Cluny Museum, Paris
The National Museum of the Middle Ages (Musée National du Moyen Âge), also known as the Cluny Museum (Musee de Cluny), displays a magnificent collection of medieval art in a 15th-century Gothic mansion. As an added bonus, underneath the museum are the ruins of ancient Roman baths.
The Musée National du Moyen Age is housed in the Hôtel de Cluny, one of only two remaining medieval homes in Paris (the other is the Hôtel de Sens in the Marais). The building was founded by the rich and powerful 15th-century abbot of Cluny Abbey, Jacques d'Amboise, who constructed his mansion over the ruins of a Roman bath.
In addition to abbots, the Hôtel de Cluny hosted other notable residents, including Mary Tudor, widow of Louis XII, beginning in 1515. Seized during the French Revolution, the Cluny was rented in 1833 to Alexandre du Sommerard, an amateur art collector who was fascinated with the Middle Ages. After his death in 1842, the government bought the building and the collection.
What to See
The museum is entered through the cobblestoned Court of Honor (Cour d'Honneur), which is separated from the street by high walls and surrounded on the other three sides by the wings of the Hôtel de Cluny.
The exterior of the Flamboyant Gothic building includes many symbols of the Abbot of Cluny's power, from the crenellated walls to the carved Burgundian grapes. The scallop-shells on the façade symbolize the great Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route, which once began just around the corner and was overseen by the Abbey of Cluny.
The design of the museum's medieval garden, completed in 2000, was inspired by the Lady and the Unicorn tapestry and provides a pleasant oasis in the heart of the city. It covers 5000 square meters and includes medicinal plants, a "kitchen garden" of herbs, and a section with a "thousand flowers" (mille fleurs).
The most famous attraction of the Musée de Cluny is the Lady and the Unicorn (Dame à la Licorne) tapestry, the most acclaimed tapestry of its kind. The six charming scenes, which cover the walls of an entire room, bring to life the romance of the age of chivalry. The tapestry was designed by French artists and woven in 1485-1500 in Flanders. It was discovered in 1841 by Prosper Merimee in Boussac Castle and aquired by the museum in 1882.
Each of the six scenes includes a beautiful lady, a unicorn, and a lion. The animals wear heraldry that identifies the sponsor of the work as Jean Le Viste, a powerful nobleman close to King Charles VII (1422-61). The backgrounds are filled with woodland creatures, plants and flowers, creating an enchanted landscape.
Five of the scenes illustrate the five senses: sight, touch, taste, smell and sound. The sixth scene, which belongs either at the beginning or the end of the series, is especially beautiful and intriguing. It is labeled with a banner reading, "To my only desire," and shows the lady placing a necklace in a case held by a servant.
Downstairs in room 9 are the ruins of Roman baths, dating from about 200 AD. The best-preserved section is the frigidarium (cold water bath), with ribbed vaulting resting on consoles evoking ships' prows. This unusual motif is explained by the builders builders of the baths, who were Paris's boatmen. On display here is another survival associated with the builders: the "Pillar of the Boatmen," a column dedicated to Jupiter from the 1st century AD. It was found beneath Notre-Dame's chancel and is believed to be the oldest sculpture created in Paris.
The following numbering of rooms is that used in the museum's visitor guides. The list of exhibits in each room is not comprehensive but gives an indication of the most prominent and characteristic artworks. Rooms 1-6 on the ground floor and 17-23 on the first floor are housed in the 15th-century Hôtel de Cluny. The rest are in 19th- and 20th-century rooms. See the official website for a map of the museum using this numbering.
Quick Facts on the Cluny Museum
|Names:||Cluny Museum; H; Musée de Cluny; Musée National du Moyen Âge; National Museum of the Middle Ages; National Museum of the Middle Ages, Paris|
|cat:||Museums; Castles and Palaces|
|feat:||Romanesque Sculpture; Medieval Stained Glass|
|Dates:||late 15th C|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Address:||6 place Paul-Painlevé, Paris, France|
|Coordinates:||48.850392° N, 2.343999° E (view on Google Maps)|
|Opening Hours:||Wed-Mon 9:15am-5:45pm.|
Closed Jan 1, May 1, Dec 25.
|Cost:||€8.50 adults, €6.50 ages 18-25, free for children 17 and under. Free admission on the first Sunday of every month.|
|Transport:||Métro: Cluny-La Sorbonne|
|Lodging:||View hotels near this location|
Map of the Cluny Museum
Below is a location map and aerial view of the Cluny Museum. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.
- Personal visit (July 22, 2008).
- Musee Nationale du Moyen Age - official website
- Alain Erlande-Brandenburg (Museum Director), Pierre-Yves Le Pogam, Dany Sandron (Curators), Musée nationale du Moyen Age, Thermes de Cluny: Guide to the collections (Paris: Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 1993).
- Musee National du Moyen Age – TripAdvisor user reviews
- Musee National du Moyen-Age – Thermes de Cluny – The Economist Cities Guide
- Musée du Moyen Age (Middle Ages) - Musée de Cluny – VirtualTourist user reviews
- Cluny Museum, Paris - Go Historic
- Photos of Cluny Museum - here on Sacred Destinations
|Title:||Cluny Museum, Paris|
|Link code:||<a href="http://www.sacred-destinations.com/france/paris-cluny-museum-of-middle-ages">Cluny Museum, Paris</a>|