Cluny Museum, Paris

Cluny MuseumCluny Museum
The former Hôtel de Cluny, now a museum of medieval art and culture, stands on the site of Roman baths in Paris, the remains of which can be seen at the corner of the Boulevard Saint Michel and Boulevard Saint-Germain.
At the beginning of the 14th century the Benedictine abbey of Cluny in Burgundy acquired the site in order to build a town house for its abbots. The Hôtel de Cluny was then built between 1485 and 1510 under the direction of Abbot Jacques d'Amboise. This house, in the Flamboyant style of the Late Gothic period, and the Hôtel de Sens in the Marais are the only late medieval aristocratic mansions surviving in Paris. After frequent changes of ownership from the medieval period onwards it fell into disrepair after the French Revolution. It was acquired in 1833 by the art collector and antiquary Alexandre du Sommerard and in 1842 by the State. It has been a museum since 1844.
The Musée de Cluny has a magnificent collection of medieval art, the nucleus of which was Alexandre du Sommerard's private collection. In the Cour d'Honneur (courtyard) the charm of this building, reflecting the period of transition from Late Gothic to Renaissance style, is revealed in all its splendor. The beautiful fountain dates from the 15th century.
Official site:
Address: 6 place Paul Painlevé, F-75005 Paris, France

Cluny Museum Highlights

Medieval Tapestries

The museum of Cluny's medieval tapestries are among the finest in France. On the ground floor is the oldest of the tapestries, the "Offrande du Coeur", a delicate declaration of love (Flemish, 15th C.). Other treasures displayed here are Romanesque and Gothic sculpture, including four statues of Apostles (1245-48) from the Sainte-Chapelle and 21 heads of kings (1210-30) from the west front of Notre-Dame, lost during the French Revolution and rediscovered only in 1977 (Room IX), and a seventh century stone sarcophagus (Room X).

Lady with Unicorn

The greatest treasure in the collection of tapestries is the famous "Lady with the Unicorn" (Dame à la Licorne) series (15th C.), probably made in Brussels, which is displayed in a circular room of its own on the first floor. The six scenes in the series are thought to be an allegory of the five senses and the joys of the senses.

Medival Tapestries - Late Gothic Chapel

On the walls of the Late Gothic chapel which was the abbot's oratory (Room XX) is another series of fine 15th century tapestries from Auxerre with 23 scenes from the legend of St Stephen (Etienne).

Medieval Stained Glass

On the first floor of the Cluny Museum in Paris are medieval stained glass (Room XVI) and French, Italian and Spanish ceramics. Among the most valuable items is a gilded altar frontal (11th century) presented to Basle Cathedral by the Emperor Henry II.

Enamels and Goldsmiths' Work

On the first floor of the Cluny Museum in Paris are enamels and goldsmiths' work of the seventh to 13th centuries, including nine of the 20 Visigothic votive crowns which were discovered near Toledo in the mid 19th century (Room XIII).

Thermes de Cluny

The impressive remains of the huge Roman bath complex, built about A.D. 200 and destroyed in 380, are in the gardens of the Musée de Cluny. They are not open to the public but can be seen from the street outside. It is planned to construct a protective roof over the remains.
Only the large frigidarium has been preserved by being incorporated in the Hôtel de Cluny. The other rooms are a caldarium (hot bath), tepidarium (warm bath), two gymnasia and a 10m/33ft long swimming pool.

Roman Baths

Room XII in the Musée Cluny, with its massive vaulting, is part of the Roman baths. The best preserved part of the baths is the frigidarium (cold room), which is 20m/65ft long, 12m/40ft wide and 16m/53ft high. The capitals of the pillars supporting the vaulting on the north side are in the form of ships' prows, which suggests that the baths were built at the expense of the nautae, the wealthy corporation of Paris boatmen. The remains of the temple of Jupiter on the Ile de la Cité which were excavated under the choir of Notre-Dame and are displayed in the frigidarium bear a dedication by the nautae. Known as the Autel des Nautes (Altar of the Nautae), they have carvings of Roman and Gallic deities which are the oldest pieces of sculpture found in Paris (first century A.D.).

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