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Beaune

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Ajoutée le 7 janv. 2008

Beaune is a quaint, charming jewel-of-a-town in the midst of a vast medieval countryside, the main town among the sleepy villages of the Cote d'Or region of Burgundy. Burgundy (Bourgogne) only became part of France in 1477: Up until then the region was an independent dukedom that was more affluent and more influential than the Kingdom of France itself during the 14th and 15th centuries. As the wine capital of Burgundy, and the embodiment of the Burgundian spirit, Beaune manages to retain its air of ancient French town while catering to the influx of tourists who come to buy the wine. The old city is enclosed by ramparts and a stream, around which runs the one-way boulevard known by seven different names.

Distinctive of Beaune, with its narrow cobbled streets and old houses, ancient trees and hidden gardens, and its steep roofs of multicolored tiles, is this delightful complex building of the poor, the Hospices de Beaune. These historical hospitals mark the very beginning of the history of charity work, and recall, in its elegant originality, the municipal buildings of Flanders ; it is Flemish art at its most brilliant period, transported to Burgundy.

The Hospices de Beaune is one of the best preserved examples of medieval architecture in Europe. Built in 1443 by Philippe-le-bon (Philip the Fair), Duke of Burgundy, as a hospital and home for the poor following the Hundred Years War, the Hospice, which has been a working hospital since its founding, is actually two major buildings, the Hotel-Dieu (meaning hospital rather than hotel) and the Hospice de la Charite. The Hotel-Dieu is Beaune's grandest attraction, with its perfectly preserved Burgundian-Flemish architecture, and priceless art collection. Its somber stone facade is surmounted by a vast, steeply sloping roof, tiled in a lozenge pattern of red, yellow, black and white. Inside , its most striking feature is the Grand'Salle, or Paupers' Room , 160 feet long, still displaying the original 15th century furnishings, among them 28 red-canopied and red-curtained beds used by the patients of five centuries ago.

''One must have time to live,'' the French say, and there is time to wander through the streets of this medieval village.

A few blocks north from the Hôtel-Dieu is the Romanesque church of Notre-Dame, a three-aisled basilica in Cluniac style with transepts, a choir ending in a semicircular apse and a square tower over the crossing. The Basilique Collégiale Notre Dame de Beaune is one of the last great Romanesque churches of Burgundy, built in the early mid-12th century. As a result of later extensions, the exterior of the church is largely Gothic. The interior has fine 15th-century stained glass and medieval frescoes. A series of 15th-century tapestries relating to the life of the Virgin hangs in Beaune's main church. Another striking feature is the "Vierge Noire," an example of the "Black Madonna" resting in her bower over-looking the nave, so-named because they are either painted in dark colors or carved of dark wood.

Medieval fortresses, magnificent old church, delicious restaurants, good shopping, pleasant accommodations, and lots of sincere town characters, make up Beaune.

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