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Dijon - capital of the dukes of Burgundy

Dijon - capital of the dukes of Burgundy

Georges Rouzeau - 2009-04-13

What a beautiful town is Dijon. Renaissance and classical timber-framed houses and private mansions appear on every street corner without ever being overbearing. These buildings, and also the numerous churches, tell the story of of this town which has known many a great man. Take a photographic guided tour!

Place de la Libération
Constructed between 1686 and 1701, the place de la Libération, opposite the palais royal, was conceived by the Versailles architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart but was completed by his student Robert de Cotte. Formerly known as the place royale, it became place d'Armes after the French Revolution, then  place du Maréchal Pétain during the occupation and finally  place de la Libération. A restoration campaign, under the leadership of Jean-Michel Wilmotte, has driven out the cars.
 
Place de la Libération
Jules Hardouin-Mansart has erected a semicircle of arcades all around the square, which are topped by a stone balustrade serving as a counterpoint to the main courtyard of the Palace of the Dukes. Under the arcades you will find cafés with summer terraces and a starred restaurant le Pré aux clercs run by the chef Jean-Pierre Billoux.
 
Palace of the Dukes
The classical style facade of the Palace of the Dukes conceals the rest of the building, the construction of which goes back nearly one thousand years. The (C 15th) Philippe the Good tower stands in its centre. Standing 46m high with 316 steps, it offers a beautiful panorama over the town's roofs and steeples, the Ouche and Saône valleys and the first foothills of the Jura mountains. The Palace is an architectural assembly comprising several interwoven parts, the oldest of which is the Gothic Ducal Palace (C14th to 15th )
 
Palace of the Dukes
The Palace of the Dukes currentlyhouses the Town hall (photo), the Fine Arts museum (erected in 19th c. on the site of the Sainte-Chapelle destroyed in 1802) and the Tourist Office.
 
Palace of the Dukes
This is the building where the Burgundy parliament used to sit. Despite needing a little restoration, the Renaissance style gabled facade is worth a visit, particularly for its porch.
 
Palace of the Dukes
Also admire the door,(this is a replica, the original is in the Fine Arts museum),which is richly carved with garlands, trophies and a caryatid. This admirable work of art was created by the Dijon sculptor Hugues Sambin whose work is found everywhere in the town.
 
Hôtel Lemulier de Bressey
We are now in the gens de robes quarter. There are numerous and attractive private mansions, for which Dijon is well known. This one is the hôtel Lemulier de Bressey (C16th-17th) which, like many others, has been transformed into flats. 
 
Hôtel Legouz de Gerland
At 21 rue Vauban is the mansion built in 1690 that belonged to Charles Legouz de Gerland, the master of the Dauphine's wardrobe. Behind on the side of the ruelle Jean-Baptiste-Liégeard the facade is punctuated by four overhanging turrets.
 
Musée Magnin
The musée Magnin, Dijon's only national museum is worthy of a certificate of merit. Established in a 17th century private mansion, it is a welcoming and intimate exhibition house for enthusiasts, a far cry from the sterile atmospheres found in modern museums.
 
Musée Magnin
Maurice Magnin, a magistrate and his sister brought together a collection of little known artists, minor Italian and Flemish masters, but also French painters from the end of the C16th  to C19th amongst a context of C18th or Napoleonic Empire period furniture.
A true delight!

Hôtel de Vogüé
You will have noticed from afar the roofing of varnished tiles on hôtel de Vogüé, one of Dijon's principal parliamentary homes. One cannot visit, but walk into the courtyard to admire the portico with rich Renaissance decoration in the style of Hugues Sambin.
 
Notre-Dame church
This little owl sculpted on a buttress of the Notre-Dame church's chapels is one of the symbols of Dijon. Was the signature left by an architect or a stone-cutter?  Historians do not know. Legend has it that it brings luck if you stroke it with your left hand.
 
Notre-Dame church
The Notre-Dame church is a magnificent example of C13th Gothic architecture. The  anonymous architect succeeded in performing the amazing feat of integrating the building in an already urbanised and dense quarter. The facade's gargoyles are not real ones in the strict sense (they do not act as gutters) but are purely ornamental. There are fifty of them and they date back to a restoration carried out in 1880 and 1881. On top of the church is another symbol of Dijon, the Jacquemart, a mechanical clock brought back from Courtrai by Philippe the Bold's armies in 1382.
 
Saint-Benigne cathedral
The Saint-Bénigne cathedral is an example of pure Burgundian Gothic style. You will be touched by the interior's great simplicity. The building is worthy of a visit due to its rotunda, the last remains of a Roman sanctuary which was built there before the cathedral's construction. The pit which was made in its centre probably contained the remains of the first Burgundian martyr -  Saint-Bénigne. Its highly symbolical layout is an irresistible evocation of Christ's tomb in Jerusalem.
 
Saint-Benigne cathedral
The organs (1443) of Saint-Bénigne Cathedral were made by Charles and Robert Riepp, two German postmen living in Dijon.
 
Bossuet's house
This is what happens when reading fashionable authors is preferred to poor Bossuet: the house where the Bishop of Meaux was born risks becoming a ruin. This preacher did not consider his sermons to be litterary works, yet they received  praises from the greatest French writers, such as Paul Valéry who admired 'these compositions of the grandest style.'
 
'Velodi'
For a year Dijon has had a self service bicycle hiring system which is named 'Velodi.' Photography of the bicycle rank located at place Saint-Fiacre behind place de la Libération.
 
Covered marketplace
The town centre of Dijon (which continues to be one of France's gastronomic capitals) possesses a superb metallic, covered marketplace with three naves. An excellent food market takes place there three times a week.
 
Fine Arts school
The courtyard of Dijon's Fine Arts school looks onto the chevet of Saint-Bénigne cathedral.
It is the oldest of the provincial National Art schools established after the creation of drawing workshops founded in 1765 by the painter François Devosge.
 
Fine Arts museum
Amongst the collections of the Fine Arts museum, Dijon sculptor François Rude is represented by a plaster replica of his most celebrated work 'The Departure of the Volunteers of 1792', which appears on the high relief of Paris' Arc de Triomphe.
 
Timber-framed houses at rue Stephen-Liégeard
Timber-framed houses at rue Stephen-Liégeard.
 
Tomb of John the Fearless with his wife Margaret of Bavaria
The tomb of John the Fearless with his wife Margaret of Bavaria, carried out from 1443 to 1470 by Jean de la Huerta then le Moiturier (Fine Arts Museum). The recumbent statues lying on black marble tombstones held up by small alabaster arches under which there is a group of 'weeping mourners' in a funeral cortège. The realism of the figurines is startling.
 
Place François-Rude (or place du Bareuzai)
Place François-Rude (or place du Bareuzai.) The Bareuzai, considered to be the square's guardian, is a statue of a wine grower, or rather of a faun, pressing grapes. This square is greatly appreciated for its cafe terraces which make their appearance with the first rays of sun.
 
 
Jardin Darcy
In this part of Dijon designed in C19th, the jardin Darcy (at walking distance from the TGV station) is the very first public garden created in Dijon. The engineer and philanthropist Henri Darcy built a reservoir to provide Dijon with drinking water from 1838 onwards. With a fountain at every 100m interval, Dijon became the second most equipped town for fountains after Rome.

What a beautiful town is Dijon. Renaissance and classical timber-framed houses and private mansions appear on every street corner without ever being overbearing. These buildings, and also the numerous churches, tell the story of of this town which has known many a great man. Take a photographic guided tour!

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