- ANNECY AND MONT BLANC -

Beaune Part 2

LINKS to other pages in the Annecy and Mont Blanc website and to the Travelling Days series:

1 : Introduction and Index
2 : Setting Out
3 : Beaune
4 : Annecy
5 : Mont Blanc and Mer de Glace
6 : Aix-les-Bains and Lac du Bourget
7 : Homeward Bound
8 : Paris

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The Hôtel-Dieu was founded on 4 August 1443, when Burgundy was ruled by Duke Philip the Good (Philippe le Bon). The Hundred Years War had recently been brought to a close by the signing of the Treaty of Arras in 1435.

Massacres, however, continued with marauding bands ("écorcheurs") still roaming the countryside, pillaging and destroying, provoking misery and famine. The majority of the people of Beaune were declared destitute. Nicolas Rolin, the Duke's Chancellor, and his wife Guigone de Salins, reacted by deciding to create a hospital and refuge for the poor.

The courtyard has a rectangular format and is the best location to admire the different buildings three of which are decorated with a glazed-tile roof.

The technique has probably its origins in Central Europe but became quickly a landmark of the architecture from Burgundy.

These tiles have four colours (red, brown, yellow and green) with interlaced designs. The current tiles have been recreated between 1902 and 1907. The Northern, Eastern and Western buildings include a two-level gallery with stone columns on the ground floor and wood beams on the first floor. Many dormer and attic windows have finely detailed wood and iron works.


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The Hospices de Beaune received the first patient on 1st January 1452. Elderly, disabled and sick people, orphans, women about to give birth and the destitute have all been uninterruptedly welcomed for treatment and refuge, from the Middle Ages until today. Services for patients are now provided in modern hospital buildings.



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Over the centuries, the hospital radiated outwards, grouping with similar establishments in the surrounding villages of Pommard, Nolay, Meursault. Many donations - farms, property, woods, works of art and of course vineyards - were made to it, by grateful families and generous benefactors.

The institution is one of the best and oldest example of historical, philanthropic, and wine-producing heritage, and has become linked with the economic and cultural life of Burgundy

The Hall of the Poors (below) is 50 meters long, 14 metres wide and 16 metres high. On the ceiling, the visible painted frame is is in the shape of an upside down boat (broken barrel vaulting) and on each beam are carved caricatures of some of Beaune's important inhabitants accompanied by animal heads symbolising their various failings!

The chapel is an integral part of the hall, symbolising the alliance between the religious and medical practices performed in the building. Guigone de Salins was buried in this chapel.

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The hall is furnished with a row of curtained beds along each side. The central area was dedicated to benches and tables for the meals.

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St Hugues room, created in 1645 at the instigation of Maitre Hughes Betault, has always been dedicated to the sick (left and below).

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Nine of the eleven wall paintings are by Parisian artist, Isaac Moillon. The reredos (right) depicts a miracle involving St Hugues in which he brings two child plague victims back to life.


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