Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune

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A remarkable example of Ancien Régime hospital architecture, the Hôtel-Dieu of Beaune, in Burgundy, was founded on 4th August 14431 by Nicolas Rolin following the wish of Philip the Good to put his fortune at the service of "the sick and the poor".

Equalled only by the Hôtel-Dieu de Tonnerre in the Yonne, Beaune's represents finely the evolution of such institutions in the course of the Middle Ages: beginning as small "lazzarettos", offering shelter and medical care, till the creation of true hospitals with the arrival of Franciscan and Dominican monasteries between the 13th and 15th centuries.


The entrance nowadays and in the past2

External Architecture

Various buildings make up the "medical" complex, three of which are decorated with a glazed-tile roof. The roofs, a typical example of Burgundian architecture, are strongly suggestive thanks to the the complex designs created by four-coloured tiles: red, brown, yellow and green. The current tiles, dating back to the period 1902-1907, are actually a recreation of the original ones. They surround and embellish La Cour d'Honneur, which is the main courtyard of the whole structure.


The colorful glazed-tile roofs

The Great Hall of the Poor

Its focal point was la Grand' Chambre des Pôvres- the Great Hall of the Poor- which could accommodate up to sixty patients, each bed serving "for one sick person and often two". The long aisle ends with the Chapel, which made it possible for the invalid to attend Mass without moving from their beds. Unfortunately the Great Hall has lost some of its authenticity: its present state is a result of a Neo-Gothic restoration undertaken in 1872-78.


Bed for "the sick and the poor"

The Chapel used to contain Rogier Van der Weyden's the Last Judgement polyptych (created in 1446-1452), now preserved in a specially air-conditioned room.


The Last Judgement polyptych

Salle Saint-Hugues

Just behind the great Hall of the Poor, we can observe the Salle Saint-Hugues. This room was created in 1645 and it contains the beds destined to the sick exhibiting the least severe symtoms. It is also still well-known for Isaac Moillon's paintings, representing miracles of the homonymous Saint, hanging on its walls.


Saint-Hugues room

A smaller room, the "infirmary", awaited the "seriously ill"- those in danger of death.

Pharmacy and laboratory

In the 17th century, one of the first pharmacies within an hospice's walls was established. In it were lined up on shelves hundreds or so phials of medicine, as we can see in the following shots. The vases are made of glass and have different dimensions and forms; they used to contain various substances, which mainly derived from local ingredients.


Hotel-Dieu's inside pharmacy

Right next to the pharmacy there is the Laboratoire, the apothecary laboratory; it is adorned by a painting of the 18th century representing the apothecary Claude Morelot preparing remedies with some assistants in his workroom in Beaune.

  • Main text and photos by Alice Russo moc.liamg|ossurcila#| and Alessia Capozzi ti.liame|opacela#| (November 2017)

Related items:



- Claudine Hugonnet-Berger, The Hôtel-Dieu at Beaune (translated by John Tittensor),Somogy Editions D'art, 2005.
- Paul Esdouhard, Mémoires / Société d'archéologie de Beaune. Histoire, lettres, sciences et arts, Société d'archéologie de Beaune, Beaune, pp.175

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