Care and Creative Expressions: 500 Years for L’Hotel Dieu

Initially I wasn’t keen to visit a heritage hospital and convent in Beaune, France.  Like many folks, I associate hospitals with dull institutional places that ..do great work for people from birth to death.

Courtyard of L'Hotel Dieu. Ceramic tile roof colours has Hungarian origins. Beaune, France 2016. By J.Chong. The arresting roof colours is seen in Burgundy region of various Renassiance buildings.
Courtyard of L’Hotel Dieu. Ceramic tile roof colours has Hungarian origins. Beaune, France 2016. By J.Chong. Such arresting roof colour designs are seen in Burgundy region on various Renaissance buildings.

There is no North American equivalent like L’Hotel Dieu  —  very old and with past health care public service for 500 years.  This hospital-convent  was established in 1443 in the tiny town of Beaune, France.  At the time, locals were destitute with  maraunding bands in the country, just after the One Hundred Years’ War.  The hospital provided refuge for the poor and sick. L’Hotel Dieu stopped providing direct patient care in the 1950’s –according to museum exhibit information.  (I wondered seriously the level of hospital care since there were a lot of medical technology advances in the 20th century. The hospital did have a doctor.)

Sculptures over the main entrance. Musee L'Hotel Dieu, Beaune, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong
Sculptures over the main entrance. Musee L’Hotel Dieu, Beaune, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong

Hospices de Beaune, Hotel Dieu (Hospital / Refuge of God)  or it’s current name as Musee de L’Hotel-Dieu, will surprise you with its architecture, its interior finishes and curious little inventions, tradespeople provided for the nuns’ work.  I prefer the name,  L’Hotel-Dieu since the name truly reflects the work by the nuns in spirit of their faith.

Wood roof beam carvings adorn main patient care room (Poor Room). Musee de L'Hotel Dieu. Beaune, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong
Wood roof beam carvings adorn main patient care room (Poor Room). Musee de L’Hotel Dieu. Beaune, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong

Inside the main hospital room for patients or the Poor Room, with roof beams painted with medieval colourful  designs of animals, serpents and figureheads of local medieval Beaune individuals.  Quite unexpected and pagan-like, yet fun for a convent-hospital and its patients during any historic era.

Figureheads were based on some locals long ago. Musee de L'Hotel Dieu. Beaune, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong
Figureheads were based on some locals long ago. Musee de L’Hotel Dieu. Beaune, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong
Medieval painted beams still intact in main patient care room. Hotel L'Dieu. Beaune, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong
Medieval painted beams still intact in main patient care room. Hotel L’Dieu. Beaune, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong

The hospital-museum had the usual centuries-old pharmacy with large ceramic pots for storing herbs and other drug therapeutics of the day.  Its large kitchen

In roof beams of main patient care room. Musee de L'Hotel Dieu. Beaune, France 2016. Photo J.Chong
In roof beams of main patient care room. Musee de L’Hotel Dieu. Beaune, France 2016. Photo J.Chong

was outfitted with a hand-pulley system for roasting meat that was inspired by clock chimes.  Most eyecatching,  were brass, long gooseneck kitchen sink faucets –rather extravagant for a convent-hospital. Somehow this creative touch was not surprising in a convent in the heart of a wine production region with grateful benefactors and former patients.

A kitchen meat roaster pulley system based on clock chime system. Musee de L'Hotel Dieu. Beaune, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong
A kitchen meat roaster pulley system based on clock chime system. Musee de L’Hotel Dieu. Beaune, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong
Elaborate brass gooseneck kitchen faucets. Musee de L'Hotel Dieu. Beaune, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong
Elaborate brass gooseneck kitchen faucets. Musee de L’Hotel Dieu. Beaune, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong

In various rooms there were tapestries and paintings with some that did hang in the main patient resting room.

Convent did have acreage and wineries that supported their work from the wine sales. To this day, some fundraising involving a few wineries supports maintenance of museum. Beaune, France 2016.
Convent did have acreage and wineries that supported their work from the wine sales. To this day, some fundraising involving a few wineries supports maintenance of museum. Beaune, France 2016.
In medieval times, a nun did prepare some natural drug therapies. L'Hotel Dieu. Beaune, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong
In medieval times, a nun did prepare some natural drug therapies. L’Hotel Dieu. Beaune, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong

L’Hotel Dieu did have some local wineries where their annual wines supported the hospital operating costs.   There is a line of wines with the name of the former hospital for purchase, as a means to maintain the museum with its glorious exterior architecture.

Musee de l’Hotel Dieu was not your typical hospital or refuge.

Above main entrance. Musee de L'Hotel Dieu. Beaune, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong
Above main entrance. Musee de L’Hotel Dieu. Beaune, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong
Nun cycling away. Strausborg, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong
Rare church stained glass art featuring nuns. Historic evidence of the nuns' role to this town. Beaune, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong
Rare church stained glass art featuring nuns. Historic evidence of the nuns’ role to this town. Beaune, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong.

 

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31 Comments Add yours

  1. Wow they were in business for a really long time! ♡
    Diana xo

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Jean says:

      Most likely if the hospital acquired more physicians and technology, they might have wanted to stay longer in business.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pit says:

    Thanks for that highly interesting post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Nemorino says:

    I once rode through Beaune on my bicycle (55 years ago) but didn’t stop for a proper look around. Next time I’ll go by train — maybe this summer if the train strikes are over in time — and I’ll make a point of visiting the Musée de L’Hotel Dieu. I like your photo of the nun on the bicycle in Strasbourg. I also have a photo of a nun on a bicycle, in one of my posts from Brugge/Bruges, Belgium.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Most likely there are greater chances of nuns and priests cycling in Europe, not in North American. But then, they may not wear their traditional garb. Beaune also has a terrific Wine Museum just a few blocks away from Musee de L’Hotel Dieu.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Peter Klopp says:

    I am so glad that you decided to go and see this wonderful place!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Quite interesting. I should have included more photos of the roof tiling –typical of the area and time.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Jean says:

      Quite intriguing.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. GREAT pictures!! You always have the best pictures!!

    I will never forget our visit there last September… Hubs was riding around on this electric scooter (Ralph) and at some point in the courtyard, on the cobblestones, his wallet bounced out of his pocket. We didn’t discover it was missing until some 45 minutes later. Turns out somebody turned it in at the TI across the street – minus the cash (both Euros and dollars) of course. And he was carrying an uncharacteristically large amount of both. 😦 But we got the credit cards back! He learned his lesson about using his zippy pockets when he’s riding Ralph!

    Interesting side note, at one of the wine tastings we did, the woman who was our host told us that she was born at the L’Hotel Dieu in one of the last years it was in operation as a maternity hospital. I thought was was pretty interesting!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      What a jolt on those cobblestones to have his wallet fly out! It’s scary to lose money in a foreign country. Credit cards can be lifesavers when there. Very cool to meet someone as one of the last babies there probably at L’Hotel Dieu! How coincidental that you as a reader of this blog sometimes, could read this and actually meet someone. Good karma and serendipidity.

      Like

  6. Les Hospices de Beaune are definitely a unique place and your capture this really well through your photos. I also love the photo of the nun on her bike 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      She seemed a bit brusque when she yanked her bike out of the bike rack and away from everyone else. She knew others noticed her habit on a bike. I assume you’ve been to the region in the past.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ha ha! Yes, I have. A long by time ago, though. Your photos brought the trip back to my memory.

        Like

        1. Jean says:

          There will be more French art later in another blog post, but in a totally different context. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Mabel Kwong says:

    Such a distinctiv hospital-museum. As you said, not your typical refuge as wineries are one of their supporters. It looks very well preserved and maintained after all these years.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Beaune is a town and proud of its heritage as reflected in the effort to preserve it in good condition. There’s a wine museum down the street from the hospital museum. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. You captured the sense of place beautifully. Next trip to France it will be on my list.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Glad you enjoyed the post. I can imagine you…jogging in early morning in French countryside one day. 🙂

      Like

  9. Marta says:

    Love the picture of the cycling nun, haha.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Bet they would be extremely rare in Suzhou.

      Like

  10. Sue Slaght says:

    What a fascinating place to visit Jean. With my nursing background I found it of special interest.I enjoyed seeing the photos of the details of the beams and ornamental additions as well as the nun on the bicycle.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      I’m sure you would have found it antiquated but fascinating. How much health care has improved, but in more visually sterile recovery places. Except maybe hospitals in large pediatric patient care units.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Lani says:

    Love the details!

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Actually quite elaborate on the exterior and beautifully preserved.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Sartenada says:

    Gorgeous photos from this old church. We have old churches and oldest is from 1285. In town our churches are stone churches and on countryside wooden churches. One specialty is that in many case bell towers are separated from the church itself.

    Thank You for this post. To me churches are interesting and I have shot about 440 churches in Finland. Today I just presented one.

    Have a wonderful day!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Very interesting about bell towers separated from the church in Finland. There must be a reason.. I guess it was easier and cheaper to construct wooden churches in the countryside.

      Like

  13. A bit of whimsy in an old hospital! Fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      I agree..distractions for patients who were ill.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Brilliant post, Jean, and a wonderful guided tour. We are so often ignorant of the times and struggles that have preceded us, all the striving and good deeds performed under difficult circumstances. Thanks for an important and entertaining reminder. And that nun riding the bicycle confirms what I’ve always suspected: bicycles have an important spiritual dimension… 🚴😇

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Cycling can add to spiritual dimension and exposure of rider to the external world. Pretty humble against many other vehicles. 🙂 Glad you enjoyed mini tour.

      Liked by 1 person

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