Monday, September 15, 2014

The Amazing Hotel Dieu Beaune, France

In the mid 15th century a wealthy man named Nicholas Rolin and his wife were touched by the plight of the poor in Burgundy, some say they may also have had a fear of losing their souls (the rich and the eye of the needle and all that), whatever their reason,  the results are the stunningly beautiful Hotel Dieu in Beaune. Though the outside of the building resembles nothing less than a fortress the interior courtyard is ablaze in color. The roof is covered with glazed tiles in beautiful colors that are a work of art in themselves.

This was a hospital like no other you have ever seen. It was modern way beyond its time.

The Hotel Dieu has its own well protected source of clean water, the patients were not expected to share a bed unless there was a great epidemic or some other catastrophe. Each patient had a bed, their own bed linens, their own eating utensils made of pewter and their own chair. The hospital had a cure rate far beyond other hospitals of its time and just the fact that they kept the patients separate can explain why they didn't contaminate each other.

The great room of the poor looks into the chapel so the spiritual life of the sick was not neglected either. The room itself is large and airy with a beautiful painted ceiling and painted cross beams. The beds have bright red blankets and the poor must have felt like they had gone to heaven to be able to stay here.

I loved the apothecary. The whole room was filled with wonderful faience jars where herbs were stored. You can read the names, Valerian was one I remember. There are wax figures in some of the rooms so that you get an idea of what it would have been like here.

But of course, the reason we stopped here was not just to see the hospital but to see the fantastic polyptych "The Last Judgement" by Rogier van der Weyden. It is kept in a room where the temperature is controlled and there is a guard on duty. And no wonder, this is a marvelous piece of art work. The colors are still bright and fresh and the subject matter can really get you thinking. A large magnifying glass moves over the surface of the piece and you get a very close look at the faces of the damned. Makes you not want to be among them I can tell you. It also makes you wonder how he could have ever painted that much small detail over 500 years ago without a magnifying glass.

The Hotel Dieu is a wonderful place to visit, it was one of my favorite stops in Burgundy. Very interesting. They have a very superior gift shop too and you can't get out without going through it. 

We found parking on a side street near the Hotel Dieu in Beaune so were able to poke a little in the shops in the area as well while we were there. 

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