Beaune is the wine capital of Burgundy, a region of universal renown, home to villages, major wine producers such as Montrachet, Saint-Veran, Savigny, Pommard and Puligny. The small town centre is cosy and laid-back with cobbled streets, historic building, charming squares, and as you would expect, a number of shops catering to tourists coming here for wine tastings and wine cellar visits. Situated right in the heart of this historic town is the jewel of Beaune and a place of legend.
The history of Hospices de Beaune dates back to the middle of the 15th century, a time of misery, famine and destitution at the tail end of the 100-years war with the Kingdom of England. In 1441, Duke Philip the Good’s Chancellor, Nicolas Rolin and his wife Guigone de Salins, were given permission from Pope Eugene IV to build a hospital and refuge for the poor. The hospital, also known as “Hotel-Dieu”, was consecrated on 31 December 1452 and the religious order of sisters, “Les sœurs hospitalières de Beaune”, was established.
THE CLIMATS OF BURGUNDY – WORLD HERITAGE
The distinctive qualities and diversity of each plot vineyard land of the Côte wine region of Burgundy, called a climat, have been recognised and defined over centuries of experience and expertise. The heritage buildings of the cities of Beaune and Dijon are tangible examples of this cultural construction. The Climats of Burgundy were inscribed on the World Heritage list in 2015.
A Palace for the Poor
Behind the austere street side exterior lies a spacious courtyard, embraced, as it were, by a series of buildings whose colourful and flamboyant style must have felt both comforting and uplifting, inspiring hope for those in need of care in trying times. The warm and inviting colours of the partially wooden facade and the polychrome glazed-tiled roofs on three sides are offset by the sober monochrome slates of the main hospital building, or the “room of the poor”. The vivid roof patterns and designs, said to be typical of Burgundy, are possibly of eastern European origin. The construction of buildings, a blend of Renaissance and Gothic style elements, was apparently overseen by a Flemish architect and built by French and Flemish craftsmen.
A highlight among the many artistic treasures at Hospices de Beaune is the exquisite altarpiece depicting scenes from “The Last Judgement”. Painted by the Flemish artist Rogier van der Weyden (see detail below), the fifteen panels polyptych is considered to be an absolute masterpiece of the golden age of Flemish painting.
Photos (clockwise order):
From the pharmacy
Nurse and patient
Detail of “The Last Judgement” by Rogier van der Weyden
Detail of beam and ceiling in the room of the poor (see photo below)
Annual wine auctions
The Domaine des Hospices de Beaune is a non-profit organisation which owns some 61 hectares of vineyard land, producing wines in the Grand and Premier cru classification. Taking place on the third Sunday in November, the Hospices de Beaune charity auction have been arranged every year since 1859.