We went to the Cluny Museum this afternoon, France’s national museum of the Middle Ages, inside a ruined former monastery on the Left Bank — a monastery built over the ruins of the thermal baths from Roman times. Above is a medieval crown from a French-descended Croatian queen, now on special exhibit at the Cluny. It was a pleasure to point out to my Louisiana children the fleur de lys in the crown, and to explain to them how the symbol they see everywhere in south Louisiana, even on the backs of pick-up trucks, turns up in a Croatian crown of the Middle Ages.

What a joy the Cluny was! Look at these photos:

This is a painted medieval table. I was entranced by the green hue. The pattern comes from sunlight streaming through a side window.

Observe the fleur de lys, a symbol of the Virgin, and of French royalty.

One of the famous Unicorn Tapestries. And yes, they are that vivid. The series tells the story of a woman testing each of her senses (the one above is smell — the flowers, see?), but refusing them for the desire of God.

 An illuminated songbook of the Middle Ages.

This is a page from an illuminated copy of Aristotle’s “Metaphysics,” belonging to St. Thomas Aquinas. In fact, Aquinas’s handwritten notes are in the margins. To stand in front of this document and to reflect on all this was a humbling thing. (I apologize for the blurriness, but flash photography is forbidden in the museum, and the lights are kept down low to protect the manuscripts).

Not every member of the Dreher family enjoyed the Musee Cluny, e.g., this eight-year-old boy, who must by now be thinking that this Paris museum thing is a rip-off:

This trip is overwhelming my curiosity. I left wanting to know so much more about the French monarchy — Merovingians, Carolingians, Capetians. Life is too short.