Take a trip to the Lille from the 13th century to the 18th century by visiting the Musée de l'Hospice Comtesse and discover its Flemish soul. Not that French Known today as a bustling university city, Lille was once an important merchant center of French Flanders. The building that houses the museum depicts those Flemish roots that are still present in the surroundings of the capital city – an important portrait of its heritage. Lille wasn't part of the French territory till 1667 when under the reign of Louis XIV was conquered from the Spanish Netherlands. If you are curious to learn more about the history of Lille, the museum deserves your stop.
The colorful building
Located in the Old Town of Lille, the building that hosts the museum was an old hospice for sick and wounded patients founded in 1237 by Countess Jeanne de Flandre and run by the Augustine nuns. It is one of the last testaments of the actions taken by the Countess and it remained in service till 1939. The red-brick building is a demonstration of the architecture from the 15th, 17th and 18th centuries, with a ground floor offering visitors the intimacy of the entrance of a Flemish house of the time. The structure consists of the Hospital Hall with barrel-vaulted ceilings and a chapel with a mid-19th-century painted ceiling with the images of the main benefactors. Both are arranged around two courtyards and a medicinal garden, which brings to life the hospital spirit and vocation of the place.
What you'll see
Since 1962, the buildings became the setting for a collection of paintings, porcelain from the region, tapestries, ceramics, wall tiles and religious art to recreate the story of how the nuns lived in this small Flemish convent. In the kitchen, you will admire tiles inspired by the Dutch city of Delft and in the rooms, typical Flemish furniture made with details that resemble the era. You will also witness a detailed exhibition on the history of Lille and how it transformed into what it is today, beautifully displayed in the dormitory of the nuns. The chapel usually hosts temporary collections of contemporary art, so it depends when you are visiting what you will discover. The garden is a beautiful place to take a stroll and observe the medicinal plants that were used by the nuns to cure the patients. Get some fresh air and admire the fountain too!
Immerse in the story
The ticket fee includes a guidebook in three languages with highlights and explanations of the exhibition. However, travelers recommend purchasing the audio tour in English, as it is very informative of the whole museum and will help you imagine how life at the hospice was. You will typically spend one hour and a half to admire all the exhibition.