Town's Heritage
The Vineyard
Vin et tradition, Hospices de Beaune
The Hospices de Beaune
The Hospices de Beaune : origin

Beaune, 15th Century

In a country destroyed by the Hundred Years War, misery and hunger brought along their set of predators, mercenary soldiers, robbers, assassins and arsonists, sinister companions of pest and desolation.
Everywhere, the destitute seek help and comfort from the powerful.
The fortified town of Beaune is no exception, and unfortunately it provides no reception structures in these troubled times.

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A man named Nicolas Rolin...

1440 :
faced with the distress of the people marked by the Hundred Years War, Nicolas Rolin, Chancelor of the Duke of Bourgogne Philippe le Bon, and his wife Giugone de Salins decided to create a pious foundation.
Admired for his administrative, political, and financial actions, Rolin acquired a true humanistic dimension by having a hospital constructed for the sick and the deprived. The Hôtel-Dieu was created. This unique social organization rapidly gained a wide response, well beyond the borders of the dukedom.
Unfortunately the institution was coveted, and the founder, intent on preserving its independence, informed Philippe le Bon about the situation. By letters of patent he thus obtained total exemption from taxes and feudal tributes, and from all other services or taxes due to the duke. The protection of the Hôtel-Dieu is then turned over to the Almighty, as the Pope Eugene IV placed the charity organization under the guardianship of the episcopal see by a note dated September 8, 1441. Freed from the yoke of the Autun bishops and of all other clerical coercion, the hospital enjoyed total freedom.

August 4, 1443 : the founding of the Hôtel-Dieu of Beaune is officially proclaimed by a solemn deed. The text leaves no ambiguity concerning the mission of the Hôtel-Dieu: "I, Nicolas Rolin (...), recognizing the grace and the belongings which God, source of all good, has gratified me; from now on, for ever and irrevocably, I found, construct, and date in the town of Beaune, in the diocese of Autun, a hospital to receive, serve and house the sick poor, with a chapel in honor of God the Almighty and of his glorious mother the virgin Mary, in memory of and to venerate Saint Anthony, abbot, dedicated to him and his name, to give it the belongings which God bestowed upon me." For his legitimate protection, Sir Rolin specified the missions of his organization : thus every morning "white bread must be given to the poor asking for alms before the doors of the hospital". Everything is done so the poor "be received there, fed and cared for, at the expense of the hospital, until they regain their health or are convalescent".

January 1, 1452 : the first patient is received at the hospital. The founder Nicolas Rolin naturally took charge of supervising the administration. This function allowed him to arrange almost all administrative tasks (conditions for hiring priests, working and receiving rules, annual income of the hospital, etc.).

August 31, 1459 : this organization is codified by the proclamation of a charter ruling the entire management of the Hôtel-Dieu, and which is still valid to this date. This charter had only one condition : the function of superintendent was to be hereditary. This clause was respected until the end of the Old Regime. In exchange the Rolins renounced all property or income from the Hospital's property. Thus, Jean Rolin succeeded his father in 1462, upon the chancellor's death.

1789 : The trouble caused by the revolution led to depredations. Renamed the Hôpital d'Humanité, the Hôtel-Dieu underwent financial difficulties; the situation deteriorated with the destruction of the window above the chapel's main altar and the profanation of Giugone de Salins' burial place. Luckily, the situation progressively got better again.

1810 : a decree by Napoleon entirely restored the status of the nuns which had fallen during the anti-clerical phase in 1792. Protected from personal and state desires since its foundation, thanks to Nicolas Rolin's energy and spirit of organization, the Hôtel-Dieu has managed - with some pains! - to cross the centuries and to pursue its charity mission.

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