January 19, 2021
The Hospices de Beaune in Burgundy, France
The Hospices de Beaune (Musee de l’Hotel Dieu) in France, is an unusual building with a fascinating history involving the poor, the sick and the finest Burgundy wines.
In 1443, Nicolas Rolin—the wealthy chancellor to the Duke of Burgundy—and his wife built the Hospices de Beaune as a hospital for the poor.
An architectural gem from the end of the French Middle Ages, the Flamboyant Gothic-style building has colorful patterned roof tiles and half-timber galleries looking onto a stone courtyard. The distinctive polychrome roof is typical of chateaux and other important traditional buildings around Burgundy.
Inside the Hospices are the historic kitchen and apothecary…
…as well as the patient dormitory, complete with rows of beds and a chapel under a vaulted ceiling known for its polychrome beams.
Providing for spiritual needs was believed to be just as vital as providing food and medical care, so patients at the Hospices were housed in the hospital chapel, where they could participate in Mass without leaving their beds.
Now a museum, the Hospices de Beaune complex also has an impressive collection of historic items that further tells its story, including tapestries, furniture, medical instruments and art. A highlight is Rogier van der Weyden’s The Last Judgment (Beaune Altarpiece) (ca. 1443–1451), a masterpiece of Northern Renaissance art that Chancellor Rolin commissioned as the altarpiece for the chapel.
The building continued to operate as a hospital until the 1970s, when patients and treatments were relocated to a modern facility outside the historic center.
How has the hospital been able to serve the poor for more than 500 years? Beaune is the wine capital of the famed Burgundy region, and Chancellor Rolin endowed the Hospices with vineyards and farms that helped fund operations. Patrons further expanded the vineyard holdings over the centuries, and today, those grapes produce some of Burgundy’s most prestigious wines.
Every November, the Hospice hosts the renowned Hospices de Beaune Wine Auction, which raises millions of dollars for the modern hospital and the preservation of the historic building.
Artisans of Leisure arranges privately guided tours of the Hospices de Beaune, providing travelers fascinating insights into medieval spiritual and civic ideals, historic medical treatments and Burgundy wine production.
We also arrange additional cultural, wine and culinary touring around the Burgundy region, including private wine tastings and exclusive touring along the Route des Grands Crus to visit renowned local cellars, chateaux and vineyards.
Contact an Artisans of Leisure France expert for more information about Burgundy and our private France tours.