I stepped into the inner courtyard of the Hotel Dieu in Beaune, France, and stopped in my tracks. Across the brick-paved courtyard, half-timbered butter yellow walls soared to gable roofs covered in multi-color polychrome tiles. This was like no hospital I’d ever seen. Hotel Dieu, which translates literally to hospital in English, is one of France’s most revered historic monuments. Also known as the Hospices of Beaune, the charitable almshouse and hospital for the poor was founded in 1443 by Nicolas Rolin, chancellor to Philip III, Duke of Burgundy. Unlike other hospitals of the day, which were grim at best, Rolin was determined to create an environment that would promote peace and healing. First, he established a religious order, “Les soeurs hospitalières de Beaune,” whose members provided compassionate care for the patients and destitute. No one was turned away. Even those who were terminally ill received humane treatment to the very last.
Rolin and his wife filled the halls with artwork and employed painters and glass cutters to create murals and stained glass accoutrements. Over the centuries, grateful patients and family members donated properties, woods, vineyards, and artworks to Hotel Dieu in Beaune. The vineyards became especially important. Every year since 1859, wines from the hospice’s vineyards have been auctioned off at a charity event held in November, with the proceeds going to the upkeep of the foundation. Though Hotel Dieu ceased being an operating hospital in 1970, the wine auction goes on. Today it is overseen by Christie’s auction house and is the most famous wine charity auction in the world. The proceeds are used for the conservation of the Hotel Dieu and to support the local hospital.
If you enjoyed this story, you may also want to check out this photo of the medieval houses of Beaune, France.
Author’s note: I was a guest of Dijon Tourism during my stay in Dijon, France. However, the receipt and acceptance of complimentary items or services will never influence the content, topics, or posts in this blog. I write the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
4 thoughts on “PHOTO: Hotel Dieu in Beaune, France, a 15th Century Hospital for the Poor”
The link to “medieval houses of Beaune, France is broken…
Thanks for letting me know, Wendy. I’ve fixed it now.
I visited Beaune on a round trip through the interior of France in 2012. It was one of the highlights of the voyage. I believe you ought to publish photos of the wards for the poor and for the rich as well. I was deeply impressed, and have always a recommended a visit there to friends who are close to Dijon, Lyon and Burgundy.
Hi Walter. I really debated which photo of Hotel Dieu to publish, as I had so many good ones, and the old ward was fascinating. But in the end I decided the exterior, with it’s colored tile roofs, was better. Like you, Beuane is high on my list of places to visit in France. Maybe NOT publishing it will encourage people to go see for themselves. 🙂