Alongside the wineyards, "Les Hospices de Beaune" (or the Hôtel-Dieu of Beaune) are among the most touristic and interesting places to visit in Beaune. The Hôtel-Dieu is today a museum in part dedicated to medicine but it has been a medical institution for more than five centuries.
It was created in 1443 by Nicolas Rolin, lord of Anthume and Chancellor of the independent duchy of Burgundy and his wife. Devoided of a religious institution, Beaune was chosen by the Chancellor in order to help the poor and destitutes seeking medical care. Though its construction ended in 1457, the Hospices welcomed their first patients in 1452. In 1459, the Pope approved the creation of the order of the Sisters of Saint-Martha of Beaune.
The Hospices are composed of several important rooms. The biggest and largest, called the Salle des Pôvres ( Room of the Poor ) has a chapel inside its walls. There is the smaller room Saint-Anne, the room Saint-Hughes available for wealthier patients, a room dedicated to Saint-Louis the cannonised French King Louis IX, the room of the Last Judgement and the room Saint-Nicolas where the most critical patients were placed. The building also had its own kitchen, pharmacitical laboratory and of course its caves to store wine.
Only a few decades after its opening, several Burgundian lords and landowners donated plots of wineyards to the Hospices. Today, the Hospices manage some 60 hectars of wineyards and its products are renown worldwide. An annual wine auction ( Vente des Vins ) takes place in old market hall, selling hundreds of liters of wine. The auction is an internationally rekowned event, attracting thousaands of visitors and some lucky buyers each year. The profits from sales are used for charity to maintain and preserve the Hospices. Several millions of euros are collected every year thanks to the sell as well as donations from generous sponsors.