Friday, 24 July 2015

Dijon: tour Philippe-le-Bon

Tour Philippe le Bon

I sometimes struggle to decide what counts as a "walk" for the purposes of this blog. This post will describe the shortest ever walk. I think it is an interesting post, but it simply describes the ascent of a 316 step stairway to the top of a tower. It is a companion piece to the walk around Dijon I described a few days ago.

The Tour Philippe le Bon is in the centre of the Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy in Dijon. It was built by Philippe in the 15th century. You can only see it by a guided tour which departs every 90 minutes from the tourist office.

The staircase is in two sections. The initial section is wider and features delightful stone carvings in the corners as the staircase turns its way upwards. This one is thought to represent the architect, or at least the builder.

The first section ends after 200 or so steps with this wonderful central stone post and eight-ribbed vault.

The final hundred or so steps are narrower and unadorned. You seem to arrive suddenly at the top level and you are then rewarded with wonderful views in all directions. Perhaps the most interesting was straight down in front of the Palace to Place de la Libération, laid out between 1681 and 1686 by Jacques Hardouin-Mansart (a relative of François Mansart, inventor of the eponymous roof). The design is an elegant curved arcade with a parapet above. A modern water feature has been added in recent times.

Secondly, there was the view towards the cathedral, which highlights the beautiful Burgundian roof and spire.  The northern tip of the Cote D'Or wine growing area (Gevrey-Chambertin, Nuits St Georges etc.) is visible on the horizon on the left.

I also especially liked this view of the roof of the Hôtel de Vogüé, a renaissance building which we had admired from ground level on our earlier walk.

There was additionally this wonderful gargoyle springing from the side of the tower.

Finally a word on Philippe le Bon, shown here in a portrait in the Musée des Beaux Arts, which occupies part of the Palace. Philippe was the son of Jean sans Peur (John the Fearless) and grandson of Philippe le Hardi (Philip the Bold). His own son was Charles le Temeraire (Charles the Brave), so he was in a line of warlike rulers. It seems that Philippe himself was more interested in art, culture and administrative reforms rather than territorial acquisition. He ruled from 1419 to 1467.

Conditions: sultry.

Distance: too short to measure, but at least 632 steps.

Rating: fours stars.

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