Posts Tagged ‘Cluny Museum’

Museum Visit: The Cluny

July 31, 2011

The Cluny Museum. Slip into some chainmail and explore the medieval past

Occasionally, the Experienced Travelers stay out of cafés long enough to visit a museum.  Probably not as often as we should, but there are 153 museums and over 7,000 cafes in Paris, so you see the challenge.

I was on my own one afternoon when Melinda suffered with a funny tummy.  (But not to worry – Nurse made a long-distance diagnosis (stop the Chantrix) that put Melinda back in her wedgie shoes by evening. Nurse is a magnificent diagnostician, even from Command Central across the Atlantic.)

I admired the gothic spires of the Hôtel de Cluny and decided to refresh my knowledge of France’s medieval past.  Known as the Musée National du Moyen Age, “the Cluny” holds a premier collection of religious sculpture, stained glass, art and artifacts from the Middle Ages – in particular the famous 15th century Unicorn tapestries and original statues from Cathedral facades.  And if the 11th century isn’t early enough, there are Roman baths on the grounds – Caesar’s idea of a spa weekend.

Woe be unto those that pull dusting duty

The Cluny is a world away from the tourists and errant water bottles that crowd the larger museums. The dark, quiet interior of the Hôtel is perfect for the collection.  I could overhear a concert of medieval music in the chapel that put me right in the mood for chivalrous knights, Abelard and Héloïse and chanting monks singing the Divine Offices.

You have to admire a man who would depend on this to deflect an oncoming lance. Tim and Victor-this is *so* you.

The lives of medieval Parisians were hardscrabble and God-fearing. Royalty on the right bank, the clergy of Notre Dame on the island, and upstart Sorbonne intellectuals on the left bank. Since it’s my fantasy, I opted for the royal court, insuring ET creature comforts like beds, fires and chamber pots.  With a tunic, an embroidered lace bodice and a fetching fur mantle I’d be ready for any social occasion or Anglo-Saxon invasion.

A beautiful 14th century depiction of the Holy family and the Presentation at the Temple. I love the gentle faces and swaddling cloth.

The Cluny holdings include religious art, beautifully rendered by anonymous stone masons, artists and mid-level monks.  Medieval Frenchmen – devout and largely illiterate – relied on these exquisite works for visual tutorials in their Faith.

Madonna and child carved from wood. He's a rather mature-looking baby who slightly resembles Barak Obama.

What does it say about me that I pondered not the existence of God, but whether things would “go” in the living room?  How many of the Unicorn Tapestries would fit on the wall behind the chair? (and do I have to change the rug…)  What would Nurse think of those gold reliquaries on the mantle?

We have just the right corner for this 13th century gold chasse from Limoges.

It was the Knights Templar meets HGTV and I was on the path to accessorized eternal damnation, taking Nurse down with me by association.

Add an uplight and a fern - instant drama

Afterward, I sat in the beautiful gardens surrounding the museum to contemplate my near-heresy. (after all, I didn’t *actually* redecorate…)  I must purify by getting some medieval stricture into my daily life before I’m damned.

Self-portrait taken before I realized I was damned.

Maybe I could linger at a table in the Café Flore since it’s built over the grounds of the famous Abbey of St.-Germain.  Or delicious cheese might earn time off from purgatory if it’s made using the methods that artisans practiced centuries ago.   I must save my soul by noshing on French bread and wine and renouncing my spurious past.

As I considered my redemption over a glass of wine, I wondered what might have been the life of a medieval ET?  A religious pilgrim on the road to Compastella atoning for all those café stops? A troubadour in the countryside singing epic tales of heroes and villains? Or an itinerant seller of early Hermes scarves and Kelly bags going from village to farm?

A medieval guardian angel showing an errant ET the path to righteousness.

Maybe just a penitent novice, earnestly painting an Annunciation to redecorate the Mother Abbesses’ private chapel.  (anything to avoid the harvest.  Medieval moi is no fool)

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