French, Aquitaine; from the Cistercian abbey of Notre-Dame at Pontaut, south of Bordeaux
Limestone brick, and plaster; 42 x 33 ft. (1 m 280 cm x 1 m 5 cm)
The Cloisters Collection, 1935 (35.50)
The chapter house was the daily meeting place in most European monasteries and convents. The monks or nuns sat on the stone bench around the walls, as business was discussed each day and a chapter of the Rule of Saint Benedict, the official code of monastic behavior, was read. The location next to Cuxa Cloister preserves the relationship of the chapter house to the cloisters in a typical medieval monastic plan. The architecture of the chapter house features typical Romanesque characteristics, notably the rounded arches, thick walls, small windows, and heavy rib vaults.
The abbey at Pontaut, founded in 1115 as a Benedictine monastery, housed a Cistercian community after 1151. The abbey was damaged during religious wars of the sixteenth century. In 1791, the monastic buildings were sold to a local family, and the chapter house was converted into a stable; it was sold in 1932 and brought to New York. The plastered vaults and the floor tiles of the reconstructed chapter house are modern.