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Photoglob Zürich, reprinted by Detroit Publishing Co/Wikicommons
Photoglob Zürich, reprinted by Detroit Publishing Co/Wikicommons

The History Of The Cluny Museum, Paris, In 1 Minute

Picture of Diana Vernon
Updated: 29 November 2016
A truly outstanding and authentic example of Gothic architecture, the National Museum of the Middle Ages currently holds one of the largest and most important collections of medieval art and artifacts in the world.

Originally a hotel, l’Hôtel de Cluny was built in the 15th century and served as the official resting place of the abbots of Cluny. The Cluny monastic order was established in Burgundy and was in control of one of the most important networks of abbeys in Europe. Commissioned in 1485 by Jacques d’Amboise, Cluny’s abbot at that time, its purpose was to glorify and enhance Amboise’s power via architectural opulence. The construction took place next to the impressive remnants of the Gallo-Roman baths, which were exquisitely integrated into the abbey.

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The Chapel, the abbey’s principal gem, is located at the back of the building, highlighting its private and sacred purpose. Used regularly as a place of worship until the revolution, the Chapel has since been transformed numerous times; from amphitheater to printing workshop, it was finally integrated in 1843 as part of the museum. The chapel is the object of extremely curated and rich decoration that has been partially conserved. The most relevant features to look out for are two monumental, Italian-style wall paintings of the Virgin and her sisters mourning Christ. These incredibly well-preserved paintings date back to the early 16th century.

The Hôtel de Cluny officially transformed into a museum in 1883, when it was bought by Alexandre du Sommerard. Sommerard installed his collection of important medieval and Renaissance artifacts here. Among the most important pieces housed by the museum today is the famous and unique 15th century tapestry collection that includes the Lady and the Unicorn – often considered as one of the most emblematic pieces of medieval art.

The varied collection stores other remarkable works such as sculptures, furniture, manuscripts and breathtaking stained glasses. It’s important to mention that the building itself is a notable work of art as well.


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