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.