Saturday, June 19, 2010

Musee de Cluny

Deep in the Latin Quarter, the cool dim interior of the Musee National du Moyen Age, better known as Musee de Cluny, still feels like the medieval convent it once was. The stone walls invoke a hushed sense of awe. The gap between the centuries closes and blurs. It's easy to imagine shadowy dark-robed nuns silently gliding over the well-worn pavers on their way to Vespers.

It's also easy to imagine a lovely teen aged Mary Tudor, Dowager Queen of France, standing by the window in her fashionable white widows weeds as she impatiently waits for her true love -- soon to be her next husband -- to take her back to England.

The collections here, which all date from the Middle Ages, for the most part aren't the familiar masterpieces of the Louvre or Musee d'Orsay, but that's not to say they aren't simply splendid.
In a class all by themselves are the six Lady with the Unicorn tapestries. Yes, I've seen these before in numerous reproductions gracing a plethora of items sold in museum gift shops all over the world. But all six original tapestries together in one room are just -- breathtaking. There is no other word for them.

A sweet, plaintive soprano, accompanied by a strummed lute, tears me away. I follow the music into a cavernous, yet oddly intimate, room covered with \ carvings where a chamber group rehearses for a concert. No one seems to mind so I slip into a seat and let the music wash over me. The rehearsal progresses in fits and spurts, the group stopping now and again to discuss some bit of harmony.

There is something about chamber music, so beautiful yet so melancholy, that causes tears to well up.

I wander into the gift shop, purchase a book mark from my favorite Unicorn tapestry, "All That My Heart Desires," and step once into the bustling 21st century.

Who knew "getting all medieval" could be so tranquil?

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