Musée Cluny

Einar Moos


In a quiet garden reminiscent of the Decameron stands an ancient abbey above the ruins of the Roman baths of Lutetia.


One of the lesser known jewels of Paris, the Hotel de Cluny, is the treasure trove of medieval arts and crafts and a thrill to visit for its sheer enchantment.  

The crown piece of the collection are 6 tapestries known as The Lady and The Unicorn each representing one of the five senses - and the sixth keeping you guessing and wondering for a long while - but you're going to return to look at them again..

The location used to be Roman warm-cold-water baths when Paris was called Lutetia, 2000 years ago. Left-over high vaulted halls like the "frigidarium" still remain miraculously and are impressive: imagine the feeling of steam when portable telephones didn't exist! In the XIII century it became an abbey that was expanded by the abbot of Cluny into the present shape, and the name stuck.

The garden has recently been turned back into its original medieval shape; a pleasure garden it used to be and now is again, with wild flowers and herbs to delight students of the Sorbonne eating their hamburgers and sandwiches at lunch break on the long benches under the shade of trees.   In the XIX century the private estate and collection of medieval arts is acquired by the state to preserve its integrity.

The rooms seem like they were inhabited by monks only a week ago, and the fine gold craft and ebony sculptures still have the unique power over the imagination of a largely uninformed and easily mislead population - long before the age of the Internet and its usurping power.