Cluny Museum-National Museum of the Middle Ages

The Musée de Cluny-Musée National du Moyen Âge—the Cluny Museum-National Museum of the Middle Ages—is located halfway between Sainte-Chapelle and the Panthéon in the 5th arrondissement of Paris. Occupying the Hôtel des Abbés de Cluny, a fifteenth-century residence of the powerful religious official Jacques d’Amboise, which is itself built on the ruins of the Gallo-Roman Thermes de Cluny baths, the Cluny Museum is home to thousands of medieval artworks and artifacts from the Middle Ages. Its most renowned piece is The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries.

Money Saving Tip! Musée de Cluny - Musée Du Moyen Âge is included 4 different passes: The Paris Pass, Go Paris All-Inclusive Pass, Paris Museum Pass, and Paris City Pass. If you are sightseeing in Paris, you can save a lot of money with the right pass. SAVE AN ADDITIONAL 5% OFF the Go Paris All-Inclusive Pass with coupon code GO5CMANTIS.

History of the Cluny Museum

Not just a museum devoted to history, the Cluny Museum is itself a piece of history. That’s because the museum is housed within the walls of Hôtel des Abbés de Cluny. This impressive building was constructed in 1485 to serve as a Paris residence of Jacques d’Amboise, the head of the Order of Cluny. It was built on the remains of an earlier abbey-owned property, which was itself built on the ruins of the Thermes de Cluny—an elaborate thermal bath complex believed to date all the way back to the third century.

By the first half of the nineteenth century, the Hôtel de Cluny was owned by the wealthy art collector, Alexandre Du Sommerard. When he died in 1842, his massive collection of medieval art and artifacts from the Middle Ages (as well as the Hôtel) was acquired by the French nation. The architect Albert Lenoir was hired to renovate Hôtel de Cluny and restore the Roman baths, and Du Sommerard’s son named director of the newly founded museum. Between 2015 and 2022, the Cluny Museum was again extensively renovated, with an entirely new building being added to the complex in the process.

Cluny Museum Highlights

The Cluny Museum is home to one of France’s finest collections of medieval art, and any visitor to this attraction will want to be sure and view as many of its diverse artifacts as possible. From jewelry to manuscripts to paintings, sculptures, and the occasional household object, the Cluny is full of assorted historical treasures and religious relics. Without a doubt, though, the centerpiece of the Cluny’s collection is the set of six tapestries known collectively as The Lady and the Unicorn. These world-famous tapestries date approximately to the year 1500, and are can’t-miss pieces.

Other prominent pieces of the Cluny Museum’s eclectic collection include Chess Players, a fifteenth-century stained-glass panel; an altar frontal from Basel Cathedral that dates to the early eleventh century; an ivory statuette of the mythological Ariadne believed to have been created in Constantinople during the sixth century; and several thirteenth-century sculptures of the Apostles that once stood in Sainte-Chapelle.

The unique history of the Cluny means that the grounds of the museum themselves are a highlight of a visit here, too. Notably, in the basement of the museum you can witness a remarkably well-preserved portion of the ancient Roman baths on which the medieval abbey and contemporary museum were built. Known as a frigidarium (cold room), this evocative space has nearly 50-foot-tall ceilings and, while most of its decorative elements have been lost to time, in places you can see a glimpse of a water-themed relief.

More to See and Do at the Cluny Museum

Here are a few more things to keep in mind as you prepare to visit the Cluny Museum-National Museum of the Middle Ages.

•In addition to its acclaimed permanent collection, the Cluny Museum routinely organizes temporary exhibitions throughout the year. By their very nature, these special shows come and go and always cover different topics. However, past exhibitions here have included Embroidery in the Middle AgesMysterious Caskets: Prints at the Time of The Lady and the Unicorn, and Birth of Gothic Sculpture: Saint-Denis, Paris, and Chartres, 1135-1150, just to name a few.

•The Cluny Museum regularly sponsors a lively calendar of events that includes expert lectures, music concerts, live performances, and more. For the most up-to-date information on the type of special events that might be occurring when you’re thinking of visiting, check out the museum’s official website in advance of your trip.

•Visitors who enjoy their time at the Cluny Museum will want to stop in for a few minutes at the attraction’s gift shop. This well-curated store sells an assortment of books, jewelry, tapestries, apparel, home-décor items, and souvenirs. It’s the perfect place to pick up that The Lady and the Unicorn keepsake.

Why the Cluny Museum Should Be on Your Must-See List

For many visitors, the presence of The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries is reason enough to make the Musée de Cluny their next destination while in Paris. If that’s all you do when you’re at the Cluny, that’s just fine—it’ll still make for a memorable experience. All the same, those visitors that take the time to explore some of the lesser-known artifacts on display here will find the museum’s thousands of objects—from the ordinary to the spiritually endowed—an eye-opening trip through several centuries of fascinating history.