This article reviews the historical development of cytology and cytogenetics in Arabidopsis, and summarizes recent developments in molecular cytogenetics, with special emphasis on meiotic studies. Despite the small genome and small chromosomes of Arabidopsis, considerable progress has been made in developing appropriate cytogenetical techniques for chromosome analysis. Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) applied to extended meiotic pachytene chromosomes has resulted in a standardized karyotype (idiogram) for the species that has also been aligned with the genetical map. A better understanding of floral and meiotic development has been achieved by combining cytological studies, based on both sectioning and spreading techniques, with morphometric data and developmental landmarks. The meiotic interphase, preceding prophase I, has been investigated by marking the nuclei undergoing DNA replication with BrdU. This allowed the subclasses of meiotic interphase to be distinguished and also provided a means to time the duration of meiosis and its constituent phases. The FISH technique has been used to analyse in detail the meiotic organization of telomeres and centromeric regions. The results indicate that centromere regions do not play an active role in chromosome pairing and synapsis; however, telomeres pair homologously in advance of general chromosome synapsis. The FISH technique is currently being applied to analysing the pairing and synapsis of interstitial chromosome regions through interphase and prophase I. FISH probes also allow the five bivalents of Arabidopsis to be identified at metaphase I and this has permitted an analysis of chiasma frequencies in individual bivalents, both in wild-type Arabidopsis and in two meiotic mutants.