The Gazophylacium: An Argument for European Medieval Religious Sites as the First Museums in the West


The origins of museums as public institutions are often traced to the mid- to late nineteenth century. However, medieval religious sites in Europe satisfy the current definitions of museums and operated in a role similar to that of contemporary museums. Evidence is presented to show that these sites were in fact museums as we conceive of the institution, based on similarities in audience, staff, funding, permanence, collections, exhibitions, social needs, and other purposes. European religious sites from the birth of Christianity to the beginning of the Renaissance are used as illustrations to demonstrate how these institutions were incredibly similar to museums today and should be recontextualized within museological history.

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Last updated on 11/02/2015