Lyon, the Fourvière museum will reopen in April

Adjoining the Notre-Dame de Fourvière basilica, the religious art museum has had a makeover. After seven years of renovation work launched by the Fourvière Foundation, owner of the site, the museum will reopen its doors on April 20, 2024.

Created and installed since 1960 in the Maison Carrée, a listed historic monument, the museum had only undergone some redevelopment work in the 1990s. “The museum was therefore in poor condition. The walls had significant cracks and it was no longer possible to guarantee ideal exhibition conditions for the works” explains Manuelle-Anne Renault, curatorial assistant at the museum, Arts Journal. “Air treatment and hygrometry work therefore proved necessary”.

Although the project to expand the museum was not possible, the entire scenography was however redesigned. In a space of 300 m² in total, two rooms are now devoted to the permanent tour which has as its theme Marian devotion since medieval times, and in particular Lyon piety. The history of the Fourvière site is thus highlighted through a selection of engravings, ex-votos, objects, paintings and sculptures.

The main room, housed in the old chapel, will be dedicated to temporary exhibitions. “The museum is keen to present varied exhibitions, which give pride of place to both the historical and the contemporary”, underlines Manuelle-Anne Renault. The opening of the museum will be inaugurated with the exhibition “Face to Face” by contemporary artist François-Xavier de Boissoudy. The Cambrésian painter will present a series of ink wash works which reflect the theme of the Crucifixion. Then from October, the museum will exhibit the donations it has received over the past ten years. In 2025, he plans to present the treasure of Frankfurt Cathedral, the coronation place of the sovereigns of the Holy Roman Empire.

This renovation is part of the “A new impetus for Fourvière” plan, launched by the Fourvière Foundation in 2016. The private foundation, owner of the basilica and the buildings surrounding it, announced in 2015 its project to redevelop the entire site of Fourvière. Significant funds were then raised. Of the 25 million euros planned in the original budget, half was financed by institutions and communities (diocese, State, Region, City), 7 million euros by patrons and companies and 5 million from own funds of the Foundation and by donations from visitors. The museum renovation project was delayed by two years because of the Covid crisis, but also following the discovery of 19th century frescoes under the painting of the old chapel. The cost of the work undertaken is estimated at 4 million euros in total.

The Fourvière Foundation also launched a sponsorship campaign in January 2023 with the Heritage Foundation, which aims to raise funds to be able to restore the towers of the basilica. It is also planned to create a room in the northeast tower to house Fourvière’s treasure. Originally exhibited in the museum, the treasure is today kept in reserves, due to a lack of a dedicated exhibition space. It brings together pieces of goldwork from the 19th and 20th centuries. The crown of the Virgin, a jewel of the collection estimated at 1 million euros, was stolen in 2017 during a burglary from the museum.

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