The medieval architecture of the Hôtel Chambellan at Dijon.

Hôtel, Chambellan, Dijon, Court, Gothic, middle ages, Architecture, France,
Court of the Hôtel Chambellan, Dijon. No. 2.

Hôtel Chambellan, Dijon.

The remains of this once beautiful Hôtel are situated in the old Rue de Forges, and are now occupied by un maître épicier.

The architecture of the front next the street has been replaced by that of modern shops, but the original court, chapel, kitchen-court, and well, have been preserved, and are in a very perfect condition.

Before proceeding to give a description of these remains, some notice is required of the history of the Hôtel. It has hitherto been known by various names, — Hôtel Chambellan, Hôtel des Ambassadeurs, and Hôtel d’Angleterre. For the two latter of these there is little or no authority, so far at least as regards the present building; but it is not improbable that upon the same site there once may have been an edifice to which either one or both these names properly belonged.

In the histories of the noble families of France,*) two personages appear of the name of Chambellan,— Henri and Guillaume, — cotemporaries, and probably brothers; but it is uncertain which of them erected the residence called after their surname. Of Henri Chambellan we read, that he was receiver-general of the finances of Burgundy, vicomte-majeur of Dijon, and was married to Alix de Berci, surnamed “La Belle,” by whom he had a daughter, Marie, espoused to Guy de Rochefort, chancellor of France, and gouvernante of Claude of France, afterwards queen of Francis I. Of Guillaume it is said that he was doctor of laws, counsellor to the Parliament of Burgundy in 1496, and ultimately chancellor of the province. He was afterwards appointed a member of the council of state of the kingdom of France, by letters given at the royal palace at Blois in 1505, and took the oaths between the hands of the king’s chancellor; but being obliged subsequently to make a choice between his various appointments, he selected those of Burgundy in preference to the others.

*) Lablandinière, &c.

It is not known whether Guillaume Chambellan was ever married, but the arms he bore were,—Azure, two pates de griffon, or, in chief, and in point, a tete de leopard erased of the same, and langued gules.

These arms appear on the dormer windows in the court of the Hôtel, and are in a good state of preservation; they identify the building with the family of Chambellan, which important fact being once established, it becomes a matter of indifference as to which of the two brothers Dijon is indebted for one of its most beautiful edifices.

The building of the Hôtel Chambellan may be assigned to the end of the fifteenth century, and of the remains at present existing the principal point of interest is centered in the court, of which a view is given (Plate 2), showing the beautiful open staircase, the galleries of wood communicating with that part of the building formerly occupied by the salle de logis, and the kitchen and chambers above it, with the highly enriched dormer window.

Middle Ages, Ground Plan, Hôtel, Chambellan, Dijon
The Ground Plan.

The Ground Plan shows the extent of the building, and illustrates the kind of arrangement usually carried out in large houses in towns during the Middle Ages.

It has been already observed that the old front next the Rue de Forges has given place to modern buildings; originally, this space was occupied by the large salle de logis of the Hôtel, raised one story above the street, partly for security, and partly to afford space for many domestic wants. The thorough passage is still traceable (an arrangement universal in all halls in England), and through it the interior court is reached. This thorough passage was continued across the court by means of a covered way, or cloister, which led to the entrance of a second passage, communicating on one side with a buttery, and in a straight direction with the kitchen-court. The kitchen, which has two entrances, one from the first court, the other from the kitchen-court, communicates with the buttery by means of the hatch; and it was through the latter that the dinner was served from the kitchen to the large salle de logis.

The open staircase in the angle of the court leads, on one side, to the chapel, and to two chambers over the kitchen and buttery; on the other, to the wooden gallery which formerly gave access to one end of the salle de logis.

The kitchen-court contains the well, and was once surrounded by stables and other domestic offices.

Having introduced the reader to this charming residence through the medium of the Plan, his attention will be less distracted by details if they are explained to him in the order which has been hitherto observed in describing the various parts of the building.

Hôtel, Chambellan, Dijon, Court, Gothic, middle ages, Architecture, France,
Court of the Hôtel Chambellan, Dijon. No. 3.

The remains of the covered way, and with them the doorway adjoining, are the first subjects for architectural criticism which meet us in the examination of the details; and in these there is very much to admire and to reward attention. (Plate 3.) The finely-shaped corbel supported by les hommes sauvages, so abruptly checking the growth of the mouldings of the adjoining window-jamb, forms an invaluable example of that freedom in the treatment of all points of detail so apparent in the art. The fragment of the arch which springs from this corbel would seem to indicate the presence at one time of a groined cloister, consisting of two arches, with a pier in the centre very similar to that shown in the view of a court in a house at Tours. The peculiarity of the ogee-headed doorway is the example it affords of the manner in which the tympanum is filled in with perforated tracery.

The windows in the court belonging to the kitchen and buttery are inferior in form to many others of a corresponding date, but they are remarkable because the labels continue down to the sills, and finish with base-mouldings similar to those applied to the mouldings of the jambs.

The kitchen is very massively groined, the mouldings of the ribs weathering down on to large corbels, which have a small shaft to them. The chimney-piece, with its huge projecting canopy, reaches to the ceiling, and on one side of it is the arched hatchway before alluded to. The buttery is groined, but not so massively as the kitchen, and the ribs fall upon grotesque corbels, but, where interfered with by the chimney-piece, die very beautifully against its projecting canopy.

We now arrive at the principal feature of this Hôtel, viz.,its open staircase, which is a rare specimen of fine masonry, most picturesque in its composition, and built, as are the other parts of the house, of a very close-grained and durable limestone. The chief characteristic of this staircase is the large proportion of void space compared with the solid supports; it has a centre newel, composed of the smaller ends of all the radiating steps, whilst more than half of the corresponding larger ends have only for their support a continuous arch-string moulding, taking the form of the rake of the stairs, and resting in the middle upon a pier very richly decorated; this arch-string moulding carries the open balustrade. The centre newel finishes at the top with the figure of a gardener carrying a basket, from which springs the groined roof over the staircase.

The chapel is approached through an ante-room. It is small, has a five-light window at the east end, and is groined in four compartments with mouldings feathered with tracery, and, in the centre, finished with a pendent corbel. In other respects every part of this chapel is destroyed, and it is now used for a wood-house.

The chambers over the kitchen and buttery have been much modernized, but two fine chimney-pieces remain; and in cupboards, as well as behind partitions, very rich doorways are still to be found.

The gallery is a very perfect specimen of wood-work of the fifteenth century, and very similar in detail and construction to that existing at the Hôtel Dieu, at Beaunne.

The roofs of the staircase and of its tourelle have been destroyed; the view of the court of the Hôtel Bernadon may, however, supply some idea as to what they were once like.

Source: Illustrations of mediaeval architecture in France, from the accession of Charles VI. to the demise of Louis XII.; by Henry Clutton. London, Nattali and Bond 1856.

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