Posts Tagged ‘holly’

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Holly Girls

Esme Nuala

Above, from left to right: Gardener Esme Webb carrying a trug of English holly; volunteer Nuala Outes putting berried holly branches into the arch over the postern gate entrance.

Visitors entering the Museum by the postern gate (the main entrance to The Cloisters) from now through the first week of January will pass under a great arch of holly, the plant most strongly associated with the medieval celebration of Christmastide. (For more on the medieval significance of this beautiful and beloved tree, see “The Holly and The Ivy,” December 18, 2008). The ceremonial placing of a beneficent plant above a doorway is an ancient practice common to many cultures and periods. (Four of the doorways in the Main Hall are adorned with arches of ivy, apples, hazelnuts, and rose hips; see “Decking the Halls: The Arches,” December 2, 2008.) Read more »

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Merry Winter Solstice to You All

Cloisters Candelabra

Above: The iron candelabra placed throughout the galleries of The Cloisters are decked with boxwood, ivy, apples, roses, and holly from mid-December until early January. This year’s decorations will be on view through Sunday, January 2. Photograph by Andrew Winslow.

WISHING YOU PEACE, PLENTY, AND EVERY GOOD THING IN THE COMING YEAR. 

—Deirdre Larkin and the staff of The Cloisters Museum & Gardens

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Holly and the Ivy

Detail of a holly from The Mystic Capture of the Unicorn Juvenile ivy growing in Bonnefont Garden Red-berried holly and black-fruited ivy

Above, from left to right: Detail of holly from The Mystic Capture of the Unicorn; juvenile holly growing in Bonnefont Garden; red-berried holly and black-fruited ivy.

Holy stond in the hall
Faire to behold:
Ivy stond without the dore—
She is ful sore acold.

Holy and his mery men
They daunsen and they sing;
Ivy and her maidenes
They wepen and they wring.

—Fifteenth-century carol, Reginald Thorne Davies, Medieval English Lyrics: A Critical Anthology, 1972.

A group of English carols set down in the fifteenth century preserves evidence of a ritual contest between boys bearing branches of holly and girls bearing ivy. The red-berried holly, symbolizing light, warmth, and light, was meant to prevail over the black-fruited ivy, which signified the dark and cold of winter. Thus, ivy remained outside the door while holly was carried triumphantly into the hall. Read more »