The Museum of Fourvière is a museum of religious art. The Treasury of Fourvière is displayed there permanently. The museum also chooses to organise temporary exhibitions to introduce a large audience to treasures of the Christian religious heritage, French or not, old or contemporary. It is also the depositary of an important collection of historical and artistic items regularly displayed within the exhibitions.
The Museum mostly owns works of art from the 19th century, created by local goldsmiths such as Armand-Calliat. The collection has also been enriched by 17th and 20th century items.
The Museum of religious art of Fourvière owns a collection made of more than 5 000 items of religious vestments. Lyons, renowned for its silk, was one of the centres of religious clothing tailoring. The collection includes items from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
Fourvière has always been a place where the Lyonnais would come and invoke Mary. To thank her, they had paintings done and hung on the walls of the Chapel of Our Lady. Some pictures show that the walls and ceilings were once completely covered by paintings. Unfortunately, in the middle of the 20th century, a very large part of the painted ex-voto was destroyed and the Lyonnais then chose to engrave their thanks on slabs of marble. It is possible today to see a small part of the painted ex-voto in the Chapel of Our Lady next to the Basilica. The rest of the collection is kept in the storehouse of the Museum. Some ex-voto have not only a devotional value but also a great historical and artistic one.
It mainly includes wooden and stone Marian statues which date back to the 13th century for the oldest one. The Museum owns a little over 300 statues. Most of them come from a collection gathered by an old cannon of the basilica.
The Museum is in possession of a collection of drawings from major silk manufacturers in Lyons (Maison Tassinari) or goldsmith’s workshops (Armand-Calliat). The Fourvière Foundation is also the heir of the Commission of Fourvière which built the Basilica in 1872. Therefore it has kept all the construction plans. Some of them are watercolours. All the plans and the preparatory drawings for the mosaics, stained-glass windows and sculptures are kept in the storehouse of the Museum of religious art of Fourvière.
Popular devotional items.
One of the missions of the Museum of religious art of Fourvière is to keep a memory of the devotion of the Lyonnais throughout the centuries. All these items are kept in the storehouse and supply the temporary exhibitions according to their themes.