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PostHeaderIcon Hotel Dieu in Burgundy

Hotel Dieu

Hotel Dieu

If you are visiting Burgundy and did not manage to visit one of its treasures here, the Hotel Dieu, you are missing something. Do not go by the word “hotel”; the original word was “hostel”. This was a charitable hospital, catering to the old and sick in the Middle Ages. Its patrons were the Rolins, who like the Capets were wiped out during the Terror, nevertheless, their heritage lives on, under the management of a director and the mayor of Beaune.

Hôtel-Dieu is surrounded by 62 ha of prime winegrowing land. In the best traditions of a self-sufficient community, the wine produced here was sold to get enough of income in order to run this charitable hospital. Not only are you going to see a rich heritage of treasures here, but you are also going to see the genius of Nicholas Rolin sparing no effort in the making up of this hospital. It does look a bit like other hospitals in the Middle Ages – the Notre Dame hospitals and the Hôtel-Dieu present at Valenciennes. It took nine years to build this hospital, using the best talent and artists in Flanders. So even though it looks like a Gothic marvel, this Palace with its wrought iron masterpieces, its tiles, and the bell still welcome a visitor to look around and marvel. So what are the exterior is rather austere and stark.

Remember that those were the days, my friend when somebody wanted something, he grabbed it. So who would want to covet such a grim looking building? One of the marvels here is the 15th century wood carving of Christ in Bonds, carved out of one solid trunk of oak. The beds of the sick were turned towards the chapel so that they could follow the prayers and the services taking place here, every day. This hospital took in sick and poor patients up to 1971.

If you were comparatively well-off, you would be put in Saint-Anne’s room with its rich tapestries. The caregivers would prepare you for your long journey onwards, in St Nicholas’ room. Do remember to visit the kitchen and see the 400+-year-old automaton named Bertrand. He was used to turn the spits in the kitchen. Talk about Robots in the mediaeval ages. Also remember to see the well preserved pharmacy with its collection of herbs and simples, and copper utensils. One marvels how people manage to survive the quackery of those times. But one can only marvel at the dedication of those nuns who prepared these medicines. Talk about a healthy mind in a healthy muscular body. The pestle weighs six kgs, but it moved with the help of pulleys.

With more than 5000 priceless art collections, along with paintings of the Christ, and The Day of Judgement, the hotel Dieu of Burgundy is a magnificent example of religious values and traditions, being upheld through selfless service to mankind.