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The One Thing You Can’t Miss in…Paris, France!: Musée National de Moyen Age – The Cluny

Everyone knows that Paris is the art capital of the world. There’s the Musée D’Orsay for impressionist paintings, The Pompidou Centre for modern art lovers, and, of course, The Louvre for seeing the legendary Mona Lisa. While all of these are excellent, Paris is home to lots of smaller museums as well. One of best you will encounter is the Musée National de Moyen Age, better known as the Cluny, a wonderful museum that has the perfect mix of history, architecture and art.

The Cluny has a unique and interesting history that dates back hundreds of years. Built in the late 1400’s, the building has a Renaissance architectural style and was created as a chapel and living quarters for abbots. Now, the building houses an amazing collection of medieval art, including icons, paintings, woodcarvings and sculptures.

The artistic highlight of the museum is its collection of six tapestries known as “The Lady and the Unicorn.” Considered one of the finest examples of medieval art, the tapestries illustrate the five senses, taste, hearing, sight, smell and touch. There is a final 6th tapestry with the inscription “to my only desire,” which some historians have suggested is meant to represent a 6th sense or the idea of love and compassion.

After admiring the art, you should also check out the Cluny’s grounds, which sit right next to ruins of Roman baths dating back to the third century. These baths are an amazing sight, and you can still see some of the original mosaics that lined the bath’s walls. The baths were built by a group of boatmen and were open to the public when they were still in use hundreds of years ago.

In addition to the beautiful art and baths, the Cluny has a charming medieval garden that was created in 2000 and is inspired by the Cluny’s collections. The garden has multiple sections; among them is the unicorn forest, which is meant to represent the fear that people in medieval times felt towards strange forms of nature. In another part of the garden, there are sections growing plants and vegetables that were commonly used by peasants during the middle ages.

Between the baths, the art, the architecture and the beautiful gardens, there is plenty to keep you busy. So if you’re looking for something a little unusual to do in the city of lights, the Cluny is an excellent option and is the one sight you just can’t miss!

Mallory Smith is a senior Sociology major at Scripps College, located in sunny Claremont, CA. Born in Denver, Colorado, Mallory spent her time growing up between England, China and The United States. As a result, she loves to travel and explore new places and cultures. In Claremont Mallory is editor of the Life and Style section of The Student Life Newspaper. She also writes for Beyond the Elms, Scripps College’s Career Planning and Resources blog, where she is writing about her soon-to-be journey into the real world. In her free time Mallory enjoys going to art galleries in downtown Los Angeles, hiking, going to the beach and scuba diving whenever she gets the chance.
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