PORTRAIT

Alexander the Great

creator of the Benedictine liqueur in Fécamp

Do you know Alexander the Great?
Not the one from Macedonia but the one from Fécamp in Normandy, a different kind of conqueror.

His secret weapon? Being a dreamy and visionary character with a sharp sense of business and marketing.
He was the creator of the famous liqueur from Fécamp: the Benedictine liqueur….

Palais Benedictine Int 2017 10 C Oit Fecamp (7952)Palais Benedictine Int 2017 10 C Oit Fecamp (7952)
©Palais Benedictine Int 2017 10 C Oit Fecamp (7952)


Alexander the Great:

the discovery that changed his life

On June 6, 1830, Alexandre Prosper Hubert Le Grand was born, the son of a Norman ship captain.

But the story begins in 1510 long before he was born, at the Abbey of Fécamp, when the Benedictine monk Dom Bernardo Vincelli is said to have created a secret elixir.
This elixir was produced by the Benedictine monks of Fécamp until the French Revolution, a turbulent time during which the recipe for this famous elixir was lost…

 

Francis IFrancis I
©Francis I

At the time, King Francis I, who was visiting Fécamp, tasted it and liked it so much that, according to legend, he pronounced “Foy de Gentilhomme, oncques n’en goustai de meilleure!”

It was in 1863, that Alexandre Le Grand, Fécampois, wine and spirits merchant, would have discovered by chance in the family library the composition of this elixir lost during the Revolution.
After a year of deciphering the manuscript, Alexandre Le Grand invented the Benedictine liqueur, named after the Benedictine monk Dom Bernardo Vincelli.

The digestif de Fécamp is composed of 27 plants and spices, from the plateaus of Caux (lemon balm, thyme, hyssop, honey, orange peel …) as well as from distant lands (cinnamon, saffron, cardamom, tea, nutmeg …).

Alexander the Great:

a dazzling success

The commercial success was immediate, in 6 years the liqueur was exported abroad and by 1873, more than 150,000 bottles per year were sold.

In order to produce his liqueur on a large scale, Alexandre Le Grand had a distillery built in the heart of Fécamp.

In 1892, four years after its construction, the building burned down in a major fire.
Alexandre Le Grand, took advantage of this misfortune to build a new, even more spectacular building:The Benedictine Palace.

Benedictine Palace:

the only distillery in the world producing the famous liqueur and architectural fame of Fécamp

The Benedictine Palace is a building mixing “Neo Gothic and Neo Renaissance” styles. Built around the distillery in Fécamp, it is both the place where Benedictine liqueur is produced and a Museum where Alexander the Great, a great collector, arranged his works and fetish objects from the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries.
Each room is decorated in the style of the period it presents!

Compared to the “industrial Versailles”, the Benedictine palace of Fécamp will be inaugurated in 1898, two years after the death of its creator.

Alexander the Great:

precursor

Marketing genius, Alexandre Le Grand was one of the first in his time to advertise internationally for his liqueur and create advertising posters by great artists of renown such as Mucha.

As the elixir became known worldwide, and the recipe was kept secret, many people wanted to reproduce it.

In order to protect the Fécampoise liqueur from counterfeiting, Alexandre Le Grand registered the brand name of the beverage: its name, the shape of the bottle, its acronym and many other details composing it are still protected today.

He also had the inscription, “Genuine Benedictine,” and the acronym D.O.M. (Deo Optimo Maximo, Latin for: “To God, the best, the greatest”) affixed to each of his bottle caps, as well as a large lead ligature around the neck of the bottles with the inscription, “Genuine † Benedictine.”

The merchant went so far as to solicit the Pope, on whom the abbey of Fécamp directly depended, to use the brotherhood’s coat of arms on the bottle label. He was successful, but the Holy Father also named him a commander of the order of St. Gregory the Great.

You can, during your visit to the Benedictine Palace, visit a room collecting about 600 counterfeits of which the Benedictine was a victim. It is one of the most copied liqueurs in the world.

Alexander the Great:

this character full of surprises with a very active life

As you may have discovered, Alexandre Le Grand (the one from Fécamp in Normandy) was an innovative man for his time, filled with ambition, dreams and sharing.

Dying on May 20, 1898 in Neuilly-sur-Seine, he is known mainly for his liquor and his Palais, but he was also a captain of the Paris fire department and decorated with the Legion of Honor for fighting the Sainte-Chapelle fire.

At the end of his life, he also undertook to modernize agriculture by leading the operation of a 160-hectare model farm adjoining his castle of Gruville.

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