Unusual Paris Museums and Galleries: Museum of the Middle Ages:
Small but eminently important, the Musée National du Moyen-Age (National Museum of the Middle Ages), has a range of medieval sculptures and artifacts dedicated to the everyday life, the art and history of France during the Middle Ages.
Located right in the Latin Quarter, the main museum is housed in a 15th century Gothic mansion, Cluny Abbey which housed the abbots of Cluny.
The main collections contain a wide selection of medieval art as well as a collection of original sculptures and these are laid out in several rooms according to themes. Room 6 has a variety of valuable 12th and 13th-century stained glass windows from various locations in France, including Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. Room 8, named the Notre-Dame Room, has exhibits showing the various stages in the construction of the cathedral. The gallery of the Kings of Juda, with its twenty-one monumental heads, is spectacular. Removed by mobs and buried during the Revolution, they were discovered by chance in 1977.
Next door in Room 9 are the oldest (3rd century) Gallic-Roman baths in Paris, including a “Frigidarium” (cold room). These baths are particularly important given their exceptional state of preservation due to the nearly continuous use of the building since the Middle Ages.
Although the tapestries, especially the famous 15th century Lady and Unicorn, are spectacular and some of the main holdings of the museum, the more interesting exhibits are the things you never
usually see in museums, everyday. Room 22 is dedicated to domestic life and here you’ll see objects relating to daily life, particularly from the late Middle Ages, such as items used at home (chests, boxes and tapestry, children’s toys), at the table (cutlery and plates and the like), and for personal appearance (clothes and accessories, shoes, combs). Medieval travel is represented by objects such as weights and coins, travel chests and emblems evoking distant pilgrimages (St-Jacques (James) of Compostelle, Rome and even the Holy Land).
And don’t forget the medieval style garden, which was only opened in September 2000. It surrounds the Cluny Abbey with garden areas inspired by the medieval collections in the Museum.
You don’t have to be an expert in Middle Ages history to enjoy the exhibits in the Musée National du Moyen-Age. Many of the exhibits in this high quality museum, although from the Middle Ages, are very well preserved and exquisite treasures that anyone can enjoy for their beauty and great craftsmanship. If you have the Paris Pass, this is one of the included attractions.
Tip: Once finished with the Museum it is only a short walk to Notre-Dame, the Luxembourg Gardens, the Panthéon or Sorbonne. Enjoy a stroll through the Left Bank!
Musée National du Moyen-Age
Thermes et Hôtel de Cluny
6, place Paul Painlevé, 75005 Paris
tel: 01 53 73 78 00 (switchboard and voice server) 01 53 73 78 16 (reception)
Next page : Musée de la Musique