Musee de Cluny is a museum of Paris’ Medieval history, located within the heart of the Quartier Latin arrondissement.
The museum, officially “Musée national du Moyen Âge – Thermes et hôtel de Cluny“, has an impressive collection of Medieval French art.
The museum name comes from its building, Hôtel de Cluny, one of the best preserved private Medieval residences in Paris, in fact.
During its history, the building has also acted as a town hall (hôtel) for the monasteries of Cluny, from 1334 onwards.
PHOTO: Museum entrance, as seen from Place Paul Painlevé, next to the Sorbonne University’s main building.
The Gothic and Renaissance architecture you’ll be able to detect on Hôtel de Cluny is from a 1485-1510 rebuilding…
…commissioned by Jacques d’Amboise, Abbot of Cluny, which is why you’ll be able to still see d’Amboise’s coat of arms at the building’s windows.
Many high profile Parisians have lived here.
One of the most notable past residents was Mary Tudor, who moved here after the death of her husband, King Louis XII.
During the 17th century, Hôtel de Cluny housed several papal nuncios, including the famous Cardinal Mazarin.
Hôtel de Cluny was confiscated by the state in 1793, during the events of the French Revolution (1789-99), but later, the house was returned to private hands.
When Alexandre du Sommerard moved into the building in 1833, he decided to place his vast collection of Medieval and Renaissance art on display there.
After du Sommerard’s death (in 1842), French state purchased the art collection, and within a year, the building was turned into a museumshowcasing the collection.
The adjoining gardens were opened to the public much later, in 1971, and this section now includes “Forêt de la Licorne” gardens, designed after the famous Musee de Cluny Medieval tapestries.
Hôtel de Cluny has been partly constructed on top of ancient Gallo-RomanThermes de Cluny baths, which were build here during the 3rd century AD.
You can tour the ancient baths section, located at the frigidarium building, which is separate from the Hôtel de Cluny.
Among the top highlights at the ancient baths is “Pilier des Nautes” or “Pillar of the Boatmen“.
Musée de Cluny’s art collection contains many priceless objects from the Middle Ages, including a unique series of 70 tapestries.
This tapestry collection famously has six 15th century “La Dame à la Licorne” tapestries…considered by many to represent some of the best examples in overall Medieval art.
You’ll also be able to see:
- 300 ivory objects from late antiquity and early Middle Ages,
- stained glass art,
- antique furniture,
- illustrated manuscripts,
- wood and stone sculptures,
- rare art from the 7th and 8th century, and
- sculptures that originally were on display at the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral.
…out of the total of over 23,000 in the museum collections.
If you’re interested in the city’s Medieval history, another top tourist attraction in this regard is the Arènes de Lutèce amphitheater.