Collégiale Notre-Dame de Beaune, located in the heart of the old town, is one of the great Romanesque churches of Burgundy. It is only a few minutes walk from Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune, Beaune’s other main tourist attraction.
Two reason’s not to miss what this church has to offer are its collection of 15th century tapestries and murals.
Just behind the altar, and surrounding the choir stalls, you can admire a collection of five well-preserved Flemish tapestries (approx. 6×2 metres each). They date back to the 15th century and tell the story, in nineteen scenes, of the life of the Virgin Mary. Access to the church is free, but a small charge is required to view the tapestries. Viewing is only possible from April to November, excluding lunch hour (1-2 pm) and religious services.
The murals or frescoes of the Saint-Léger chapel, located on the left side as you enter the church, were made for Cardinal Jean Rolin between 1470 and 1474. Executed probably by Pierre Spicre, a Dijonese painter of Dutch origin, they decorate three walls of the chapel. The eastern wall depicts the martyrdom of St. Stephen, the western wall describes the resurrection of Lazarus, and the north wall shows Saint Martha and Saint-Magdalene.
Appreciating the stories told by the tapestries and murals requires a little homework. I found the following articles on the tapestries and murals to be quite illuminating but too detailed to include here.
The building of the church began in the middle of the twelfth century along the lines of the Abbey of Cluny. Although of Romanesque style as a whole, some Gothic pieces are visible, such as the porch, added to the building in the middle of the thirteenth century.
Beaune was initially a stopover for pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem. However, with the acquisition of a Black Madonna in the 12th century, Beaune soon established itself as a significant centre of pilgrimage in its own right. Christians came from all over Europe to pray to a statue of the Virgin and child, which in reality was a multi-coloured piece of wood that had darkened over time.
In 1272, a fire devastated much of Beaune, and major works were needed to rebuild the Church. On this occasion, Gothic art was introduced to the building, and huge Gothic windows replaced the Roman ones.
From the 13th to the 16th centuries, several chapels were added on the aisles of the nave, corresponding to the desire of noble families to have their own private chapel. The original Gothic spire was replaced between 1580 and 1588 by a great imperial roof.
The first record of an organ in this church dates back to the 15th century. It has been rebuilt/replaced many times since then, the most recent being 1988.
Classified as a historical monument in 1840 and registered in 1926, the church received the title of basilica in 1958.
A visit to this historical monument is not to be missed during your visit to Burgundy.
Collégiale Notre-Dame de Beaune
Impasse Notre Dame, 21200 Beaune
+03 80 24 77 95
8.30 am -7.00 pm Everyday
Car: A6 from Paris. Train: TGV Paris to Dijon, TER to Beaune