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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Musée de Cluny

Awesome is too tame a word to describe the wonder of Musée National du Moyen Age (aka/Musee de Cluny). Located in the 5th District of Paris near the Sorbonne, it was originally built in the 14th century as a town house for Benedictine Abbots, on the site of Gallo Roman baths. In 1843 the building became a National Museum of Medieval and Renaissance treasures.

With our love of European history, Cluny was on our must see list of places to visit during last fall's trip to Paris. From our apartment in Les Halles, we took the Metro to the Cluny La Sorbonne station, with its artistically rendered mosaics and signatures of famous authors, poets, philosophers, artists, and statesmen adorning the ceiling. From there we walked a few blocks to a Starbucks where, seated amid masses of studying and debating college students, we breakfasted on coffee and croissants.

Another short walk in the cool October air took us to the Cluny museum. After checking our coats, we walked through the gift shop and stepped into the first of a multitude of galleries filled with medieval masterpieces.

For hours we strolled through room after room of art and artifacts - paintings, chalices, statues, and ornamentation of the medieval churches.

A large room with black walls and dim lights holds the Lady and Unicorn tapestries, a series of six Flemish tapestries woven from silk and wool in the late 15th century. Each tapestry depicts one of the senses - taste, hearing, sight, touch, and smell. The sixth depicts love or desire. We stood in silence, in wonder, and in awe.

Another room held an intriguing relic, a unicorn's horn, so stated on the small sign below it. Other galleries held knights' armor, chainmail, and weapons.

In an adjoining building but still within the museum, we came to the ruins of the Gallo-Roman baths and other statues dating from the 3rd century.

Although the guidebooks say to allow one hour to tour Cluny, we were there for well over three hours and could have stayed the entire day. If you have a love of medieval history, I urge you to find a way to visit Musée de Cluny. It will remain in your heart forever.

Debra K. Maher
Stringing Beads


Mona Risk said...

Hi Debra, I had the pleasure of visiting the Musee de Cluny a few years ago and saw the amazing tapestries of La Dame a la Licorne. I love going to Paris where I have many friends. There are always some historical places to visit and revisit. Thanks for a great post.

Debra Maher said...

It is an incredible place, Mona - both the Museum and Paris. I loved everything about it. How wonderful that you have friends there!

Emma said...

I would love to got there! When I lived in New York I spent most of my time trying to figure out how I could live in the Cloisters. The medieval wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art is also fantastic. To actually get to the Musee de Cluny would be wonderful!

Barbara Phinney said...

I would love to see that tapestry. Thank you for the virtual visit. It makes me yearn for Europe all over again.

McKenna Darby said...

Thanks so much for this post, Debra. I've been to Paris twice in recent years, but somehow missed this museum. It's now tops on the list for my next visit. Sounds magical.

Debra Maher said...

Emma, we only live two hours from the Cloisters in NY and have never visited. Your comment reminded me of that. Soon.

Barbara, I felt the same way when I was looking through my photos earlier today. I wanted to show the Cluny Sorbonne Metro ceiling, and found the You Tube video that I embedded into the article. That really took me back there. I too yearn to return.

McKenna, twice in recent years? How wonderful! I think many tourists miss Cluny but the whole Cluny-Sorbonne area is definitely worth a day trip. So filled with life and culture!

Thanks all for comments.

Vonnie Davis said...

I enjoyed visiting the Cluny Museum, too, as well as the midevel gardens. My husband lived in Paris for a year, writing at sidewalk cafes. This was many, many years before we met. So when we visited there a couple years ago, he took me to all his old haunts. I'm going to show him your post. I know he'll enjoy it.

Blythe Gifford said...

I sat in the room with the unicorn tapestries for a long time. Incredible!

April said...

Love that museum. I even came home from Paris, the year we lived there, with a tapestry backing that featured the lion. (My first attempt at needlepoint!) All these years later, it still hangs over my desk.

Debra Maher said...

Vonnie, "a year writing at sidewalk cafes" in Paris. Tell your husband I totally envy him. Although I don't know how much writing I would have done sitting at a sidewalk cafe. I loved watching the Parisians sit at sidewalk cafes watching others! Fascinating.

Blythe, me too. I stood then sat then stood and strolled from one to the next, gazing in awe. Such skill and pure beauty!

April, we came home with lots of photos and memories but very few actual souvenirs. But I HAD to buy a small French made wool tapestry in the Cluny gift shop. It's a unicorn. Like your lion, I'll treasure it always.

Thanks all for your comments. I hope the next one of us who visits Paris will blog about it!

marybelle said...

I'm quite envious. I have put this on my wish list.

Deb Maher said...

Nothing happens without first a dream...then a goal...then a plan. :)

Carol Kachmar said...

Sorry I'm so late with my comment, but I also loved the Musee de Cluny. I had taught about those tapestries for years in my humanities class but never seem them until 2005. What a revelation to see them in person. I, like you and others here, would love to return. Haven't we been lucky.
Carol Kachmar