the cathedral.
At the cathedral, a few members of the high school’s acapella group tested out the buildings acoustics with an impromptu performance. You can see a short clip below.