Religion in Museums

When museums and religion collide

Museum of Religion or Distillery? Palais Bénédictine at Fécamp

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Two weeks camping in hot sunshine overlooking the sea in Normandy. We did little but swim, walk and sit around. But we DID discover a new and quite extraordinary religious museum. Opened in 1888 in a huge and extraordinary gothic-revival-cum-renaissance palace, this magnificent if rather weird museum comprises the medieval art collection of a Fécamp wine dealer, Alexandre le Grand. A few years earlier he had developed a new liqueur which he called ‘Benedictine’ and claimed was based on a recipe from the monks of the long-dispersed Abbey of Fecamp. His museum, which he called a religious museum, was a brilliant marketing ploy. It gave his new drink a respectable status, associated it firmly with the Benedictine Order, and gave his distillery an extraordinary ‘front of house’.

What other ‘religious’ attractions were intended – partly, anyway – as product promotions? Tiger Balm Gardens in Singapore and (formerly) Hong Kong come to mind – any others?

Crispin

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