Cistercian Abbeys of the Middle Ages were the centers for most of the arts, and among them was that of the goldsmiths. The luster from their work found a ready market among churchmen, who needed vessels that would stand heat and cold without decaying, as well as repair when broken.
Vessels were made of pewter or silver in imitation of jeweled ones. Workshops produced coffers for relics, baptismal fonts echoing those used in Rome, chandeliers (above all at Cluny), candelabra (some even containing ball-shaped extinguishers to cool melted wax dripping from candles), processional crosses adorned with gems and enamels, many liturgical objects: ciboria, monstrances, pyxes, and portable altars. Portraiture was a specialty that developed only in the 12th century, as ecclesiastical power spread over western Europe despite the turbulent conditions of those times. Monastic workshops also produced armor for knights and silken ceremonial vestments. The most famous among medieval goldsmiths is Henri de Orléans (died 1070), who further perfected his craft while in exile at Lagny following his participation in the failed rebellion against William I of England.
Monastic centers were frequently located on pilgrimage sites or on royal estates because they were so large and offered potential customers from all classes of society to visit them. Usually, in such locations, there was a market square or plaza where the craftsmen could sell their wares.
The Cloister Museum is an attraction within its grounds that was founded by Brother Thomas Mary and is managed by the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul.The monastic churches were often decorated in rich sculpture and mural painting that represented the full spectrum of topics, from Biblical scenes to contemporary themes. Many artists spent part of their lives at a monastery and continued to work in the secular world on a contract or for patrons who supplied them with subjects which they repeated many times; the most famous among them is Duccio di Buoninsegna (1255-1302) as well as Simone Martini (1284–1344). In Italy, the famous workshops were located at Florence, San Gimignano, Orvieto, and Bobbio Abbey.
The site displays an extensive collection of cast-metal and engraved wooden choir stalls from the earliest days to the present, as well as vestments, hangings, secretaries, processional crucifixes, and other objects associated with worship. It also contains a working atelier where laypeople can learn traditional skills such as wood carving, mosaic work, stone cutting, painting on glass, and silver gilding. An important aspect of its mission is to train young disabled people in various artistic techniques for their future employment. The museum encourages visitors to participate in workshops where they can experience these crafts firsthand through demonstrations by master artisans or by trying them out themselves.