In 1443, desirous of helping Beaune, the city of his mother's birth, recover from the devastation of the Hundred Years' War, Nicolas Rolin decided to build a hospital, "ignoring all worldly concerns and in the interests of my salvation ".

After the main outlines of his project were established, Rolin, enamoured of the richness of Flemish architecture, imported an artist - thought to have been Jean Wiscrere - from the "flat country" to construct the Hospices in the image of the Hôpital Saint-Jacques in Valenciennes.

The Chancellor had initially calculated that the work begun in 1443 would take five years. In fact, the building was not dedicated until December 31, 1451. Nicolas and his wife, Guigone de Salins, welcomed six nuns from Flanders the next day and the first patient was admitted several hours later.

The last patient left the Hospices in 1971, 520 years later.

The building is remarkable. Its architectural renown has been enhanced over the years by the internationally famous sale of wine from the vines which have, from the very beginning, formed part of the Hospices' estate. The first "ouvrées " (ouvrée: an old unit of measurement used in the Burgundy vineyards representing the working day of a winegrower in feet of vines. A hectare comprises 24 ouvrées.) were put together in 1471 by Antoine Rolin, Nicolas' son and patron of the Hôtel Dieu from 1471 to 1497. Today the vineyards cover 58 of the Foundation's 1000 hectares.

Exceptionally well preserved and authentic despite the ravages of time and man, the Hospices de Beaune provide a unique insight into the life and architecture of the Middle Ages.