La Léproserie en Maison Dieu


Léproserie, February 2014.

For years and years I’d always marveled at the super-impressive, semi-ruins, that for some reason (or other) I’d always thought was called the l’Hopital de Meursault. The building isn’t the biggest, but its massively deep entrance-way always captured more of my attention than somebody at the wheel of a car probably ought to give!

Léproserie, February 2014:

I’d always (also!) thought it a shame that a region that was so wedded in its historical roots would leave such a magnificent lump of stone to slowly disintegrate. So I was super happy when the scaffold eventually appeared. It wasn’t clear at first whether the scaffold was just to stop the thing from falling-down, or whether something a little more ‘considered’ was about to get under-way. Fortunately, it was the latter.

Léproserie, August 2014:

The Léproserie, as it now (mainly) seems to be called, was built by the Cistercians under Duke Hughes 2nd, starting in 1142 – a full 300 years before the Hotel Dieu (Hospices) in Beaune. It was called the Maison Dieu and was built amongst other things to tend the lepers. It was expressly built away from the centre of Meursault as a cordon-sanitaire between the sick and the healthy – though considering we are talking about the ‘dark ages,’ maybe it would be better to say the ‘less-sick’ of Meursault. We often think of leprosy as something that happens in ‘other countries/continents’ but this was not the only one, a second Léproserie was to be found in the region, in Seurre, only about 30 km away.

Léproserie, August 2014:

The Meursault Léproserie is a ‘Monument Historique’ but that didn’t prompt anyone to consider restoration – until the head of Meursault tourism, Denis Thomas started to push for this work. He told me “Yes it’s important for Burgundy, but it’s really emblematic for Meursault. The work has been underway now for over 2 years and we will open for tourists next spring (2015).”

Léproserie, August 2014:

I partly agree with Denis, I certainly agree that it’s emblematic, but I also think for the whole of the Côte d’Or-centric part of Burgundy. Particularly so when we consider the investment in tourism and UNESCO World Heritage – I’d say this is long overdue – but also better late than never.

The work is mainly over now – the skeletons that were found in the ground around the building have been reburied and building almost completed – they are just in the process of completing a more contemporary new wing, which will house the tourist offices and some other amenities. I was anyway very lucky to get to visit with Denis this summer, and look forward to doing so again, when it’s finally opened next year.

It’s such a magnificent site, it cost millions to renew, but thanks are due to Denis Thomas for pushing and pushing this project…

  • Link to phase 1 of the work.
  • Link to phase 2 of the work. (and all the Burgundian skeletons you could wish)
  • Brochure of archeological work.

Léproserie, August 2014:

Agree? Disagree? Anything you'd like to add?

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