Today’s itinerary took us the capital of the Burgundian region of France- Dijon!
We visited the Musee des Beaux-Arts to learn about the tombs of the Dukes of Burgundy, explored around the city of Dijon, France, and saw the Well of Moses at the Chartreuse de Champmol!
I also embarrassed myself immensely by trying to draw some of the Burgundian statues in my journal for class.
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon
Even though this museum is jam-packed with 4 floors of french art from the middle ages, the big draws are the tombs of the Dukes of Burgundy.
I’m telling you, this is the craziest tomb I’ve ever seen!
It holds Duke Philip the Bold, and you can tell that it’s his tomb because his effigy is carved in life size on top of the lid. They even put in the effort to paint him! Under the black marble lid, the tomb itself is carved out of white alabaster, and depicts dozens of little figurines who are all mourning the duke’s death. It’s a beautiful piece of art. So much so, that I kept forgetting that it’s a tomb.
For our class’s daily report, we were told to draw one of these mourning figures to show how Sluter and his carving team captured movement and emotion. This is when things stared to go a little bad for me.
The first guy I drew was okay, but I got the proportions all wrong. His arms were way, WAY too short and his head looked like a bowling ball.
I decided to try again.
The second guy had a hood covering most of his face, and his arms were buried in a cloak, so I thought, “There’s no way I could mess him up!”.
To keep it short, this one looked like a baby wearing a turtle neck.
Let’s just move on from that.
Afterwords, we had time to explore the rest of the museum. As I mentioned before, the museum is HUGE, and we had the place pretty much all to ourselves. Dijon has an amazing collection of religious art, but it’s also got a ton of artifacts, like suits of armor and medieval-warish looking weapons.
My favorite piece of art was a bronze sculpture titled: “Aristaeus laments the loss of his bees”. Aristaeus is wearing a fun hat, but he looks pissed and confused as to where his bees went, while we, the viewers, can see them clearly spilling through a hole in his bee-basket. It’s hilarious.
With the duke’s tombs and the extensive art collection, this was an overall fantastic museum. The only negative was that I suppose I wandered somewhere that I wasn’t allowed, and a guard started yelling at me in french. I didn’t see any signs anywhere, so I was confused as to what I’d done wrong, but I backtracked quickly and left the museum.
Entry to the Musee des Beaux-Arts in Dijon, France is free.
For more info on operating hours, click here!
Lunch- and more Galettes!
The museum opens up onto a large square that’s lined with shops and restaurants. During the summer, there are fountains to play in, and I can imagine that it’s a wonderfully lively place, but during the wintertime when we were there, nothing seemed to be open, and so we wandered down some side streets until we found a restaurant that was open.
The restaurant we ended up choosing had a lunch special, where you could pick cider or juice, a savory galette, and a butter and sugar crêpe. YUM.
Very happy to say that I lived out my dream of tracking down another galette!
I’m not usually one for day drinking, but the cider was served in these really fun ceramic cups! I sure felt cozy and local.
After lunch, we had a few minutes to explore some more of Dijon, so I went on a speed walk to see as much of the city as possible.
On the streets, they’ve got these little triangular trail-markers with owls stamped on them that point you towards the memorable sights of Dijon.
Apparently, these markers mark a trail called the Owl Walk, and it took me past some ornate french buildings with traditional Burgundian mosaic tiled roofs. It also took me to one of the strangest churches I’d ever seen.
Paroisse Notre-Dame de Dijon
This is that church.
Unlike the other European churches I’ve been to so far, the facade of this church is a perfect square. That’s not the weirdest part though.
On the facade, there are three neat rows of gargoyles popping out of the wall. There are probably a hundred of them. Each one is a uniquely crafted demon, but they’re all equally grotesque. It’s kind of an unsettling design for an entrance to a church. Unsettling in a cool way, though!
I would have loved to go inside, but I ran out of time 🙁
Chartreuse de Champmol and the Well of Moses
The Chartreuse de Champmol is a former Carthusian monestary, and home to the Well of Moses. The Well of Moses was a major undertaking by the same artists that crafted Philip the Bold’s tomb: Sluter and his team. This well is considered a masterpiece of its time because of its craftsmanship and unique functionality as a well.
To get in, the guide unlocked the building that preserves the well. Since the sculpture was built in the middle of the well itself, we had to walk on a metal grate over the water to see the sculpture up close.
The fountain is a hexagonal prism, with six life-sized biblical prophets on each side, and six weeping angels on top. They’re all mourning the crucified Christ, but that part of the sculpture fell off a long time ago. You can tell it used to be painted, and there are faint hints of blue, yellow, and green left from the 14th century.
Just like our assignment in the museum, we were supposed to choose and draw one of the prophets or the angels. I decided to draw Moses’s face because he had some cool horns on his forehead, and it actually didn’t turn out too bad!
Maybe I got overconfident from Moses, becasue next I tried to draw a weeping angel, which quickly became my greatest artistic failure yet.
I stared at my sketchbook for awhile, and began to come to terms with the fact that I cannot draw.
After my period of reflection, we were given a quick tour of the grounds of the monastery.
Maybe it was because I was moping in failure, or maybe because we’ve already visited two french monasteries, but I thought the Chartreuse de Champmol was a bit unimpressive. Most of the buildings and the areas outside them were blocked off, so the site felt less immersive than others.
To each their own, of course. Also, our tour guide was very kind, and frequently asked if we had questions.
Chartreuse de Champmol is about 10 minute’s drive from Dijon, France.
Entry is 3.50€ for visitors over the age of 18, free for under 18.
For more info on pricing and operating hours, click here!
Dijon, France is a nice city. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. The best part of Dijon is by far the Musee des Beaux-Arts, it’s a great collection and the Duke’s tombs are a big must-see! If you’d like to learn about Burgundy’s history as a Dutchy of France, this is the place!
The rest of Dijon seems to be sleepy in the off-season, but I could envision it coming alive and being a great city to explore on a warm, sunny day! The food was delightful, the architecture is fascinating, and the Owl Walk is a great idea for a city like Dijon! I hope more of the cities I visit in Europe have marked paths like this!
I thought the Well of Moses was a neat stop too, but unless it really interests you, I wouldn’t deem it a necessary place to go when you visit Dijon.
Annnnnnd, that’s a wrap on my visit to Dijon, France!
For some reason I had a lot of trouble journaling about today, so I hope it wasn’t a difficult or boring read for you guys!
Tomorrow will definitely be a cool one, we have a free day in Beaune, so I plan on renting a bike with my friends and riding through France’s wine country! It’s gonna be amazing!!!
See ya then!