Archive for April 3rd, 2018

April 3, 2018

The medieval, Cluny and Paris!

So on this Easter weekend, I will go back to tell you about a different Paris.  I like us to go back, back in time, to another era another wonderful Paris even then, medieval times in Paris. What better way to show you this than at the musée national de  moyen age or Cluny museum. I first came here way back must have been around 1995, and was pleasantly surprise by the contents in it and the area surrounding it. Therefore, I have come back several times. Then, I will go on about the medieval in Paris, so nice.

The Hôtel de Cluny and museum is located in the 5éme arrondissement of Paris in the heart of the Latin Quarter in a building from the 13C, the Hotel de Cluny. It has one of the most important collections of objects and works of arts from the medieval period in the world and includes the thermes(spa baths) of Cluny attach and part of it.  The hotel of the abbots of Cluny housed the abbots of the order of Cluny in Burgundy from the 13C. At the end of the 15C the building constructed for John III of Bourbon was enlarged by Jacques d’Amboise abbot of  Cluny (1485-1510).  The coat of arms of Amboise are on the facade. The young Mary of England was in prison here during 40 days in 1515 to make sure she did not give heirs after the death of her husband, king Louis XII of France, so the crown will passed on to his cousin the future king François I.  James V of Scotland was as well in the hotel of Cluny in 1537 for his marriage with the daughter of  François Ier, Madeleine of France.

Beginning in the 17C, the hotel is home of the visiting personalities of the Pope. The Nuncio lived with about 20 persons. At the French revolution, the hotel is sold and went thru big transformations until been acquired by the State in 1843. It went thru several owners and shared  with astronomers  Joseph Jérôme Lefrançois de Lalande (1732-1807) and Charles Messier (1730-1817) that change it into an observation tower . In 1833, Alexandre Du Sommerard  master counselor of the court and amateur of  the middle ages  is domicile and organised a collection of objects from the period .  This collection was purchased by the State in 1843 . The hotel is today the oldest witness of the architecture of mansions built in Paris between a court and a garden; on a flamboyant gothic style on an U shape a building long of two sides with small wings  on the limit of an interior trapezoidical courtyard. The museum limits its collection for which allows the creation of a national museum of the Renaissance at Ecouen castle in 1977.  The museum of Cluny is confirm on its new direction by been name in 1992 the National Museum of the Middle Ages or  Musée national du Moyen Âge.

The museum is on 3 500 square meters of which  2 000 m2 are in exposition to the public. It has about 23 000  works and objects of which  2 300 are shown to the public dating from the times of the Roman Gaule to the 16C ,and covering a geographical area that includes all of Europe, but also, the Byzantine Oriental, and Muslim as well as the Maghreb (Northern AFrica).

Totally dedicated to the Middle Ages, the museum shows several sculptures from an earlier period . It has several works witnessing the ancienne history of Lutèce.  The most popular of this is the Pilier des Nautes, the oldest monument of Paris, offered by the boat builders of the city  (the nautes) to the emperor Tiberius  (14-37AD ), discovered in the choir of the Notre-Dame Cathedral in the 18C.  Another monumental pylon that of the  pilier de Saint-Landry, discovered in the île de la Cité in the 19C, but sculptured in the 2C.  The collection of Roman sculptures includes several works link to the history of Paris such as a series of 12 chapters coming from the abbey of  Saint-Germain des Prés,  sculptured in the 11C, as well as 4 chapters coming from the former Church of  Sainte-Geneviève  done in around 1100-1110 by the middle of the 12C, three heads on statues of the western facade of Saint-Denis Basilica, representing the queen of Saba, Moises and a prophet done around 1137-1140.

From the period of the 13-14C  and coming from Notre-Dame Cathedral are elements of the central porch representing the resurrection of the dead , done along the mid 13C , as well as a statue of Adam that once decorated the transept of the Notre Dame Cathedral, done by the end of the 13C.  From the Holy Chapel or Sainte-Chapelle comes four apostres that enhance the upper part of the Chapel such as Saint John; these statues were done between 1243 and 1248, durinng the construction of the Chapel. By the end of the Middle Ages, you can see Roman and Gothic style sculptures in stone, and wood dating from the 12C, coming from the Notre Dame Cathedral, but also from Germany, Spanish Flandres, and Italy ,as well as architecture elements like roman and gothic chapters from the porch of the Chapel of the Virgin of Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

There are about 70 tapestries including the famous La Dame à la Licorne, and stained glass fragments especially from the Sainte Chapelle. About 50 lamps, close to 300 ivories dating from antiquity to the Middle Ages , as well as painting from the school of France, England, Germany, Spain, Flemish from the  14C to the 16C. Pieces of goldsmith and silversmith of relics and enamel de Limoges plus jewerly . Weapons and armory from the wars of old , and objects of every day life as well as furniture, toys etc.

The Cluny museum has the richest collection of stained glass in France with over 230 panels, medallions, or fragments of glass covering the period from the 12C to early 16C.  It has one of the most beautiful ensemble of jewerly and enamel from the Middle Ages, a collection of ivory which as with the Louvre are the two most important ones in France and extends from antiquity to the middle ages.  An important collection of tapestries from the profane to the religious amongst the collection you will see the tapestry of the Lady of the Unicorn, the legend of St Stephen or the tapestry of  the Stately Life. Also, a garden in medieval style done along the boulevard Saint-Germain.

Inner front courtyard Hotel de Cluny museum of middle ages

And if we come into the Medieval Paris; we see that is not surprising that the Seine river separates three parts of medieval Paris. These were the Center, Cité, and Seine island who was the religious center of the city with the Royal Palace on the east, University on the south and on the north the population with the shops etc. In the Cité, with the justice palace of today occupied until king  Charles V  that today we have the Holy Chapel or Sainte Chapelle ,and the Conciergerie. You have the Hôtel Saint Pol, built by  Charles V, the hôtel des Tournelles, royal residence of kings  Charles VIII to Henri II. Notre Dame Cathedral as well as the Churches of  Saint Germain l’Auxerrois, Saint Gervais, Saint Julien, big abbeys like that of Sainte Geneviève, and Saint Marcel.

By the rue Saint-Denis (1eme), old the  rue des Triomphes, that was the old road to the Saint-Denis Basilica where the kings are buried, you had the fountain or  fontaine des Innocents done by the Mérovingiens kings. In 1187, king Philippe Auguste ordered built a wall to separate the neighboring markets and had built two buildings for the market which were eventually closed in 1780 for sanitary conditions.  Two million parisians are buried and their bones carried into the catacombes under the place called  Tombe-Issoire (14eme). In the Marais, at the  rue des Jardins-Saint-Paul ,king Philippe Auguste ordered built a fortified wall around 1190 to 1209 before departing to the crusades. The remains of this wall of about 5,1 kms long and 9 meters high with a tower of 60 meters high such as the tour Montgomery to the poterne Saint-Paul are to be seen in the sport field in the Jardins-Saint-Paul.

The wooden houses with a typical architecture of the north of France and covered with plasters from the 17C to limit the risks of fire and later demolished in the 19C under Haussmann ; you can still see some traces along  Rue François-Miron, two houses at No 11 and 13.  The plaques on the door tells you for the mower teacher or the enseigne du Faucheur ,and  the lambs teacher or the enseigne au mouton ; medieval house at No  12  of the  rue des Barres  on the angle of the rue du Grenier-sur-l’Eau.  The current youth lodging is the house of the Abbey of Maubuisson when they were in town it is at no 44-46 rue François-Miron.  The seat today of the historical Paris association is an old home that was owned by cistercian monks from the abbey of Notre-Dame d’Ourscamp, received in donation in 1248; the current house dates from the end of the 16C with a surprise in the basement a cellar from the 13C of about 200 Square meters; this house of d’Ourscamp had a treasury , a court of wood.  At the Rue des Archives, facade in bricks from the 15C is now an elementary school at  38- 42  before house a noble family member of the  Jacques Cœur, the financier of the king Charles VII, that was for him ,himself originally from Bourges, seems never occupied it. The location is strange as the house was at rue de l’Homme-Armé, a street gone today after the enlargement of the  rue des Archives in the 19C.

Church St Germain l’Auxerrois and tower of city hall

More information to  help you plan your trip to the museum and the medieval footpaths of Paris. Bearing in mind the museum is closed for renovation until July 2018.

Paris museum of the middle ages, Cluny:

Paris tourist office on Cluny:

Assoc Friends of the Cluny museum Paris:

Association of Clunicien sites, webpage in English here:

There you have it Paris in another era and I am sure it was magical as well. As in anything with Paris as Paris is eternal. Enjoy your week wherever you are, happy travels, good health and many cheers!!!

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April 3, 2018

Auch is a lot more than D’Artagnan!

This is another dandy town we like. It is more than D’Artagnan, yes that captain of the musketeers a real character immortalize by Dumas in the book and later movie. He was born not far from here in the Chateau de Castelmore near village of Lupiac. Let’s tell you about the city of Auch.

Auch is in department 32 Gers in the region of Occitanie. The town is practically in the center of the Gers department and only 69 km west of Toulouse 162 km from Bordeaux, 390 km from Marseille, 530 km from Nantes and 595 kms from Paris to name a few. Auch is crossed by the Gers river a tributary of the Garonne river that divides the city into the the upper town or haute-ville, on the left bank where the medieval city center is located on a hill and the lower town or basse-ville, on the right bank. The upper town is link to the banks of the Gers river by pousterles of the middle ages, meaning tight narrow streets with high elevation and the Escalier Monumental or monumental stairs built in 1863.

It is wide beautiful country by car on the roads N124 linking Toulouse to the N524 direction Bordeaux. Also a train station serving TER trains from Toulouse-Matabiau station. The LGV line last read was in study to link it with Toulouse.


Some information to help you plan your trip to this again wonderful area of my belle France.

Tourist office of Auch:

City of Auch on history in French:

Tourist office of dept Gers :

Tourist office of the Region of Occitanie on Auch:

The bit of history I like. At Roman times the city  was developing fast and became the main urban center of Aquitaine on the crossing of two Roman ways such as Lyon des Convénes (Saint Bertrand de Comminges) to Agen and Toulouse to Bazas, and after the looting of the town of  Eauze , Augusta Auscorum becomes the main city.  In the Christian era, Auch was elected to a bishop and then archbishop in 879AD.

Auch was capital for a while of the Counts of Armagnac in the 10C and 11C ; and was taken in several occasions to serve the fighting of power between the Church, Municipal and Lordships. From the 12C the city was shared by the two authorities that of Armagnac and the archbishop , and the lines were present on the gates of the city and on the columns of the old market until the French revolution.  After the battle of Lectoure in 1473 marking the end of the Armagnac dynasty the city was taken by the troops of king of France ,Louis XI . WWII passed by here with just some collaborators turning jews into the concentration camps.

Some of the things to see here are the Hôtel de Ville facing the Cathedral built between 1760 and 1778. It has a theatre on the Italian style that still is open today as well as a room of notables with the portraits of many famous Gascons. Early in the 12C the archibishop Raymond II ordered built a new palace for him and his successors at the place of existing buildings occupied by the sacristies and prisons including the tour d’Armagnac; The current building of the regional government or préfecture du Gers now occupies the archiepiscopal palace that was finished between 1750 and 1770 at the same place of the old medieval building of which some sections are still preserve.

The tourist office is in a wooden house from the 15C . The Maison de Gascogne is a market in stone decorated with commerce signs that originally for the business of grains but now houses a wonderful local produce market which we liked very much. The former Church of des Carmelites on the square of the same name is today the municipal library ; this medieval building was before the castle of the counts of Fezensac and later Armagnac, built in the 17C. The Place Salinis is a nice quaint medieval square to walk too. The nice bridge or pont de la Treille built between 1746 and 1750.

The must see for coming here are The Sainte Marie Cathedral built between the 15C and the 17C with stained glass that are just gorgeous, and the choir with 113 stalls in massive oak representing more than 1500 personages. On the way to Santiago de Compostela, St James way in which the Cathedral offers lodgings. The escalier monumental of neo classic style connecting the upper town to the lower town in 374 steps on a 35 meters levelling with six volleys of which four are double on a rest platform and three pylons in the terrace to showcase the fountains and garden. It has at its center a statue of Charles de Batz, aka D’Artagnan true musketeers work of Michelet in 1931.

Others are the Cloister of Cordeliers from the 14C in excellent shape with a capitulary room and remains of a cloister The collège (middle school) d’Auch founded in 1543 and eventually taken over by the Jesuites in 1590 until 1762, later the college is then name the College Salinis with a Chapel consecrated in 1628 for a nice architecture view. Hôpital général Saint-Augustin started construction in 1715 ; it was for two centuries manage by the Sisters of St Vincent de Paul until its closing in 1974 when the new hospital was built. The tour d’Armagnac, built in the 14C was originally a prison on the archibishop palace then later warehouse of religious archives, and later back to prison in the 19C and served until 1860. The donjon tower of 40 meters is on top of the monumental stair and has the the prison cells on the lower section and some by level which you can see climbing a steep stair today.

The museum of the Jacobins of Auch or Musée des Jacobins d’Auch were created by govt order in 1793 to house the collections taken by force by the French revolution mostly paintings and objects of arts, additions to it were by the archeological museum of the Sociéte historique de Gascogne end of the 19C. In 1921 it was enriched by the donation of  Guillaume Pujos of great Latin American work and later by the ethnographic gascon collection of Henri Polge after WWII , after several moving the museum is finally since 1979 at the former convent of Jacobins  In 2007, the museum benefited from a donation by the Lions international that gave it the second collection of pre Colombian arts in France after that of the Museum of Quai Branly in Paris of which they collaborate.

There ,quite a bit of nice town deep in my France, you know you should come and visit it. Auch is great, we have good memories of visiting and eating there with the family.

Enjoy your long Easter weekend, happy travels, good health and plenty of cheers to all!!!

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