Musée du Moyen Age (Middle Ages) - Musée de Cluny, Paris

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Boulevard St-Michel

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  • Dame à la Licorne: hearing
    Dame à la Licorne: hearing
    by goodfish
  • Musée du Moyen Age (Middle Ages) - Musée de Cluny
    by goodfish
  • Dame à la Licorne: the heart?
    Dame à la Licorne: the heart?
    by goodfish
  • breughel's Profile Photo

    More tapestries.

    by breughel Updated Nov 29, 2008

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    Once I'm inside the Musée du Moyen Age I'm unable to leave. This time I got stuck at tapestries called "Vie Seigneuriale - Manorial Life" (Flanders 16th c.)
    They are an illustration of the "Amour Courtois" chivalrous love, reading, poetry, singing and music. "La Dame au Bain" is the best known part.

    Other activities are represented in the Liberal Arts tapestry having for subject Arithmetic's (Flanders, probably Tournai, begin 16th c.).

    Religion is another major theme of medieval tapestries. The museum displays a most remarkable series of choir hangings the "Legend of St Etienne" made in Brussels around 1500.

    Now if that is not sufficient, amateurs can go to the Louvre to see the famous 12 tapestries called "The Hunts of Maximilian" (see my tip) in wing Richelieu.

    The "lissiers" tapestry weavers used two type of weaving loom: the horizontal loom called "basse lisse" and the vertical one "haute lisse". In both case the weavers worked on the back side. It has been calculated that one "lissier" would weave about 1 square meter in one month!

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    Musée de Cluny

    by sim1 Updated Jan 27, 2007

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    Mus��e de Cluny
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    If you have the time and you enjoy seeing works of art and learning more about the history of the Middle Ages, the Musée de Cluny is the place for you! I really loved this museum as it isn't too big and gives a wonderful overview over the Middle Ages in France. Unfortunately I ran out of time for the day during my visit and had to haste my way through the museum, but it has left me with a wonderful impression. The name of the museum is a bit confusing as it is sometimes referred to as the Musée de Cluny and sometimes as the Musée National du Moyen Âge (Museum of the Middle Ages).

    The museum houses a variety of important artifacts dating to the Middle Ages. It is in particular known for its wonderful tapestry collection. The most famous of them all is the "La Dame à la Licorne" (The Lady and the Unicorn) dating back to the 15th century. To my surprise there is not just one "Lady and the Unicorn", but it is a serie of in total 6 wall covering tapestries. In photos 3 and 5, you can see two of these, called "Sight" and "To My Only Desire"
    . It's quite amazing to stand in this room and be surrounded by the bright red colours of these 6 tapestries.

    Photography is allowed inside the museum, but only without flash. The rooms are rather dark, so you do need a steady hand to be able to take some photos.

    Opening hours:
    Daily (except Tuesday), from 9:15 to 5:45, Desk closes at 5:15
    Closed 1 January, 1 May and 25 December.

    Admission Fee: 6,5 €

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    Mediaeval treasures

    by TheWanderingCamel Updated Dec 6, 2005

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    The H?tel de Cluny in 1859
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    Paris is a treasure house of museums and art galleries. Try to see them all and you will rapidly find your mind a blur of magnificent works of art and architecture. You really do have to be a bit selective. One not to miss though is the Museum of the Middle Ages. Housed in two historic buildings - the Roman baths and the mediaeval Hotel de Cluny, once the Paris home of the Benedictine Order, the buildings themselves are fascinating and they are now filled with works of rare beauty - delicate ivories, serene carvings in stone and wood, stunning mediaeval glass, fabulous pieces in gold and precious stones, gorgeous textiles and more. The collection includes works dating from Franco-Romano times right through to the late middle ages, both secular and ecclesiastical. Only a fraction of it can be on display at any one time.

    Most precious of all and the biggest drawcard of the museum - the exquisite and enigmatic set of tapestries known as The Lady and the Unicorn - is to be found in a room of its own where nothing else can detract from their beauty.
    Do allow yourself plenty of time here, this is a collection to be viewed in quiet contemplation.

    As you leave, pay a visit to the mediaeval garden, a new feature of the museum. A little time spent here allows for a gentle easing back into the modern world of rush and noise to reflect on the splendours of another age you have just left behind you.

    leyle

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    Famous Tapestries.

    by breughel Updated Aug 31, 2013

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    Dame �� la Licorne -
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    The National Museum of the Middle Ages is reputed for its magnificent collection of tapestries.

    The so called "Mille fleurs" thousand flowers tapestries are typical of the 15th c. and owe their name to the multitude of flowers and blooming branches spread over them. This is a background on which persons and animals are represented. The most sumptuous examples of these "mille fleurs" tapestries are the six "Lady with the Unicorn - Dame à la licorne " tapestries in this museum of the former Cluny Abbey hotel.
    The name Cluny comes from the famous Abbey de Cluny in Burgundy to which belonged this Parisian abbey residence.

    "La Dame à la Licorne" is the title of a series of six Flemish (Brussels?) tapestries from around 1490, made of wool and silk, often considered as one of the greatest works of art of the Middle Ages. The cartons were made in Paris. The harmony of the range of colours is exceptional as well as their iconography and the fact that they always remained together.
    These 6 tapestries of about 3 x 4 m are on display in a special very dark circular room of the museum
    Five of these tapestries illustrate each of the five senses : taste, hearing, sight, smell and touch. In each there is the Lady with the unicorn, a lion, other animals, a maidservant.
    The sixth tapestry, wider than the others, shows the lady standing in front of a tent which reads "A Mon Seul Désir - To My Only Desire".
    There are various interpretations, the meaning of this sixth piece remains mysterious.

    These six tapestries were discovered in 1841 by the French author Prosper Mérimée in the castle of Boussac. They were probably manufactured for Jean Le Viste, a personage close to King Charles VII.
    As there is some mystery about this "Dame à la Licorne", books were written about these allegoric tapestries, recently by Tracy Chevalier author of the book "Girl with the pearl earring".

    There are other beautiful tapestries such as the "Seigniorial Life", the "Grape Harvest", "The Liberal Arts" etc all of Flanders begin 16th c. See my other tip
    "For tapestry lovers"
    Open: each day 9.15 h - 17.45 h. Closed on Tuesday and 1/01,1/05 & 25/12.
    Price (2013): 8 €, reduced 6 €. Free 26 yr from EU.

    NOTE: Since April 2013 renovation works are going on in their room so that the tapestries of the Lady and the Unicorn series are on display at the National Art Center in Tokyo and the National Museum of Art Osaka. They should be back in Paris at the end 2013.

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    Musée de Cluny (Musée National du Moyen-Age)

    by BeatChick Updated Mar 19, 2006

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    Stained Glass from Ste-Chapelle
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    This place is truly cool!! There is just no real opportunity to see Middle Ages artifacts here in the U.S. and the Lady & the Unicorn tapestries are just très belle. However, the thing I liked the best was the Sundial clock on the outside of the building opposite of the well in the courtyard.

    Here also are the heads of the Kings of Judah that once graced the portals of Notre Dame. During the Revolution the rabble-rousers thought they were the statues of the Kings of France (well, naturally they should be destroyed). Some forward-thinking person found them and preserved them in salt until they were unearthed in 1977 from the basement of a bank near the Opéra Garnier.

    Another room houses ancient stained glass panels, some of them from the Cathedral of Light, Ste-Chapelle.

    E-mail: lettreinfo.musee-moyenage@culture.gouv.fr
    Hours of operation: Every day except Tuesday, 9:15am-5:45pm ~ Closed Jan 1, May 1 & XMAS
    Admission:
    Regular admission: 5.50€ & 6.70€ museum & exhibit
    Discount:
    under 25 years & on Sunday: 4€ & 5.20€
    Free:under 18, unemployed, teachers on duty, students, disabled, & 1st Sunday of the month
    Bookstore/Giftshop
    9:15am-6pm except Tuesdays
    PH#: 01 53 73 78 22
    FX#: 01 40 46 03 39

    Carte Musées et Monuments accepted here.

    Photos: Feb 2006

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    Medieval Sculptures

    by breughel Updated Aug 31, 2013

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    St Florian, Austria 15th c.
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    The National Museum of the Middle Ages is rich in sculptures and architectural decorations from a large number of Parisian monuments, among which Notre Dame, and possesses beautiful collections of medieval enamelling and goldsmithing.

    What I liked very much were the medieval wooden sculptures. These, often religious, sculptures are very different from the classical style inspired by the Greco-Roman sculptures.
    The expression of the faces, the physiognomy of these statues often stretched in height deviate from the classical aesthetic rules. These medieval sculptures show a mystic personality.

    Very impressive are a "St John" from Tuscany around 1220 (photo 2), a Christ from Auvergne 12th c. (photo 3), a "Marie Madeleine" from Brussels around 1500 (photo 4) and the strange statue of "St Florian", an officer of the Roman army, patron saint of Austria (15th c.) and also patron of the firefighters (photo 1). The cross of St. Florian is widely used by fire services to form their emblem, also in the USA.
    In Berlin's Bode Museum I recently met another, this time, giant statue of St Florian "Bode Museum - Sculpture Collection"

    There was a special exhibition called "LARMES D'ALBÂTRE - Les pleurants du tombeau de Jean sans Peur duc de Bourgogne" from 27/02 til 3/06/2013. These are remarkable alabaster statues from the tombs in the Musée des Beaux Arts de Dijon, presently under renovation.
    You can see my reviews with photos at Tomb of Philip the Bold and Tomb of John the Fearless in Dijon.

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    Religious art.

    by breughel Updated Aug 30, 2013

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    Altarpiece,
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    One could say that medieval art was very often synonym of religious art.
    This museum shows a large number of religious art works of the highest quality.
    I insist on the high quality for what is on display in the Musée de Cluny because what I saw over the years in churches, monasteries and museums made me conclude that religious art, like secular art, has a fair number of highlights but much more minor works.

    In my review here on the wooden sculptures I showed already some good works to which I would like to add this "Virgin of Sorrows" in front of a town landscape (oak, France 1520 photo n°2).

    There is a category of religious art works i.e. wooden altarpieces also well represented in this museum (room 14). They are important features of the medieval arts culture. Many of them were carved in the towns of Antwerp, Brussels and Mechelen in present-day Belgium (ref. my review on Brussels, Cinquantenaire museums).

    There is a beautiful altarpiece "La Rencontre d'Abraham et de Melchisedech, la Messe de Saint Grégoire" carved in polychrome wood by Jan de Molder, Antwerp 1514, of which my photo represents a part "la Cène - Last Supper" (photo n°1). Another remarkable one is the "Childhood and Passion of Christ" in polychrome wood (3 x 3 m) also made in Antwerp begin 16th c. (photo n°3).
    There exist also small altarpieces for use in the private chapels of the noble. A fine example is the "Deploration du Christ" by Arnt of Kalkar (Germany in 1483) with dimensions of 1 m x 0,5 m.

    Open: each day 9.15 h - 17.45 h. Closed on Tuesday and 1/01,1/05 & 25/12.
    Price (2013): 8 €, reduced 6 €. Free 26 yr from EU.

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    For tapestry lovers.

    by breughel Updated Jul 27, 2012

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    This museum is an absolute must for all tapestry lovers.
    There is not only the amazing ensemble of the "Dame à la Licorne" but there are many other remarkable art works nearly all of Flanders (part of the Duchy of Burgundy in that time) at the end of the 15th begin 16th c.

    Among the best known are "Les Vendanges - The Grape Harvest" (Flanders around 1500).
    It is typical of the noble daily life theme found in the tapestries of the 15th c.
    The Lord and Lady are shown overseeing the grape harvest and the pressing of the grapes. Everyone, including the servants, wears the finest clothing and jewellery!
    This scene represents the two techniques of pressing known in the Middle Ages: pressing with the foot, where the peasant tramples the grain to crush it (a technique used for the not very important vines), and the press with screw which the peasants turn with a stick to crush the bunches and to extract the juice from them. The liquid is then collected in wooden barrels to be preserved.

    The tapestry is set against a "mille fleur" (thousand flower) background, a popular design feature in many tapestries of the middle ages. Replicas of this tapestry are still produced and proposed for sale.

    Open: each day 9.15 h - 17.45 h. Closed on Tuesday and 1/01,1/05 & 25/12.
    Price (2012): 8 €, reduced 6 €. Free 26 yr from EU.

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    Surprising statues.

    by breughel Updated Aug 31, 2013

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    Surprising was that statue called "Christ des Rameaux - Christ of Palm Sunday".
    In South Germany, from 12th to 16th c., animated sculptures were used in order to put in scene some parts of the sacred history around Easter.
    Here we have a sculpture representing Jesus Christ on a little donkey. This statue (end 15th c.) made of 17 parts of wood and posed on a platform with wheels was used on Palm Sunday and towed from one church considered as the Mount of Olives, to another, considered as the Holy Sepulchre.
    This tradition of medieval piety ended with the Reform or Counter-Reform.
    In a totally other area, that of daily life, I found a little statue in polychrome wood from 1500 (photo n°2) "Buste Porte Serviette" used as towel rail!

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    Courtyard of the Musée de Cluny

    by BeatChick Updated Mar 19, 2006

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    Musee de Cluny
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    One of my favorite things about the Musée de Cluny, besides the wonderful Lady & the Unicorn tapestries inside, is just the medieval feel of the building - its facade & courtyard. Particularly striking are the ancient well and the sundial.

    Note the scallops on the wall near the sundial. On many old buildings in Paris you'll see these especially along the rue St-Jacques, the ancient cardo road that led to Campostela di Santiago. Pilgrims would go to Campostela de Santiago (or people would come to Paris to see St-Denis) via the rue St-Jacques. They'd bring back scallop shells that were particular to that area as proof they'd completed their pilgrimage. Hence the name Coquilles (shells) St-Jacques (the road) which is now a famous dish.

    E-mail: lettreinfo.musee-moyenage@culture.gouv.fr
    Hours of operation: Every day except Tuesday, 9:15am-5:45pm ~ Closed Jan 1, May 1 & XMAS
    Admission:
    Regular admission: 5.50€ & 6.70€ museum & exhibit
    Discount: under 25 years & on Sunday: 4€ & 5.20€
    Free: under 18, unemployed, teachers on duty, students, disabled, & 1st Sunday of the month
    Bookstore/Giftshop:
    9:15am-6pm except Tuesdays
    PH#: 01 53 73 78 22
    FX#: 01 40 46 03 39

    Carte Musées et Monuments accepted here.

    Photos: Feb 2006

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    Glory of the Middle Ages

    by goodfish Updated Apr 1, 2013

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    Very old glass, Mus��e de Cluny
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    This is an absolute jewel of a museum and one of the highlights of Paris. Musée de Cluny /Musée National du Moyen Âge is a 15th-century manse of medieval treasures adjacent to Roman-era thermal baths dating to when Paris was known as Lutetia. Unfortunately the baths were undergoing work so we could only admire from the sidewalk the portion visible behind a fence. No matter; the collection more than made up for an unexpected snag.

    Some of our favorites were:
    • Six 15th-century "Lady and the Unicorn" (Dame à la Licorne) tapestries: stars of the show

    • Brilliant 12th and 13th-century stained glass from some of France's famous landmarks such as Saint Denis and Sainte-Chapelle

    • Fragments of very old sculptures torn from Notre Dame during the French Revolution

    • Tiny, amazingly detailed ivory decorative panels

    • Beautifully carved altarpieces and misericords

    • Gorgeous statuary in a myriad of mediums

    With some small exceptions the entire collection is fascinating and the impressive architecture and gardens of Hôtel de Cluny itself creates the perfect backdrop for these beautiful displays. Best of all? It wasn't as overrun with humans as the Louvre and Musée d'Orsay.

    The museum has a very good website with background on the baths, mansion, gardens and the collection. It also has maps of the floor plan and visitor guides which can be downloaded before you go. If you have a Paris Museum Pass, just walk in and ask for an audioguide. If you don't have a pass, see the website for current prices (audio guides are included). Under 26 and an EU citizen? Lucky you - entrance is free!

    Open every day except Tuesday, from 9:15 to 5:45
    Desk closes at 5:15
    Closed 1 January, 1 May and 25 December.

    Great deal: entrance to the museum is free (1€ for audioguides) for all on the 1st Sunday of the month.

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    Visit the Musee de Moyen Age (Cluny Museum)

    by Beausoleil Updated Sep 16, 2010

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    Cluny Museum
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    This is one of our favorite museums. It's small but packed with interest. There are Roman baths and artifacts but the main focus is medieval history. The most famous part of the collection is the series of Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries so be sure to see them. They are upstairs in a room by themselves and come with an explanation. Photos are allowed but no flash so it's difficult to get a good picture.

    The stained glass is amazing because it is mounted on a light wall and you can get right up to it and see the details. Much more fun than using binoculars to view windows twenty feet over your head.

    Finally, don't miss the gardens. There is a medieval garden with very modern fountains and sculpture. There is ample seating for family picnics on wooden benches and a marvelous children's playground if you have your kids with you.

    Oh yes, this is a great place to buy the Paris Museum Pass because there is almost never a line at the Cluny Museum.

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    Royalty & the Instruments of Medieval War

    by BeatChick Written Mar 19, 2006

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    Cluny Crowns
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    This was my second trip to the Cluny museum this past February. Of course, I had to bring back photos of the accoutrements of war for the men in my family: crowns, chess pieces (helpful in honing the mind for war strategy), chainmail, swords, and other items associated with knight errantry. My husband is a huge chess freak so he was excited to see the alabaster chess pieces from the middle ages.

    E-mail: lettreinfo.musee-moyenage@culture.gouv.fr
    Hours of operation: Every day except Tuesday, 9:15am-5:45pm ~ Closed Jan 1, May 1 & XMAS
    Admission:
    Regular admission: 5.50€ & 6.70€ museum & exhibit

    Discount:
    under 25 years & on Sunday: 4€ & 5.20€
    Free:under 18, unemployed, teachers on duty, students, disabled, & 1st Sunday of the month
    Bookstore/Giftshop
    9:15am-6pm except Tuesdays
    PH#: 01 53 73 78 22
    FX#: 01 40 46 03 39

    Carte Musées et Monuments accepted here.

    Photos: Feb 2006

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    The Lady and the Unicorn

    by Nemorino Updated Jun 5, 2013

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    1. A mon seul d��sir
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    The most famous and most intriguing exhibit in the National Museum of the Middle Ages is called “La Dame à la licorne”. This exhibit consists of six large tapestries that are on display in a special rounded room with subdued light.

    Five of these tapestries show the five senses; Taste, Sight, Touch, Smell and Hearing, all illustrated by a mysterious lady with a unicorn on her right and a lion on her left.

    The sixth tapestry (or is it the first?) is larger and shows the lady in a tent which is labeled “A mon seul désir”, meaning something like “To my only desire”. But what is her only desire? We don’t know. Is it something religious? Or something amorous? (She doesn’t look particularly amorous, but you never know. Maybe she’s smoldering.) She seems to be putting a necklace into a box that her servant is holding. (Renouncing worldly pleasures?) Or perhaps taking it out? (Embracing worldly pleasures?)

    It must have taken years to weave these tapestries, following exact sketches that were sent from Paris. So nothing is shown just by accident or on whim.

    Second photo: This is the tapestry about the sense of sight. Here it is the unicorn who is seeing something, namely its reflection in the mirror the lady is holding. This is obviously a friendly and docile unicorn, since it has its front paws on the lady’s lap. You can’t really tell from my photo, but the lion also looks very friendly in a bemused sort of way.

    The lion is holding a pole with something attached to the top. At first glance I thought the lion had a wind sock or wind cone at the top of the pole, like the ones you see at small airports to show the wind direction, but of course that’s silly because they didn’t have airports in the Middle Ages, not even small ones. What the lion really has is a flag at the top of the pole, and the design is said to be the coat of arms of Jean Le Viste, the man who commissioned and paid for the six tapestries. In some of the tapestries the animals also wear armor with this same design on it.

    Third photo: In this dark photo you can get an idea of how the tapestries are displayed on the wall of the rounded room, with lots of people sitting and observing them. When your eyes get accustomed to the subdued light you can easily take in the details (in the room, not from the photo).

    Next review from January 2012: The medieval Louvre

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    My nomination for the 'must see' museum in Paris

    by CatherineReichardt Updated Jun 7, 2013

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    Such is the depth of Parisian culture that should you be brave enough ever to start writing up your Paris tips on VT, you'll find yourself having to distinguish your 'must see art museum' from your 'must see museum museum' ... sigh ... So, for what it's worth, here is my top tip for Paris' 'must see museum museum'.

    I should prefix this by saying that I am evangelical everything about Gothic bar the black nail varnish, body piercings and studded dog collars, so this was always going to be an surefire winner in my book. Museum about the Middle Ages ... tick. Housed in an ancient building that started life as a series of 3rd century Roman baths and was transformed into a medieval monastic building ... tick. Situated in one of the oldest and most atmospheric parts of Paris ... tick. I wish I were as good at other games!!!

    But I digress. The Musée de Cluny (or Musée du Moyen Age - confusingly it's the same place) is located in the former Parisian townhouse for the abbots of Cluny and is devoted to a stupendous collection of artifacts from the Middle Ages. And in all my travels, I've never come close to a collection as complete or of anywhere near such a standard - and that's not for lack of trying! The collection includes wood carvings, stone sculptures, tapestries, manuscripts, ecclestiastical paraphernalia and all of it of mindboggling quality - to put it into perspective, it makes the collection in New York's Cloisters museum look like second grade rejects - and that is still one of NYC's greatest museums.

    There are so many things that are remarkable about this museum that it's hard to know where to start. Firstly, the building in whioch it is housed oozes antiquity, and sets the tone perfectly. In most other places, the building would be a major tourist attraction in itself, but here it is merely the setting for the jewels - literally and figuratively - displayed within.

    And then there are the collections. Well, the big drawcard is obviously the Lady and the Unicorn series of tapestries, which are every bit as spectacular as you have been lead to believe - the archetypal medieval model of romantic love for the unattainable Lady Fair. And the ivory carvings. And the gorgeously illustrated manuscripts. And the exquisite but ridiculously ornate altarware bought with collections from an impoverished peasantry in expectation of eternal redemption. Each piece echoing a heritage close enough to resonate with the European psyche but distant enough from our current beliefs and priorities to make us question our contemporary takes on society, culture and religion ... exactly the sort of uncomfortable stuff that museums should challenge us with.

    I don't have either the space or stamina to explain why you should go ... only to encourage you that you shouldn't dream of missing it, regardless of age, creed, colour or education. To sum it up, I was once lucky enough to visit the museum in the late morning and noticed by chance that there was a free lunchtime concert of medieval music played on authentic instruments from the Middle Ages. When the musicians arrived, they were brandishing objects so outlandish that I hardly knew whether they were weapons, agricultural implements or musical instruments - let alone which end they should blow, pluck or strike! Turns out that these were professional (orchestral) musicians who just played these instruments for recreational purposes every so often, and the ensuing hour was literally spellbinding - music reaching across from across the ages played in a manner that was long forgotten. I have never heard a longer standing ovation - and in the travel experiences of nearly half a century, this stands out as one of the handful of the most memorable.

    However, on a smugly - adoptive - German note, I have yet to discover a Tilman Reimenschneider sculpture - the foremost wood carver of the High Gothic era - in the collection. Please let me know if I'm wrong so that I can go and pay homage (and address the oversight)!

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