2024 Summer 1

Study-Abroad Program in Paris

E-Journal by Alondra Torres 

entry #1: Musee de Cluny 

National Museum of the Middle Ages 

The Musée de Cluny, known as the National Museum of the Middle Ages, is home to an impressive collection of medieval art, sculptures, and unique masterpieces. This museum plays a vital educational role, preserving and showcasing the rich cultural heritage of the Middle Ages. Among its most famous pieces are "The Lady and the Unicorn" (La Dame à la licorne) and various Gothic artworks, which maintain the museum's distinct aesthetic. Originally a church, the building was preserved by the French to honor its historical significance. The museum's collection primarily features religious art from the period just before the Renaissance.

 One artwork that particularly caught my attention is "Le Jugement Dernier" (The Last Judgment) by Jean Haincelin, created between 1430 and 1435. This piece, though potentially controversial, offers a vivid portrayal of medieval beliefs about the afterlife. At the top of the painting, we see what is considered “God,” surrounded by figures seemingly in praise. These figures, adorned with crosses, flags, and gold, might represent those willing to die for their faith and nation, gaining direct entry to heaven.In the middle of the artwork, an angel stands beside God, blowing a trumpet towards the area symbolizing hell. As the eye moves downward, the expressions and body language of the people become more distressed, indicating their growing concern. This downward path shows the clear difference between heaven and hell. Further down, an angel appears to guide the naked souls, symbolizing their return to a state of innocence and purity. This nudity is a powerful metaphor for humanity's vulnerability and the soul’s exposure to divine judgment. On the bottom right of the painting, the naked figures seem to be suffering in hell, depicting the consequences of sin. Meanwhile, the figures on the bottom left appear to be already dead, possibly awaiting their final judgment.

To me, "Le Jugement Dernier" is a profound representation of heaven and hell, capturing the medieval worldview of divine justice and the afterlife. The Musée de Cluny, with its remarkable collection and historical preservation, offers a unique glimpse into the Middle Ages, allowing visitors to connect with the past and explore the rich tapestry of medieval art and culture. Additionally, the museum frequently hosts temporary exhibitions and educational programs that delve deeper into specific aspects of the medieval period, making it an essential destination for anyone interested in history and art. The atmosphere of the museum, with its ancient architecture and fascinating displays, truly transports you back in time, making each visit a memorable experience.

entry #2: Louvre 

entry #3: Versailles 

entry #4: Pantheon 

entry #5: Orsay Museum 

1st train station turned into museum 

The Musée d'Orsay in Paris began its life as a train station in the early 1900s. It was built and designed for the World Fair to celebrate France's achievements. This wasn't just a train station; it also had a luxurious hotel, making it a unique and important Parisian landmark. The station’s design was an impressive mix of modern architecture and engineering. It quickly became a symbol of French innovation and elegance in the early 1900s. In its early days, the train station was very busy, connecting different parts of Paris and throughout the southwest of France. However, as transportation technology advanced, the station became outdated. Efficient transportation methods emerged, and the original train station saw a decline in use, which caused the train station to be abandoned. Over time, the French government recognized the architectural and historical value of this building and decided to preserve it by converting it into a museum. This visionary decision to remodel the old train station into a museum instead of tearing it down made history. The Musée d'Orsay, dedicated to art from 1848 to 1914, gave the building a new and meaningful purpose. It quickly became one of the world’s most important art museums.

The Musée d'Orsay boasts an extensive collection of art, including paintings, sculptures, photographs, and decorative arts. The museum’s collection includes masterpieces by famous artists like Monet, Van Gogh, Degas, Renoir, and more. These artworks are displayed in the beautifully restored spaces of the former train station, creating a unique and inspiring setting for visitors. It is, in fact, the first train station ever converted into a museum, and it continues to captivate and inspire visitors from around the world. The museum not only celebrates France's rich cultural heritage but also highlights the enduring beauty and adaptability of historical architecture. By transforming the old train station into a world-class museum, the legacy of the original structure lives on, allowing people to appreciate both its architectural magnificence and the incredible art it houses.The transformation of the Musée d'Orsay has ensured that the building remains a vibrant and significant part of Paris's cultural landscape. The museum frequently hosts temporary exhibitions, educational programs, and cultural events, making it a dynamic and engaging space for both locals and tourists. The seamless blend of historical architecture with modern museum practices creates an atmosphere where the past and present coexist beautifully. Each visit to the Musée d'Orsay offers a chance to explore the depths of human creativity and the timeless appeal of art, all within the walls of a once-abandoned train station turned cultural gem.

entry #6: Eiffel Tower 

How romantic would the city of love be without the Eiffel Tower? Imagine Paris without its iconic symbol. The city would lose a part of its heart, as the Eiffel Tower is not just a structure but a symbol of Parisian identity and creativity. Built for the 1889 World’s Fair to mark a century since the French Revolution, Gustave Eiffel’s design faced criticism for its unconventional appearance and color. However, its importance went beyond looks when it became a vital radio transmission station during World War I, playing a crucial role in military communications.

Despite early doubts and calls to take it apart, the Eiffel Tower proved its worth, intercepting enemy messages and showing its unexpected usefulness in defending the nation. Over time, opinions changed, and the tower evolved into a beloved symbol of Paris, inspiring generations of artists, writers, and filmmakers worldwide. Today, it stands as one of the most visited landmarks globally, drawing millions of tourists annually.

The Eiffel Tower’s journey from controversy to admiration mirrors Paris’s own transformation into a city celebrated for its beauty, culture, and artistic brilliance. It also celebrates the achievements of science and engineering, with 72 names of notable scientists engraved around the tower, honoring their contributions to human knowledge and progress. As a symbol of inspiration and cleverness, the Eiffel Tower continues to captivate hearts and minds, embodying the spirit of romance and creativity that defines Paris and resonates across the globe. Utilizing over 18,000 iron pieces assembled with precision. Beyond its engineering feats, the Eiffel Tower holds cultural significance as a beacon of French pride and innovation. Artists have been inspired by its form and presence, capturing its essence in countless paintings, photographs, and films.

As a symbol of resilience and adaptability, the Eiffel Tower has also undergone several transformations over the years. It has been repainted numerous times to protect against rust and maintain its iconic reddish-brown color, which was carefully chosen to complement the Parisian landscape. The Eiffel Tower’s enduring popularity and cultural significance make it more than just a landmark; it is a living testament to the spirit of Paris and a beacon of inspiration for generations to come.

entry #7: Rodin Museum & Montmartre 

entry #8: Pompidou Center 

entry #9: Quai Branly Museum 

entry #10: Natural History Museum 


I am forever grateful for this amazing opportunity of studying abroad in Paris.