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Hotel of God

June 5, 2017
Nicolas Rolin and Wife
Nicolas Rolin and Wife

We’re back from our trip to southern France, and I’ll begin by making an important declaration—Mrs. Chatterbox and I are no longer Uber virgins. We downloaded the Uber app and paid only thirty dollars for a ride to the airport instead of paying nearly fifteen dollars a day at Portland airport’s Economy Parking. I doubt we’ll ever use a cab again.


The Flight to Paris was uneventful, even though the days of stretching out on an empty row of seats in an under booked airplane are over. We’ve been to Paris several times and the French capital wasn’t the focus of this trip, but we had a lovely meal at a small restaurant near Notre Dame called The Little Prince. Most of our travel companions were not from the USA and constantly peppered us with questions about Donald Trump (also in Europe at the time), with most wondering how Americans could have voted for such a person. We did our best to steer clear of politics, Mrs. Chatterbox being more successful than me.


The morning after our arrival in Paris we headed to Dijon where we purchased a crock of the famous mustard for son CJ and his fiancée. Forty years ago while backpacking through Europe, I became ill in Dijon and didn’t have an opportunity to explore. Owls, symbol of the city, can be seen everywhere, and one on the side of a Dijon church has been rubbed for  centuries for luck.



This church also features an interesting clock, brought to the city centuries ago. According to legend, after working perfectly for hundreds of years the bronze bell ringer suddenly stopped performing his duty. Nothing mechanical had gone wrong and it was assumed the bell ringer was lonely, so a bronze wife and children were added. That seemed to do the trick. The bells started ringing again.



From Dijon we took an excursion to the nearby city of Beaune (pronounced Bone) to make an exploration that would top the list of Mrs. Chatterbox’s favorite sites, a place we’d never heard of, but that’s one of the reasons we love to travel.


In Beaune there exists a Palace for the Poor, created in 1443 by Nicolas Rolin, chancellor to the Duke of Burgundy. It’s called Hôtel-Dieu. In French, a hotel refers to any large house, and Rolin and his wife hoped the Hôtel-Dieu would guarantee them access to heaven. By all accounts, Rolin and his wife were sincere in their desire to help the poor, who’d suffered terribly in the recently concluded Hundred Years War.


What they accomplished is astonishing—a Medieval Johns Hopkins Hospital devoted to helping the sick and infirm. Visitors enter an unimposing building to gain access to a courtyard where an amazing building reveals the extent of the Rolins’ determination to create a facility capable of lasting centuries. Most notable is the roof, constructed of colored tiles, but the interior is equally impressive, especially when one considers the deplorable state of medical care at the time.




Exterior Hôtel-Dieu




Interior of The Room for the Poor




Detail of Beds




Herbs and Medicines




The Last Judgment by Rogier van der Weyden  (1445-50)



The Hôtel-Dieu attempted to heal both the body and spirit. Nuns nursed the sick and paintings and sculptures reinforced God’s love and mercy. The Rolins spent lavishly on their project, using only expensive materials, even commissioning Rogier van der Weyden, one of the most notable painters of the era, to create a colorful triptych for the hospital, a colorful Last Judgment far more hopeful than many other depictions.


To ensure the hospital would always be preserved and properly funded, the Rolins deeded vineyards to create revenue to sustain the hospital. Over the centuries, other grateful benefactors followed suit, and the hospital remained open until the 1970s when a modern hospital was built. Today, an annual auction of Hôtel-Dieu wines continues to provide income to restore and maintain the complex. When Louis XIV visited the hospital two hundred years after it was established, he called it one of the brightest jewels in his kingdom’s crown.


I’ve little doubt that those fortunate enough to have been brought here thought the same. If there is a heaven, I’m sure Nicolas Rolin and his wife Guigone de Salins are seated in a position of prominence. 




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Welcome back! They did plan ahead with that hospital. My nephew was an Uber driver for a while. I wouldn't have caught a ride from him though.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on June 5, 2017
Welcome back! The way things are in America you probably should have just stayed in France.
By: PT Dilloway on June 5, 2017
What a wonderful narration of your visit. I'm hoping you have many more chapters to come. Thanks for sharing.
By: scott park on June 5, 2017
welcome home. it's a shame such a lovely place is no longer used for it's intended purpose.
By: Ellen Abbott on June 5, 2017
Lovely to think of you in France and not so far away! I will be off there on Sunday and greatly looking forward to another summer. I hope you enjoyed some of the very fine wine that Beaune has to offer! looking forward to hearing about more of your adventures.
By: The Broad on June 5, 2017
What an impressive (and lovey) facility, particularly for the time! Welcome home.
By: Kelly on June 5, 2017
Welcome home, Skinny Chatterbox! I love the photos. How could Americans vote for Donald Trump? I haven't figured it out. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on June 5, 2017
Oh my- your trip brought back memories of our trip to Dijon and Beaune when Grace was only 15! Now she is 37! We had an equally lovely time- glad you enjoyed yourselves and welcome home!
By: Kathe W. on June 5, 2017
I'm glad you had a good time - and that medieval hospital is fascinating!
By: The Bug on June 5, 2017
So glad you are back and we can share your trip with you. You have really melted away--kudos. What neat people the Rolins were. Interesting. Wasn't aware there was such caring for the poor in that time frame. Loved the roof tiles.
By: Arkansas Patti on June 5, 2017
It looks like a fantastic trip! And you? YOU LOOK MAHVELOUS!!!
By: Mitchell is Moving on June 5, 2017
Time flies! It sounds like you both had a great trip and I can't wait to see and hear more. Love the idea that owls are big in that city because I always liked owls I guess:) I am surprised that the hospital was I. Working order until the early 70's! The building is beautiful and, of course, I know that painting well letting the wounded know they could be on one side....or the other
By: Birgit on June 5, 2017
Glad to see you had a good trip Stephen, it's impressive for the hospital to be set up to support itself for this long. I've never used Uber but as you described it is more cost effective than leaving your car at the airport.
By: Jimmy on June 5, 2017
There was a Hotel Dieu in NOLA, it's now University Hospital. Such places preceded the current Charity Hospital system. It was probably better when it was run by the nuns than the government, but that's a discussion for wiser heads than mine. Welcome home! Glad you had a good time!
By: messymimi on June 5, 2017
I loved reading about PAris. The roof on Hôtel-Dieu is amazing! I am still an Uber virgin so when I get my new iPhone I must get the App.
By: Pigletinportugal on June 5, 2017
You look great! And so does that hospital. My son Genius confessed that he Ubers all over the place. He and his college buddies don't need a designated driver that way.
By: Val on June 5, 2017
My wife and I want to go to France. The movies we most love took place in France. R
By: Rick Watson on June 5, 2017
Stephen-Welcome home. I love it when you and Mrs. Chatterbox travel and we are treated to wonderful posts. We dearly love the South of France but have not yet been to Beaune. What a great piece of history. The Rolins and the Hotel-Dieu are amazing. The Rolins are wonderful role models for today's wealthy. In fact for all of us.
By: Tom Cochrun on June 5, 2017
Welcome back, Stephen. We used to enjoy France (on the whole, Paris not so much). Beaune produces a wonderful red wine.
By: Botanist on June 5, 2017
Welcome back, you skinny thing, you!!
By: fishducky on June 5, 2017
I'm glad you had a good trip and I like your post about the good that was done when very little help wa given to the poor.
By: red Kline on June 5, 2017
The Rolins were an excellent example for others with their generosity and compassion, and you are too in your weight loss - you are looking very svelte! Thank you for sharing this part of your trip; I hope there will be more posts (hint)
By: jenny_o on June 5, 2017
Welcome home, Stephen and spouse. Right about now I feel like I could use a home for the poor! Nice to have you back.
By: Catalyst on June 5, 2017
The Hotel Dieu looks like an impressive building. And when it comes to mustard, English is best (particularly if you enjoy it fiery!)
By: Bryan Jones on June 6, 2017
Next time I go to France I want to be with you guys! you do it so much better.
By: Tabor on June 6, 2017
Hey you are back! Glad you had such a great time. Just to say on my computer the text on the right hand side of your post is cutting off. Welcome home!
By: LL Cool Joe on June 7, 2017
Welcome back mon ami! Looking mighty fine in your new slimmer self. Tabor's idea is a great one. You could lead a group on your next trek to France. ;-)
By: Daniel LaFrance on June 7, 2017
When asked about Trump I would have answered, "How did that mini Macron win in France?"
By: Kate on June 7, 2017
Welcome back! You look fantastic! What a wonderful building for such a wonderful cause.
By: Pixel Peeper on June 11, 2017

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