This is not just a provincial fine arts museum; most significantly, it also holds the Alençon lace museum, where you can learn about the history and manufacture of this local craft and admire stunning pieces.
Alençon already had something of a lace-making tradition when, in the 17th century, Louis XIV’s dynamic minister for enterprise, Colbert, opened a lace-making factory here. He helped the development of the craft by bringing over specialists from Venice, which until then had a near-monopoly on producing the finest lace. A woman named Mme La Perrière devised a way of dividing the labour between local women around Alençon, so making lace in highly organised fashion. Ever more sophisticated patterns were created thanks to the unique needlepoint the teams used. Alençon and southern Normandy supplied the court with great quantities of the material. Since the Revolution, lace-making here has waxed and waned. Today, just a dozen women continue the intricate craft of making Alençon needlepoint lace, which requires many years of training.
> The Birthplace of Sainte-Thérèse de l'Enfant Jésus (rue Saint-Blaise): devotees visit the room where Thérèse Martin was born and the chapel next to her childhood home, as well as Alençon’s basilica.(See also the entry on Lisieux, the Norman town to which the Martin family moved and where Thérèse Martin entered religious orders.)
A grand Gothic edifice, it was influenced by English styles, as the town was occupied by English forces in the Hundred Years War, when much of the building work was carried out. The church is fronted by a sumptuous porch added early in the 16th century, its intricate architecture sometimes compared to lace-work in stone. Inside, admire the refined 16th-century stained-glass windows. This was the church where Thérèse Martin was baptised and which, before that, had witnessed the marriage of her parents, both of whom were declared blessed by Pope Benedict XVI, who raised Alençon’s main church to the status of a basilica in 2009.