Cluny Museum reopened

The Cluny Museum (National Museum of the Middle Ages) in the Latin Quarter of Paris has reopened after being closed for a year and a half. The displays have been totally reorganized and are now mainly in chronological order. Ramps and elevators have been installed to connect the different levels of the museum’s ancient, medieval and 19th century buildings, making them wheelchair accessible for the first time.

The new reception building

I didn’t think I was going to like the new reception building (I had seen it while it was being built), but now that it is finished I must say it looks fine and fits in nicely with the older buildings on the site.

And it fulfills the goals that were given to the architect, for instance making the museum more visible from Boulevard Saint Michel. This might not sound like a terribly important goal, but I distinctly remember walking down the Boul’ Mich’ in the 1960s and assuming that the block between rue du Sommerard and Boulevard Saint Germain was some kind of vacant lot.

The new reception building now houses the ticket counters, lockers and an enlarged gift shop, thus freeing up space in the original buildings for additional exposition space. And yes, when leaving the building you do have to “exit through the gift shop”, as in practically every 21st century museum I can think of.

Statues without heads and heads without statues

The museum’s suggested itinerary begins in the Frigidarium, a remaining part of the Gallo-Roman baths from the 1st or 2nd century AD. From there, the itinerary leads roughly from west to east through nine more rooms on the ground floor, showing art works and artifacts from the Central Middle Ages, from the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries. Stairs and a newly installed elevator then lead to the upper floor, which features displays on the Late Middle Ages, meaning the 14th and 15th centuries.

Café des Amis (Café of the Friends)

At the eastern end of the museum, halfway through the suggested itinerary, there is now a café called Café des Amis, which was paid for by the Society of the Friends of the Cluny Museum. The café has tables indoors and also out in the courtyard, weather permitting.

How the tapestries were previously displayed (my photo from 2012)

The six tapestries of The Lady and the Unicorn were previously displayed in a semi-circle, so if you stood in the back of the room you could see them all. Now they are in a square room with one or two of the tapestries on each side. I have a slight preference for the new arrangement, since I found myself looking more closely at the details and worrying less about whether or not the tapestries were displayed in the right order (there is no right or wrong order).

The senses of hearing and sight (my photos from 2022)

You can’t really tell from my photos, but in the tapestry on the sense of hearing the lady is playing a small portable organ, while her servant operates the bellows. In the tapestry on the sense of sight, the lady is holding a mirror so the unicorn can see its reflection.

Seeing the unicorn among all those trees and flowers reminds me of the short story The Unicorn in the Garden, by James Thurber (1894-1961).

Location and aerial view of the Cluny Museum on

My photos in this post are from 2012 and 2022. I wrote the text in 2022.

See also: my earlier posts The Cluny Museum in Paris and The Lady and the Unicorn.

12 thoughts on “Cluny Museum reopened”

  1. I visited the museum recently. Although the Frigidarium was closed and the lift was out of order, I liked the chronological exhibition with a fine selection of objects.

  2. Hallo Nemorio, I love this post, as we also visited the “new” Cluny in late July. I also clicked your links to your earlier post about the museum and the one about eh Lady and the Unicorn tapestries—very informative. Thanks!

  3. We thought about going in September but didn’t get around to it so it’s on the list for next year. I agree from your photo that the new reception building is a good fit, and I’m pleased they’re displaying the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries to advantage – my favourite exhibit on my previous visit!

      1. I can’t log in to Travellerspoint, because I have a new IP address. (We haven’t moved, just got a new router.) They say they are sending me a verification code, but then they never do. So I can still read posts on Travellerspoint, but can’t comment.

        1. Peter said to use the Contact button on TravellersPoint and he’d try to help you get back on. I have his email address but don’t want to put it here. Too public. I did leave a message for you on TP but don’t know if you can get on to read it.

  4. Thank you Don. We managed to visit the Cluny on our last trip to Paris before COVID and it was mostly closed but they had the basement and the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries on display. We did enter through the new addition. We were told the museum was closing until the renovations were finished and wondered at the time if we would ever see it again. I’m so glad it’s open again. That’s wonderful news. Now if we could be done with COVID but every time it seems to be over, it returns with a vengeance. Crazy times . . . and very frustrating.

    1. Yes, they say the new reception building opened in 2018, but then closed again in 2020 along with the rest of the museum. It all opened again in May 2022, and I saw it in September.

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