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Allegory of Chastity (1475) by Hans Memling
Allegory of Chastity (1475) by Hans Memling

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A cloister (from Latin claustrum) usually refers to the building where monks or nuns live in enclosed religious orders; the modern English term enclosure is used in contemporary Catholic church law to mean cloistered, and cloister is sometimes used as a synonym for monastery.

In medieval times, cloisters served the primary function of quiet meditation or study gardens. The hortus conclusus or "enclosed garden" of medieval times featured the essential well at the center, from which four paths divided the space into quadrants.

Architectually, a cloister is a covered walk with an open colonnade on one side, running along the walls of buildings that face a quadrangle or garth. The attachment of a cloister to a cathedral or church usually indicates that it is (or was once) part of a monastic foundation.


Recorded since about 1300 as Middle English cloistre, borrowed from Old French cloistre, clostre, or via Old English clauster, both from Medieval Latin claustrum (“portion of monastery closed off to laity”), from Latin claustrum (“place shut in, bar, bolt, enclosure”), a derivation of the past participle of claudere (“to close”). Doublet of claustrum.

See also

Venus in the Cloister

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Cloister" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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