The history of Burgundy

The region today known as Burgundy was settled by humans as early as the Palaeolithic era. Archaeological finds made at the Rock of Solutré indicate that this area was densely populated around 15,000 B.C. North of La Vierge Romaine, in Chassey-le-Camp, the remains of a Neolithic settlement (around 4,000 B.C) were also discovered (the archaeological finds can be seen at the Musée Rollin in Autun).

Until the arrival of the Romans, the Celtic culture of the Gauls predominated. The capital city of the Gauls/Aedui was Bibracte. In 52 B.C., Julius Caesar led the Romans to victory at Alesia against the Gallic resistance under Vercingetorix. Gaul was subsequently made a part of the Roman empire, and the language and culture of its inhabitants gradually 'romanised'. Augustodunum (Autun) was founded around 43 B.C. The Burgundian tribespeople are believed to have originated from eastern Germania. In late antiquity, they founded their own kingdom by the Rhine. Its downfall is the subject of the Nibelungenlied dating from the 12th century.


In the Middle Ages, the monks of the Order of Saint Benedict based in Cluny made Burgundy the spiritual centre of Europe. In 1363, King John the Good bestowed the duchy of Burgundy on his son, Philip the Bold. Philip went on to found the House of Valois-Burgundy, one of the mightiest dynasties of the late Middle Ages, its lands stretching from what is now the Netherlands to the area of modern-day Burgundy. The castle of Philip the Bold is in Santenay, two kilometres from La Vierge Romaine.

Duke John the Fearless reigned from 1404 to 1419; Duke Philip the Good from 1419 to 1467; and Duke Charles the Bold from 1467 to 1477. The seat of Burgundy's dukes was Dijon. Whereas Philip the Good managed to consolidate his territories and rule over a rich and mighty state, his successor, Charles the Bold, tried to continue the expansion of the realm using military force. He was defeated and killed at Nancy in 1477. Burgundy has been a part of France ever since.


Burgundy has become famous for its architectural monuments, castles and abbeys, which are of great significance to the history of art. No other French province contains larger or richer monasteries than Burgundy. There are numerous magnificent castles and fortresses to excite culture lovers. These important attractions are often surrounded by splendidly landscaped parks and gardens. Here, the magical fascination of history captivates the visitor.