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France – Burgundy: Antiquities, fine wine and acclaimed architecture comprise the highlights of this area of this 10th century Basilique

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Palais des ducs de Bourgogne (Dukes of Burgundy's Palace

The Basilique crowns the top of a hill and can be seen from miles away. Its long and turbulent history hasn’t kept it from becoming a resplendent structure of truly imposing dimensions. Founded in the 10th century, it passed under the rule of Cluny in the 11th. UNESCO has recognized the church as a World Heritage Monument. Considered one of the great pilgrimage churches of France, the façade and portals are richly adorned with bas-relief. Beyond the finely sculpted Romanesque interior portals, the columns of the nave are crowned with carved capitals considered masterpieces.

The nearby city of Dijon is Burgundy’s ancient capital as well as its commercial and cultural hub. As the Roman settlement of Divio, it was regularly pillaged and burned. Since the Middle Ages, it has remained untouched. Its old quarter is a network of ancient alleys squeezed between well-restored medieval and Renaissance structures and small squares.

Seat of the flamboyant Dukes of Burgundy, Dijon is centered on the Palais des Ducs. The cobbled courtyards, stone towers and sweeping staircases of the palace house the Musee des beaux Arts, nicknamed “Le Petite Louvre” for its extraordinary wealth of French and Flemish art.

The Jewish community of Dijon dates back to the end of the 12th century when the Jewish quarter consisted of the medieval synagogue and cemetery that was destroyed after the Jews were expelled from France in 1306. A new community was established after the French Revolution. The Musee d’Archeologie preserves an important collection of 12th and 13th century Jewish tombstones. Dedicated in 1879 the synagogue was used as a warehouse during the German occupation. The lovely 19th century edifice was spared from destruction during WWII but the original pews were lost.

From Dijon, the Routes des Grands Crus runs thirty miles in a nearly straight line through the storybook wine villages of the Cote d’Or. Waist-high vines line the edges of the road. The hub of this route is the ancient town of Beaune whose center is a medley of cobbled lanes and alluring squares. Once the region’s main town, its medieval ramparts are still almost intact.