The Castle of Lavaux-Sainte-Anne features three museums and a nature reserve
After Suzanna and I had enjoyed our 12 km morning walk around the area, we visited the Castle of Lavaux-Sainte-Anne. It’s listed as one of Wallonia’s exceptional heritage sites. Not surprisingly, it’s a popular tourist destination, and a much sought after location for society weddings. It’s certainly a beautiful and well-maintained castle with an attractive courtyard garden.
The castle is fully open to the public, with 32 furnished and decorated rooms to discover. It is separated into three museums.
The first two museums
The first is the Museum of the Life of the Lords of Lavaux in the 17th century, showing how they lived, what they wore, what they eat and drank, where they slept etc. The second area is in the cellars. Here, the Museum of Rural Life presents everyday objects, customs and rural festivals of the late 19th century.
I found these two museums interesting. Each of the rooms has plenty of fascinating antiquities to investigate. They are well displayed and described, and in many of the rooms there is tasteful atmospheric music playing.
The third museum
I had some reservations about the third museum. It’s called the Museum of Nature and Hunting, and its objective is to “reveal the wealth of wildlife to be found in the Famenne region.”
However, it’s full of stuffed animals; scores of them distributed over a dozen or so rooms. Personally I question whether dead animals are the best way to reveal the wealth of living wildlife in an area.
All these creatures have at some point in the past been shot or trapped. I understand that in the absence of natural predators, there is a place for the culling of wild boar and deer. But I don’t like to see stuffed owls, falcons, hawks, buzzards, eagles, a vulture, ducks, geese, grebes, songbirds, finches, a bee-eater, a golden oriole, a kingfisher, a heron, weasels, stoats, badgers, foxes – all of them presumably victims of the sport of hunting and shooting.
In that respect the animals display the PAST wealth of wildlife in the area; not necessarily the PRESENT biodiversity (which could be less after all these animals had been killed!).
Of course, a museum by definition deals with the past. This one in particular gives a snapshot of the hunting culture of years gone by. But I do think there might be better ways of revealing the current wealth of wildlife in a region. For example:
- Photographs: There are many superb nature photographers around who could display their pictures of the local wildlife. I would rather see a photo of a wild boar than its head mounted as a trophy on a wall.
- Videos: Naturalists now use special night cameras to capture the movements of nocturnal animals. I would rather see an infrared movie of a badger emerging from its sett than a stuffed badger.
To be honest, there was a small room that displayed some lovely photographs of deer. But in the next few rooms I was brought down to earth by displays of all sorts of traps and guns, which some people, especially children, may find upsetting.
There was even a poster showing how a roe deer reacts to being shot in various body parts:
So as a Museum of Hunting, I can see it serves some purpose – although personally it did not appeal to me. But as a Museum of Nature I felt it fell somewhat short.
However, to give credit to the Castle, the owners do seem to be genuinely concerned with nature conservation. In their grounds they have devoted quite an extensive area to natural wetland, with ponds and reedbeds sheltering a great variety of fauna and flora.
It’s possible to walk through this area, and information panels tell you what to look out for. It’s an excellent initiative that is surprisingly refreshing after walking through the Museum of Hunting and Nature.
And after all, what the Castle is doing practically for local nature outside its four walls is more important than what it is displaying inside. So in that respect the Castle of Lavaux-Sainte-Anne gets a big thumbs up.
What do you think?
Have you visited the Castle of Lavaux-Sainte-Anne? What were your impressions?
If you haven’t, would you be put off by stuffed animals? What are your children’s reactions when they see stuffed animals, animal traps and guns?
Looking forward to your thoughts.
The castle’s response
I sent this post to the castle and received this reply:
“In 1930 our castle was a total ruin. It was restored in 1933 thanks to a donation of 4 million euros from Baroness Lemonnier.
“In return for her donation, she wanted a hunting museum in the castle in loving memory of her husband who died in 1930 (hunting was his hobby). We still respect her order and that’s why there are stuffed animals in parts of the castle to show all the animals that live in this area.
“Some of these animals no longer live in our area (not all because of the hunt) and some were never hunted here such as the kingfisher. The protected animals were just found dead, were stuffed and given to us to complete our collection. Our goal is to respect the Baroness’s order and to show the animals of the area.
“Some people don’t like it, others do, and children find it great to touch a deer or a fox, without risk. I think different people have different views. Wouldn’t it be boring if everyone thought the same?”
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