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Coat of arms of the second Duchy of Burgundy and later of the French province of Burgundy

Burgundy (French: Bourgogne; German: Burgund) is a region historically situated in modern-day France and Switzerland.

Contents

History

Burgundy was inhabited in turn by Celts, Romans (Gallo-Romans), and in the 4th century, the Roman allies the Burgundians, a Germanic people originating in Sweden, who settled there and established their own kingdom. This Burgundian kingdom was conquered in the 6th century by another Germanic tribe, the Franks who continued the kingdom of Burgundy under their own rule.

Later, the region was divided between the Duchy of Burgundy (to the west) and the County of Burgundy (to the east). The Duchy of Burgundy is the best known of the two, later becoming the French province of Burgundy, while the County of Burgundy became the French province of Franche-Comté, literally meaning free county.

The modern-day administrative région of Bourgogne comprises most of the former Duchy of Burgundy.

The Burgundians were one of the Germanic peoples who filled the power vacuum left by the collapse of the western half of the Roman Empire. In A.D. 411, they crossed the Rhine and established a kingdom at Worms. Amidst repeated clashes between the Romans and Huns, the Burgundian kingdom eventually occupied what is today the borderlands between Switzerland, France, and Italy. In 534, the Franks defeated Godomar, the last Burgundian king, and absorbed the territory into their growing empire.

Burgundy's modern existence is rooted in the dissolution of the Frankish Empire. In the 880s, there were four Burgundies:

  1. the Kingdom of Upper (Transjurane) Burgundy around Lake Geneva,
  2. the Kingdom of Lower Burgundy in Provence,
  3. the Duchy of Burgundy west of the Saône,
  4. the County of Burgundy east of the Saône.

The two kingdoms of Upper and Lower Burgundy were reunited in 937 and absorbed into the Holy Roman Empire under Conrad II in 1032, as the Kingdom of Arles. The Duchy of Burgundy was annexed by the French throne in 1004. The County of Burgundy remained loosely associated with the Holy Roman Empire (intermittently independent, whence the name "Franche-Comté"), and finally incorporated into France in 1678, with the Treaties of Nijmegen.

During the Middle Ages, Burgundy was the seat of some of the most important Western churches and monasteries, among them Cluny, Citeaux, and Vézelay.

Burgundy within 14th century France, map by William R. Shepherd.
Territory of the Duchy of Burgundy (Bourgogne) in 1477 marked in yellow.

During the Hundred Years' War, King John II of France gave the duchy to his youngest son, Philip the Bold, rather than leaving it for his successor on the French throne. The duchy soon became a major rival to the throne, because the Dukes of Burgundy succeeded in assembling an empire stretching from Switzerland to the North Sea, in large part by marriage. The Burgundian territories consisted of a number of fiefdoms on both sides of the (then largely symbolic) border between the Kingdom of France and the Holy Roman Empire. Its economic heartland was in the Low Countries, particularly Flanders and Brabant. The court in Dijon outshone the French court both economically and culturally. In Belgium and in the south of the Netherlands, a 'Burgundian lifestyle' still means 'enjoyment of life, good food, and extravagant spectacle'.

In 1477, at the battle of Nancy during the Burgundian Wars, the last duke Charles the Bold was killed in battle, and the Duchy itself was annexed by France. In the late 15th and early 16th centuries, the other Burgundian territories provided a power base for the rise of the Habsburgs, after Maximilian of Austria married the surviving daughter of the ducal family, Mary. After her death, her husband moved his court first to Mechelen and later to the palace at Coudenberg, Brussels, and from there ruled the remnants of the empire, the Low Countries (Burgundian Netherlands) and Franche-Comté, then still an imperial fief. The latter territory was ceded to France in the Treaty of Nijmegen of 1678.

Geography

Highest point: Haut-Folin (901m) in the Morvan.

The Canal of Burgundy joins the Rivers Yonne and Saône, allowing barges to navigate from the north to south of France. Construction began in 1765 and was completed in 1832. At the summit there is a tunnel 3.333 kilometres long in a straight line. The canal is 400 kilometres long, with a total 209 locks and crosses two counties of Burgundy, the Yonne and Cote d'Or. The canal is now mostly used for riverboat tourism; Dijon, the most important city along the canal, has a harbor.

Culture

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Wine

Chardonnay vineyards in the south of the Côte de Beaune surrounding the town of Meursault.

Burgundy is one of France's main wine producing areas. It is well known for both its red and white wines, mostly made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, respectively, although other grape varieties can be found, including Gamay, Aligote, Pinot Blanc, and Sauvignon Blanc. The region is divided into the Côte-d'Or, where the most expensive and prized Burgundies are found, and Beaujolais, Chablis, the Côte Chalonnaise and Mâcon.

The reputation and quality of the top wines, together with the fact that they are often produced in tiny quantities, has led to high demand and high prices, with some Burgundies ranking among the most expensive wines in the world.

Cuisine

Famous Burgundian dishes include coq au vin, beef bourguignon, and Époisses de Bourgogne cheese.

See also

References

External links


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