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