The Hospices de Beaune is undoubtedly an icon of Burgundy. This prestigious building, built under the reign of Duke of Burgundy, Philip the Good, is an architectural masterpiece. It's hard to imagine that such a monument was once used as a hospital. But this was its function up until it became a museum. It's a popular place with visitors staying in Beaune and on the Route des Grands Crus (Route of the Great Wines).
Brief history of the Hôtel-Dieu
In 1443, Nicolas Rolin, the extremely wealthy chancellor of the Duke of Burgundy, Philip the Good, and his wife, Guigone de Salins, built the Hospices de Beaune, a hospital to welcome and treat the poor and needy.
Louis XI is believed to have said about Rolin:
he has made enough people poor in his life to be able to provide them shelter today!
The building served this charitable and medicinal purpose until 1971. It was then transformed into a museum. The fabulous treasures inside the building definitely made the conversion worthwhile. The hospital was transferred to a more adapted and more modern location in Beaune.
The nuns from the Hospices de Beaune played their part in the Resistance. They took huge risks and hid prisoners and helped members of the Resistance. One of them, Maurice Drouhin, was threatened by the German police. Thanks to the 13th-century underground galleries, he found refuge at the Hospices.
Tour of the museum and its treasures
A wonderful architectural masterpiece, the Gothic-style facade is much more beautiful and majestic than that of any other similar buildings. It is a remarkable example of medieval architecture inspired by the Flanders style (at the time under the authority of the Dukedom of Burgundy). This architecture, as well as the glazed tiles on the roof, are well-known across the globe. It has almost become a symbol of Burgundy.
Inside, visitors can see the wards where the sick were treated (Salle des Pôvres and Salle Saint-Hugues) in individual cubicles. It is also possible to visit the kitchen and the apothecary. Not-to-mention the little wonders dotted all around the place: stylish furniture, precious paintings, tapestries, polychrome pillars, and clay pots.
Behind the altarpiece is the absolute highlight of the visit, in shades of bright gold, red and blue, the polyptych by Flemish painter Roger Van der Weyden. It is a polyptych altarpiece, several paintings on multiple panels. It was originally on display in the chapel for the sick, who could admire it on Sundays and public holidays, the rest of the time it was closed.
The Salle des Pôvres and the individual cubicles
Details of the Last Judgement polyptych
A museum AND a winegrowing estate
This private estate was mainly funded thanks to the prestigious winegrowing estate and around twenty winegrowers. The Hospices wine auction is one of the highlights of the year for the Burgundy vineyards.
Visits nearby: on the theme of wine and wine tourism
It's impossible to leave the capital of the Burgundy wines without going to a wine tasting cellar. And for those who are really passionate about wine, the Route des Grand Crus (Route of the Great Wines) covers 60 km past some legendary vineyards and prestigious winegrowing estates. Those who want to find out all about sparkling wines can take a tour of the Imaginarium and the Cassisium to unveil the secrets of blackcurrant.