We spent a few hours exploring Beaune, France before heading to Dijon for the weekend in June 2020. Beaune is about 40 minutes away from Dijon and was the perfect stop to stretch our legs and get lunch. Beaune is the capital of the Bourgogne wine region and we passed many wineries along our drive into the city.
The main thing we wanted to see in Beaune was the Hospices de Beaune, Hôtel-Dieu. The Hospices de Beaune are known for their brightly colored geometric tiles on its roof. We weren’t sure if it was open for visitors, as many things right now are just starting to reopen. Luckily, visitors were allowed as long as masks were worn the entire time. The Hospices de Beaune were built in the Middle Ages in 1443. Most of the town was suffering from poverty and famine due to the Hundred Years’ War, and so a Hospice for the Poor, Les Pôvres, was built. The hospice was in use from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. The creator wanted it to be more like a “palace for the poor” and hired a large number of artists to decorate the space. It gained a good reputation from everyone from the poor to the nobles. Because of its great reputation, it was enlarged with new rooms and works of art, becoming a “Palace for the Poor”. We were able to go explore a number of different rooms, including the grande hall, chapel, kitchen and pharmacy.
The chapel was built attached to the center of the hospital where many hospital beds lined the walls. It is said to have symbolized the alliance between religious and medical practices at the hospice because it allowed patients to participate in services without having to move.
The pharmacy was so interesting to see. In the Middle Ages, each hospital had its own pharmacy because there wasn’t any organized medicine production. The pharmacy grew plants on site in its “medicinal herb garden” and also used mineral, animal, and vegetable materials for its medicine. The pharmacy still has a collection of over 100 pots from the 1700’s that included different ointments, oils, pills, and syrups. We could still read some of the names – eyes of crayfish, dragon blood, woodlice powder, and vomit nuts powder. What was going on back then!?
The most thought-provoking piece of art we saw was a large painting from the 1400s by Roger Van der Weyden depicting the last judgement. The image was originally above the alter in the Chapel and was only allowed to be seen on Sundays or “feast days” by the sick. The image is essentially split into two – heaven and hell. It shows people begging for mercy and being sent to hell as well as the opposite, those being judged worthy and being sent to heaven. The facial expressions on the people in the painting felt so real and it was a really eye opening experience.
We also enjoyed trying new wines in the afternoon as we ate lunch at a little restaurant called La Tavola Calda. It was tucked away off the main street and almost looked like a greenhouse, but served amazing pasta and risotto. The chef even came up to ask us how the meal was and checked with Jordan to see if there was too much salt in his meal. We’ve learned how much pride the chefs in the region have for their food. They really take the time to make sure it’s cooked right and are so proud of their creations. We can’t complain!