By Deane Barker

This has both a literal and symbolic definition.

Literally, a cloister is a covered walk forming the perimeter of a building’s open central square. It’s from the Latin word for “enclosure.”

Symbolically, “cloisters” refers to a separated religious life. To be “in cloisters” is to life a monastic life away from other people.

In that sense, “cloisters” can also be used to refer to a place of religious worship of study. (See: Synecdoche)

Why I Looked It Up

The word was used quite a bit in The Swerve: How the World Became Modern. For example, in describing the perspective one person had of monks:

Behind the thick walls of the cloisters, the parasites would mumble their prayers and live of the income generated by those who farmed the monastery’s extensive landholdings.


Added on

Here’s a video of someone making The Met Cloisters out of gingerbread.

The real buildng is a museum in Washington Heights.

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