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Hotel Chateau de Gilly – Cîteaux

History of the house

Former residence of the Abbey of Cîteaux from the 14th to the 17th centuries, now a hotel-restaurant in the heart of the Burgundian wine growing area

When you come upon the charming hotel chateau de Gilly, once a castle, it is difficult to imagine such a picturesque place disturbed by periods of dramatic upheaval throughout its history.

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© Chateau de Gilly

Monastery, fortified castle and prestigious residence

The original Benedictine priory, founded in the 6th century, by the soon to be famous Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris, might have developed peaceably, despite the rather unprepossessing marshy environment in this part of Burgundy. However, given the extraordinary charisma and influence exerted by the nearby Cistercian Abbey of Citeaux (founded in 1098), it fell under its shadow. The priory and its lands were sold to the Trappists following decades of petty rivalries.

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Fortified priory (1)

Used by the monks to age the precious wines produced in the local vineyards (which are still some of the most prestigious vintages of Burgundy), the priory was transformed into a fortified castle in the 14th century to protect the religious community and house the precious treasures of the Abbey of Citeaux). The waning of the Middle Ages was one of the most troubled periods in French history, tragically rent asunder by the Hundred Years War: where armed attacks and pillage were common occurrences. The fortified monastery was pillaged and almost totally destroyed at the end of the 16th century, during the religious wars between the Catholic League and the Huguenots, led by the future king Henry IV. The only remains of the original priory are the monks’ kitchen and the cellar storeroom (magnificently restored to their former glory today).

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Jean Petit’s coat of arms © Chateau de Gilly

When France was once again at peace in the 17th century, Gilly was reborn from its ashes. The abbot of Citeaux built a dazzling country residence, flanked by seven pavilions and lavishly decorated throughout. The cellars are once again stocked with “foudres” (large barrels) of high quality wine and the castle becomes an important cultural hub. The abbots Nicolas Boucherat, Pierre de Nivelle and Jean Petit have all left their stamp on this period of prosperity.

At the end of the 18th century, under the French Revolution, all church properties were nationalized and the domain was sold to wealthy developers, together with its 100 hectares of land and vines. In 1978, when the Département of the Côte d’Or acquired the site with the aim of creating a theatre space, the “Théâtre de Bourgogne”, the buildings were in a very sorry state … in the end René Traversac, the founder of the hotel chain “Les Grandes Etapes Françaises”, took it upon himself to undertake the vital restoration work so nine years later, Gilly Castle came once again into its own.

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© Chateau de Gilly

> Have a look at the nice Visitor’s Guide of the Chateau de Gilly.

The sound and sober style of the abbots of Citeaux

There are many majestic vestiges of the past: vaulted ceilings from the end of the Middle Ages and the abbot’s prestigious apartments, not to mention the 18th century pavilions and formal French gardens. This is Cistercian architecture at its peak and it is on show throughout. The skilled workmanship is a credit to many highly talented craftsmen.

Château de Gilly

© Chateau de Gilly

Of particular interest is the old priory kitchen, with its central pillar, elegant ribbed vaulting and monumental double fireplace. Today it is the living area and one of the castle’s most evocative places. The 14th century cellar storeroom, now the restaurant dining area for “Le Clos Prieur”, is a masterpiece of Gothic art. You can easily imagine hundreds of barrels of Clos de Vougeot stacked up in this cellar, with their unmistakable atmosphere of damp oak and tannin. The former huge reception area in the Abbot’s apartments, built at the time of Pierre de Nivelle (1625-1635), is a sight to behold, with its splendid ceiling of rafters decorated in Louis XIII style. These have been lovingly restored under the aegis of the “Monuments Historiques”.

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© Chateau de Gilly

Do take a stroll in the gardens, laid out according to an original engraving, with a trout pond and pond with rushes (a reminder that the Abbey of Citeaux was built in the marshes). La Vouge, which flows through the property, has been carefully tamed. Admire the 14th century bridge (formerly the drawbridge), the staircase which leads to the abbot’s house (with its fine wrought iron railings), the garden pavilions and the old parish church of Saint Germain (whose presence within the monastery enclosure gave rise to frequent periods of tension with the townsfolk).

Which room to choose?

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© Chateau de Gilly

The first consideration must be budget; the most authentic rooms are also the most sought after (such as the room of the father abbot, the day pavilion or the vast rooms in the tower with their beautiful fireplaces). The second floor and the pavilion which houses the reception are the most modern areas of the domain, built at the end of the 20th century. Room decoration is refined and typical of 1990s renovation criteria, with large floral design wallpaper. Depending on the room, you will discover tommette tiling, a French-style or painted ceiling, a fireplace, perhaps an old coat of arms …

Discovery trails around the property

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© Chateau de Gilly

Gilly castle provides its guests with a very detailed Visitor’s Guide. How delightful to see the light play on the white stone, pick up the fragrance of roses which grow in the castle grounds, touch the statues on display in the garden in summertime, hear the burbling river, or enjoy the incomparable bouquet of the wide range of wines from the Côte de Nuits … And do not forget to sample some typical Burgundian specialities, blackcurrant liqueur, mustard, cheeses, escargots and gingerbread …

intoHistory TipThe coat of arms of the abbot Pierre de Nivelle, who is became famous owing to the refurbishments he ordered for the abbot’s residence, shows a stag’s head beneath a cross. This motif can be seen in various places around the building, particularly on the white and ochre ceramic floor tiles. You will notice that the cleric has taken the trouble to replace the cross between the stag’s antlers by another design so no one will trample on the symbol of Christ’s martyrdom … Could you identify it?

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Clos de Vougeot © Michal Osmenda

 

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Facilities

  • 48 rooms
  • Gourmet Restaurant « Le Clos Prieur » / bar
  • French garden with terrace (15 ha)
  • “La Vouge” river
  • Outdoor pool
  • Wifi
  • Secured parking
  • Drawing room with fireplace
  • Several events (concerts, sculpture exhibitions in the park…)
  • Spoken languages: English and French
  • Airport : Dijon-Longvic
  • Highway A31 exit « Nuits-Saint-Georges »
  • Families and children welcome
  • Domestic pets are allowed
  • Smoking not permitted in bedrooms and public areas

In the neighbourhood

There is much to see in the neighbourhood, such as the Saulx tithe barn (13th century), the old bridge and former wash-house in Gilly village, The Abbey of Citeaux (of course) and the Clos de Vougeot.

To read, watch or listen to

To fully appreciate the period atmosphere of the Hotel Chateau de Gilly, do not hesitate to enhance your stay by reading a few books (nothing beats a good historical novel to bring old stones back to life). Watching a film evoking the era or listening to some period music may also be a good way to transport you back in time… A few suggestions:

Learning and understanding

  • Cistercian Abbeys, History and Architecture“, by jean-François Leroux-Dhuys This 400 pages volume presents masterpieces of Cistercian architecture in France, Great Britain, the German-speaking lands, Portugal, Spain and Italy. The text describes the development of the order and the life of Bernhard of Clairvaux. A selection of original texts, pictures and chronological tables offers information on the artistic and cultural-historical characteristics of the individual monasteries and their inhabitants. An impressive and inspiring oeuvre!
  • The Cistercians in the Middle Ages“, by Janet Burton The Cistercians (White Monks) were the most successful monastic experiment to emerge from the tumultuous intellectual and religious fervour of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. By around 1150 they had established houses the length and breadth of Western Christendom and were internationally renowned. They sought to return to a simple form of monastic life, as set down in the Rule of St Benedict, and preferred rural locations “far from the haunts of men”. But, as recent research has shown, they were by no means isolated from society but influenced, and were influenced by, the world around them; they moved with the times.

Books to be devoured in situ

  • The Prophet of Compostella, a novel of Apprenticeship and Initiation“, by Henri Vincenot An award-winning author explores the convergence of Church, Celtic mythology, and Cistercian sacred architecture in this intriguing tale of a young man’s spiritual journey in 12th-century Burgundy.
  • Nightmare in Burgundy: A Winemaker Detective Mystery“, by Jean-Pierre AlauxThe Winemaker Detective leaves his native Bordeaux to go to Burgundy for a dream wine tasting trip to France’s other key wine-making region. Between Beaune, Dijon and Nuits-Saint-Georges, it turns into a troubling nightmare when he stumbles upon a mystery revolving around messages from another era. What do they mean? What dark secrets from the deep past are haunting the Clos de Vougeot? Does blood need to be shed to sharpen people’s memory?

Period music to be enjoyed on location

 

Some of the links below will enable you to consult the recommended titles directly on Amazon.com. If you decide to purchase one of these titles via this link, please note that intoHistory will receive a small commission on your transaction, which goes towards covering its running costs.

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Historical authenticity
Ambiance and settings
Quality of welcome
Degree of comfort

14th century Chateau Hotel 150-220€/room

Worth discovering

Hotel Chateau de Gilly
2, place du Château
Gilly-les-Cîteaux
FR-21640   VOUGEOT
+33 3 80 62 89 98
Chateau de Gilly’s own website

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