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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Musée National du Moyen Age

Paris 2012-aout-0006-2-Hotel-de-Cluny

Musée National du Moyen Age – Thermes de Cluny, Paris

Musée National du Moyen Age – Thermes de Cluny in Paris is the National Museum of the Middle Ages. It also is known as Musée de Cluny. The Musée National du Moyen Age is housed in one of the oldest buildings in Paris, a former mansion whose construction started in 1334. The mansion was integrated into and built on the site of the ruins of ancient Gallo-Roman thermal baths. The museum is best known for the beautiful “Lady and the Unicorn” tapestry and it also has impressive collections of medieval sculpture and arts.

The museum building is called Cluny or  Thermes de Cluny and is a 15th-century Gothic mansion and abbey. Built from 1485 to 1498 and integrated into a pre-existing Gallo-Roman baths complex it features Gothic doorways, hexagonal staircase jutting out of the façade and a vaulted chapel.

The Gallo-Roman baths are built in classic Roman stone and brick masonry and are the best-preserved Roman remains in Paris. The vaulted frigidarium (cold bath), tepidarium (warm bath), caldarium (hot bath) and all still visible. It all centered around a hypocaust system where the central heating produces and circulates hot air below the floor of the rooms and also through the walls.

A Tour of the Musée National du Moyen Age

Highlights of the Musée National du Moyen Age

  • The Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries
    • The Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries, are over 500 years old, and have inspired books, songs, movies and have stirred debate amongst historians. “The Lady and the Unicorn” is regarded as the Mona Lisa of woven artworks. Its reputation is due to its symbolism, history, and mystery. The tapestry’s meaning is obscure but has been understood to represent “love or understanding.”
  • The Heads of the Kings of Judah
    • The west facade of Notre-Dame de Paris is adorned with statues of twenty-eight Kings of Judah. Unfortunately, the heads of the original figures were decapitated during the French Revolution. In 1977, 21 of those 28 original heads were unearthed and are now on display along with other fragments from the cathedral’s portals.

      In 1793, the same month that Marie Antoinette was beheaded, a Paris mob collected in front of Notre Dame Cathedral and cried for the heads of more kings. The sculptured figures, dating back to 1230, above the portals of the Cathedral represented the kings of Judea. Unfortunately, the mob, thinking they were French kings, tied rope around the statues pulled them down and guillotined them in the square in front of the Cathedral. The figures were replaced in the early 19th century, but the original sculptures disappeared.

  • Treasure of Guarrazar
    • Between 1858 and 1861 in an orchard called Guarrazar, in Guadamur, very close to Toledo, Spain, an archaeological discovery was made of twenty-six crowns and many gold crosses. These findings dating back to 587 and became known as the Treasure of Guarrazar. France acquired some of the crowns and crosses from the Treasure of Guarrazar for the Cluny Museum.

Musée National du Moyen Age – Thermes de Cluny, Paris

  • Name:               Musée National du Moyen Age
  • City:                  Paris
  • Established:      1843
  • Type:                 Middle Ages Art Museum
  • Address:            6 Place Paul Painlevé, 75005 Paris, France
  • Public transit access:
    • Metro Cluny-La Sorbonne / Saint-Michel / Odéon
    • Bus no. 21 – 27 – 38 – 63 – 85 – 86 – 87
    • RER line C Saint-Michel / line B Cluny – La Sorbonne

Musée National du Moyen Age  (Musée de Cluny) Map

A Tour of the Museums and Historic Sites in Paris

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“I have often regretted my speech, never my silence.”
– French Proverb

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Photo Credit: By Pline (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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