‘Napoleon, Beyond The Myth’ exhibition at Liège-Guillemins Railway Station

One of Napoleon’s hats.

Until 9 January 2022 you can visit the ‘Napoleon, Beyond The Myth‘ exhibition at Liège-Guillemins Railway Station. Thijs and I visited in June. 

Does Napoleon need introduction? Napoléon Bonaparte, was a French military and political leader who rose to prominence during the French Revolution and led several successful campaigns during the Revolutionary Wars. He was the de facto leader of the French Republic as First Consul from 1799 to 1804. 

As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 until 1814 and again in 1815. Napoleon dominated European and global affairs for more than a decade while leading France against a series of coalitions in the Napoleonic Wars

He won most of these wars and the vast majority of his battles, building a large empire that ruled over continental Europe before its final collapse in 1815. One of the greatest commanders in history, his wars and campaigns are studied at military schools worldwide. He remains one of the most celebrated and controversial political figures in human history.

The exhibition

“From man to legend, the major steps that shaped an outstanding personality are discussed in detail. There are hundreds of original pieces revealed through impressive staging, bearing witness to the incredible life of Napoleon Bonaparte”, the exhibition website says. 

“The scenographic approach wishes to be objective, critical, and nuanced by serious historical studies benefiting from historians of the University of Liège and the Napoleon Foundation’s patronage. The exhibition focuses on a dozen themes to better know the man, his life and his work. 

“Three great original sets, remarkable situations, exceptional pieces, texts, films and even a quadrilingual audio guide will make your visit exciting and enlightening.”

Walking through

The exhibition starts with the end, with the Saint Helena chapter. That’s not a random choice, as Napoleon’s death happened now 200 years ago, on the 5th of May 1821. 

Afterwards the the exhibition explores the French Revolution, the soldier years, the rise to power, the coronation, placing his family on thrones and his many military campaigns. Obviously there is a lot of attention for Waterloo

The splendour of his coronation, Napoleon as lawmaker, as icon, legend and as a myth also get attention. His visits to Belgium are also explored.

Is it any good?

The exhibition is comprehensive. The mannequins make a poor figure. A more elegant solution must have been possible. The audioguide was good. Short, to the point and most of the time very comprehensible. 

Sometimes though there weren’t explanations for certain artifacts. And the sequence of panels was also sometimes confusing.

I would also recommend reading up on Napoleon before going. I’m glad I was acquainted with his life and career. I did learn a few things and I enjoyed the exhibited objects. 

We spent over two hours inside. We were almost the only visitors. 

Further reading and listening

Mentions of Napoleon

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