Saint-Roche Hospice, an exceptional museum in Isudoun

Located in the former Hôtel-Dieu, to which a modern extension was added in 1995, the Issoldunois Museum preserves wonderful surprises and discoveries for visitors, with its very diverse, well-displayed collections and several exceptional exhibits. Go to Isudun!

I heard about the Saint-Roche Hospice Museum in Isudoun as a quality museum that is worth a visit, but has never been there. Wrong, because I made this detour, and the expression “quality” is an understatement.

The Museum of the Saint-Roche Hospice is a museum of a small town – Isudoun, with 12,000 inhabitants – but it is a large museum called the Museum of France.

Saint-Roche Hospice Museum in Isuduni © Isabel Bardio

Museum between history and modernity

Upon arrival from the bright hall in the last part of the museum offers a wide view of the oldest part – Hôtel-Dieu 12th century.and Art., rebuilt in the 15th centuryand – and immediately gives an idea of ​​the richness of the place: between history and modernity, antiquity and modern art.

The Hôtel-Dieu houses archeological and historical collections from traditional discoveries in the region. Less classic is the rarity and quality of preservation of several items: an exclusive buckle for a belt of the Merovingian period, finely engraved, which also serves as a reliquary; Celtic sword; bronze griffin, a half-horned hemisphere, found in Isudun and possibly from the 13th century.and century; reclining statue of Abbot Isudun, dated to the late 12th century.and century and its copper and Limoges enamel cracker found in the tomb… There are no objects here, but sober scenery that emphasizes beautiful and amazing objects.

Exceptional archeological and historical collections © Isabelle Bardiau

Exceptional archeological and historical collections © Isabelle Bardiau

Two monumental Jesse trees

A simple snack before the highlight of the show: the chapel dedicated to St. Roch, the patron saint of patients and surgeons, with two Jesse trees of the late 15th century. Jesse, a biblical character, the father of King David, is often represented as the root of a tree, each branch of which bears the ancestor of Jesus. That’s why the Jesse tree is a well-known motif, but the ones from the Saint-Roche hospice in Isudoun are quite beautiful: “These are sculptures in very high relief, very well preserved and absolutely unique in the number of characters depicted. Patrice Moreau, curator of the museum. Fifteen for the tree of the royal ancestors of Jesus and sixteen for the tree of the prophets. Located in two corners of the east wall, the two trees form an exceptional ensemble, as if it were a huge altar. The chapel has other treasures for the eyes, such as this other wall, completely decorated with fleur-de-lis, stained glass windows of the 15th century or the twelve apostles depicted on the brackets of the main beams. The whole, of course, is classified as a historical monument.

two monumental Jesse trees

Two monumental Jesse trees © Isabel Bardio

The incredible pharmacist of the Saint-Roche hospice

This may be the end of the visit; but he has many other surprises. I can hardly catch my breath, as a few steps further is another historical monument, a completely different kind, this:hospice pharmacist, created in 1646 stands before us, with its rows of pots. It is here that all sorts of medicines were prepared from strange and mysterious ingredients. Nearly 400 pots of the 17th-18th centuries lined up there on shelves gathered around a magnificent late-15th-century bronze mortar brought by a pharmacist recruited by the hospice. And also a collection of 31 painted wooden boxes of the early 17th century, called silanes, which also contained medicine. This set makes it «one of the best preserved and most important hospital pharmacies in France “- emphasizes Patrice Moreau.

Pharmacist Isudun

One of the best preserved and most important pharmacists in France © Isabelle Bardiau

Contemporary art in the spotlight

On the top floor, visitors find a collection of 17th-century paintings from the city’s former museum of fine arts, bombed in 1940. In the middle of one of the rooms – harpsichords. Not every harpsichord: this one was completely painted and made in 1648 by Jean Denny, a prominent instrument maker of the time. Listed as a historical monument, it is the oldest French harpsichord, dated and signed in French public collections. And it is in Berry, in Isudun, that you must come and see it.

The oldest French harpsichord © Isabelle Bardiau

The oldest French harpsichord © Isabelle Bardiau

Rich seasonal exhibits

The rest of the visit takes place in the last part, much of which is devoted to contemporary art, including graphic art. The area, for which the Isoldunua Museum is “very well defined in the region and at the national level”, says the museum’s curator. The organization of seasonal exhibitions gives the opportunity to regularly update the exhibited works. The next one, called Vibrations de la nature, will be offered from June 4 to September 4 around abstract paintings by Pierre Vemaier, inspired by nature and landscapes. The Georges Pompidou Center, the National Foundation for Contemporary Art and other contemporary art institutions also often take part in exhibitions at the Saint-Roche Hospice. Another, smaller exhibition will bring together a selection of works donated to the museum by Zao Woo-Ki (1920-2013), a famous Chinese artist who naturalized the French language, including works by Dubuffe and Aleczynski.

Travel to Papua New Guinea

The issoldunois museum has received several donations and this is no accident. The harmony found between the old and the modern, the replenishment of collections, the closeness of the main works are attractive arguments for donors.

Each donation has a wonderful character, and the museum expands without hesitation to accommodate them. Fred De and Mr. Cecil Reims, who have lived in the south of Andrew for a long time, entrusted him with a very rich collection of works – drawings and engravings with such characteristic lines, books – and personal items that plunge into the world. the atmosphere where the two artists lived and worked.

Collection of Fred De and Cecil Reims

Collection of Fred Deux and Cécile Reims © Isabelle Bardiau

Among these personal belongings is a collection of ethnographic objects (masks, statues, etc.), which are a perfect transition to another donation made to the museum by the Congregation of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Isudun. Founded in 1854, it has carried out evangelization missions in Oceania, particularly in Papua New Guinea, from which its members brought a very rich collection, which took place at the Museum on the Branly in Paris.

Papua space

Space Papua © Isabel Bardio

The donation of Leonor Feeney, an artist who died in 1996, was close to the Surrealists and immerses us in another universe. The museum preserves an identical reconstruction of the living room of his Parisian apartment in a luxurious Art Nouveau decor with items and furniture signed by designers such as Louis Majorelle and Emile Halle.

Contemporary art Issoudun

Contemporary art © Isabelle Bardiau

Open-air museum

The visit ends on the street, in the sculpture park, which has been open since 2020. 5000 m2, designed on the site of the former Hôtel-Dieu gardens and outbuildings, inhabited by sculptures by 20th and 21st century artists: Max Ernst, Andre Masson, Cesar, Vincent Mauger… A real open-air museum room.

Issoudun Sculpture Park

The highlight of the play: an open-air museum with a sculpture park © Isabelle Bardiau

That’s all, the Isudun Museum and much more. I waited too long to get there. Don’t make the same mistake. Especially the icing on the cake that the entrance is free.

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