Musée National du Moyen Age

“To My Only Desire” tapestry from the Lady and the Unicorn series
“To My Only Desire” tapestry from the Lady and the Unicorn series

Amusingly, the most famous inhabitant of the flamboyant ex-home of the Abbots of Cluny is female – the captivating Lady and the Unicorn.

Six 15th-century Flemish tapestry panels, full of charm and hidden symbolism, are housed in an impressive circular room here. Five of the elegant images are believed to portray the senses – taste, hearing, sight, smell, touch – while the meaning of the sixth, bearing the inscription “To my only desire,” remains a mystery.

Elsewhere, there are glorious 7th-century crowns; stained glass; armor; Limoges enamels; a medieval waffle iron; travel chests; shoes; and textiles from Iran, the Byzantine Empire, Italy, and England. Stone heads of the Kings of Judah, ripped from the façade of Notre- Dame during the Revolution by angry crowds, are the treasures of the sculpture section.

These were discovered in 1977, along with a host of other damaged statues and fragments, in the basement of a Parisian bank. Outdoors there’s a flourishing medieval physic garden, with a “unicorn forest” and “carpet of 1,000 flowers,” as well as the ruins of the Thermes de Cluny (thermal baths), from the 2nd to 3rd centuries.

The frigidarium (cold bath) retains traces of remarkable mosaics, including the delightfully named “Love Riding a Dolphin.”

Practical Information

Address 6 Pl Paul Painlevé, Latin Quarter;

Getting There Métro: Cluny-La Sorbonne, St-Michel; Odéon; bus: 21, 27, 38, 63, 85, 86, 87.

Opening Times 9:15am–5:45pm Wed–Mon.

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