Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune – Palais des Pôvres
The Hospices de Beaune were founded in 1443, in the last years of the Hundred Years War.
By then, France’s population was decimated by plague, famine and extreme poverty.
Nicolas Rolin, chancellor of the Duke of Burgundy, and his wife Guigone de Salins founded a charitable almshouse and hospital for the poor in Beaune, which was then capital of Bourgogne.
They also provided the hospital with an annual annuity and a vineyard in order to generate income.
Nuns took care of the indigent and sick in Hôtel-Dieu – Palais des Pôvres – Hospices de Beaune from 1452 (the date of the first patient’s arrival) until 1971.
Rolin and his wife’s charitable action and devotion encouraged locals to make donations in order to support and enlarge the hospital.
In 1457, Guillemette Levernier was the first to donate a vineyard to the charitable institution.
The tradition she started lasted for the following 5 centuries!
Centre Hospitalier Philippe le Bon
On April 21, 1971, the Centre Hospitalier Philippe le Bon replaced the Hôtel-Dieu, which has only retained a nursing home.
The new hospital, which has a capability of 982 beds, is dedicated to short-term hospitalization.
In 2015/16, it merged with the Centres Hospitaliers d’Arnay-le-Duc, Nuits-St-Georges and Seurre under the collective name Hospices Civils de Beaune.
This hospital foundation is a public health institution that includes a general hospital and several nursing homes.
Hospices de Beaune, former charitable almshouse converted into a museum
The original Hospices de Beaune are a classified Historical Monument.
The four buildings (open to the public) that encompass the Court of Honor are the original Hôtel-Dieu built by Nicolas Rolin and Guigone de Salins.
They have become the Hospices de Beaune’s iconic image.
Their polychromatic and geometric tiled roofs and their Flamboyant Gothic facades are indeed in an exceptional state of preservation.
The various extensions, built over the years with people’s generous donations, extend over three other courtyards and include various outbuildings and a 15th century bastion.
The Hôtel-Dieu is indeed a superb example of French medieval civil architecture.
It’s been converted into a museum that brings together a multitude of period works, furniture and tapestries accumulated over the years.
These include Nicolas Rolin and Guigone de Salins’ initial endowment, bu also the many gifts and medieval equipment needed over the centuries.
They constitute a collection of 2500 different furniture and 2500 objects and tapestries.
Among them is the polyptych altarpiece depicting The Last Judgment by Rogier van der Weyden, a unique and world-famous masterpiece.
And of course, the Hospices de Beaune is also a set of wine cellars.
Worldwide renowned charity wine auction
Indeed, for most of us the Hospices de Beaune is a prestigious 60-hectare wine estate that produces world-renowned Burgundy wines!
The vineyard is the result of legacies and donations made over the years.
It stretches mainly around Beaune, however, Les Hospices also ‘inherited’ vineyards in the Côte de Nuits and Mâconnais regions in 1994.
85% of the Hospices de Beaune wines consist of premiers crus and grands crus.
Red wines are produced exclusively with Pinot Noir (50 hectares) and whites with Chardonnay.
The Hospices de Beaune employ a team of 22 ‘handpicked’ vintners; each is in charge of a plot of about 2.5 hectares.
Finally, and as you can guess, harvesting is done manually.
Christie’s auction house today organizes the annual charitable wine auction that has taken place since 1924 on the 3rd Sunday of November.
The proceeds of the sale goes towards the improvement and modernization of the hospital’s equipment and facilities and the restoration and maintenance of the Hôtel-Dieu.
Department of Burgundy
Coordinates: Lat 47.022023 – Long 4.836451