Hospices de Beaune and The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul

Inner yard of Hospice- note painted roof tiles

Inner yard of Hospice- note coloured roof tiles

Yesterday we went to visit Hospices du Beaune, a free hospital for the poor of Burgundy founded in 1443 by Nicolas Rolin. We ourselves are supporters of Saint Vincent de Paul, a charitable organisation also founded in France by Fredric Ozanam in 1833. This shows that people have helped others throughout the centuries.

The Hospital du Beaune was founded when Burgundy was ruled by Duke Philip the Good. The Hundred Years’ War finished in 1435, however, marauding bands still roamed the countryside, pillaging and destroying, provoking misery and famine. The majority of the people of Beaune were declared destitute. Nicolas Rolin, Philip the Good’s Chancellor, and his wife Guigone de Salins, responded to the situation by building the hospital and refuge for the poor in the town.

Outside the front of Hospices de Beaune- how many needy people have gone through the doors?

Outside the front of Hospices de Beaune- how many needy people have gone through the doors?

The building’s designed by Rolin himself, was probably overseen by the Flemish architect Jacques Wiscrère. Rolin specified that only the best materials be used. It’s a testimony to him that the building remained in use as a hospital until the late 1970s and is now a museum. The facade  is regarded as a superior example of Northern Renaissance civic architecture and houses a treasure trove of panel paintings, given by Rolin himself.

A new hospital was built in the area so Hospices du Beaune had given uninterrupted care for 572 years. Equally as important, Rolin wanted the hospital to be financially independent, so he set it up with a grant of money and lands.

The Hall of Poor- first hospital ward 30 beds in cubicles

The Hall of Poor- first hospital ward 30 beds in cubicles

Over the centuries other people have made similar donations and today The Domaine des Hospices de Beaune is a non-profit organisation which owns over a 150 acres of vineyards and is financially independent.

One of its sources of income, since 1851 is the annual November charity auction of the wine it produces. Since 2005 this auction has been conducted by Christies of London. Prices obtained are usually well in excess of current commercial prices and as many of its wines are classified as Grand or Premier Cru, the auction results give some indication of wine prices for the region for the year.

In 1833 Fredric Ozanam, aged 20 founded the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul in Paris. He like Rolin wanted to help the poor. A year late he wrote the following statement;

“The question which is agitating the world today is a social one. It is a struggle between those who have nothing and those who have too much. It is a violent clash of opulence and poverty which is shaking the ground under our feet. Our duty as Christians is to throw ourselves between these two camps in order to accomplish by love what justice alone cannot do”.

Those words, spoken in 1834 by Frederic Ozanam, remain accurate in today’s world.

Person donating to SVP - photo courtesy SVP

Person donating to SVP – photo courtesy SVP

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVP) came to Ireland in 1844. It is the largest voluntary charitable organisation in Ireland with around 11,000 volunteers.  During its history, it has helped people in need through a Famine, a Civil War, a War of Independence, two World Wars and several economic recessions.

The Society focuses on giving practical assistance to those seeking assistance by visiting people in their homes. In addition to home visitation it operates shelters for the homeless, social housing, holiday homes and other social support activities. The Society always promotes enabling people to become self sufficent.

Homeless Person - photo courtesy of SVP

Homeless Person – photo courtesy of SVP

As part of our Gap Year we challenged ourselves to raise money for SVP. So far, we have raised €1285 (64% of our €2000 target) and we thank all of you who have already donated. This Christmas instead of sending Christmas Cards we will make a further donation of €100 to SVP. So if you like to help someone this Christmas, please make a donation by clicking, on the Donate to SVP link, on the right hand side of our blog. You will be also helping us to reach another of our Gap Year goals.

(information and photos in this article courtesy of SVP.ie and Wikipedia)

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