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Fountain from the Monastery of Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa

1125-1150
Artist/maker unknown, French

The impressive fountain in the center of this gallery is from the twelfth-century Abbey of Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa in the Roussillon region of France. It was the largest and most important monastery in the province and designed in the Romanesque style, a term coined in the nineteenth century to describe early medieval art and architecture derived from ancient Roman examples and characterized by rounded arches, vaults, and geometric forms. Six columns support an upper basin ornamented with a continuous arcade that mirrors the architectural colonnade of the cloister. Water flows out through five spouts into a reproduction of the fountain’s lower basin. Fountains such as this, located at the center of a cloister, would have been used by the monks to bathe, shave, and wash clothes.

The two capitals installed within this cloister’s interior arches, made from pink marble like the fountain, may also have come from the abbey of Cuxa; they bear decoration similar to capitals from the abbey and other religious foundations in the area. Other capitals and architectural elements from Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa were acquired by American sculptor George Grey Barnard around 1906–7 and were subsequently purchased in 1925 for The Metropolitan Museum of Art. These were reconstructed into a cloister at the heart of The Cloisters museum in Fort Tryon Park in New York City.
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