Paris History: The Cluny Museum

L'Hôtel de Cluny

Two blocks south of the Seine at Notre-Dame lies the "Hôtel de Cluny", at 6. place Paul-Painlevé.

This building, standing in its green garden, is one of the finest examples of Flamboyant Gothic architecture. The Hotel stands on the site of the ruins of the Roman baths, dating from the 2nd or early 3rd century. The site was the property of the Abbey of Cluny in Burgandy and on it Abott Jacques d'Ambroise had a building constructed (between 1485 and 1498) to accommodate the Benedictine monks who came from Cluny to visit the capital. During the Revolution it became the property of the state and was sold, becoming the property of the collector Alexandre du Sommerard in 1833. On his death in 1842, both the building and the collections it contained passed to the state. In 1844 the museum was opened. It contains objects which illustrate the life of Medieval France, including tapestries, costumes, statues, paintings, arms, goldsmiths' work, and ceramics.

Musée de Cluny

From the courtyard the whole building can be admired in all its beauty. It has two orders of cross windows and a tower containing a staircase ornamented with the emblems of St. James. The balustrade on the roof and the dormer windows are typical of the Flamboyant Gothic style.

One of the most precious collections is the one of tapestries woven in the Loire and in Flanders in the 15th and 16th centuries. The Rotunda contains the famous series of tapestries of the Lady and the Unicorn, from the early 16th century.

The Chapel, the ancient oratory of the abbots, is the most famous room. It has a single pillar in the center, from which the ribs of the vault fan out. Along the walls are a series of niches standing on consoles containing the statues of the d'Amboise family. In this chapel are the celebrated tapestries illustrating the Legend of St. Stephen, woven for the cathedral of Auxerre and completed toward 1490.

In the next room is another great tapestry from the beginning of the 16th century depicting the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

© 14 Oct 2002, Nicolas Pioch - Top - Up - Info
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