1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Dijon

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DIJON, a town of eastern France, capital of the department of Côte d’Or and formerly capital of the province of Burgundy, 195 m. S.E. of Paris on the Paris-Lyon railway. Pop. (1906) 65,516. It is situated on the western border of the fertile plain of Burgundy, at the foot of Mont Afrique, the north-eastern summit of the Côte d’Or range, and at the confluence of the Ouche and the Suzon; it also has a port on the canal of Burgundy. The great strategic importance of Dijon as a centre of railways and roads, and its position with reference to an invasion of France from the Rhine, have led to the creation of a fortress forming part of the Langres group. There is no enceinte, but on the east side detached forts, 3 to 4 m. distant from the centre, command all the great roads, while the hilly ground to the west is protected by Fort Hauteville to the N.W. and the “groups” of Motte Giron and Mont Afrique to the S.W., these latter being very formidable works. Including a fort near Saussy (about 8 m. to the N.W.) protecting the water-supply of Dijon, there are eight forts, besides the groups above mentioned. The fortifications which partly surrounded the old and central portion of the city have disappeared to make way for tree-lined boulevards with fine squares at intervals. The old churches and historic buildings of Dijon are to be found in the irregular streets of the old town, but industrial and commercial activity has been transferred to the new quarters beyond its limits. A fine park more than 80 acres in extent lies to the south of the city, which is rich in open spaces and promenades, the latter including the botanical garden and the Promenade de l’Arquebuse, in which there is a black poplar famous for its size and age.

The cathedral of St Bénigne, originally an abbey church, was built in the latter half of the 13th century on the site of a Romanesque basilica, of which the crypt remains. The west front is flanked by two towers and the crossing is surmounted by a slender timber spire. The plan consists of three naves, short transepts and a small choir, without ambulatory, terminating in three apses. In the interior there is a fine organ and a quantity of statuary, and the vaults contain the remains of Philip the Bold, duke of Burgundy, and Anne of Burgundy, daughter of John the Fearless. The site of the abbey buildings is occupied by the bishop’s palace and an ecclesiastical seminary. The church of Notre-Dame, typical of the Gothic style of Burgundy, was erected from 1252 to 1334, and is distinguished for the grace of its interior and the beauty of the western façade. The portal consists of three arched openings, above which are two stages of arcades, open to the light and supported on slender columns. A row of gargoyles surmounts each storey of the façade, which is also ornamented by sculptured friezes. A turret to the right of the portal carries a clock called the Jaquemart, on which the hours are struck by two figures. The church of St Michel belongs to the 15th century. The west façade, the most remarkable feature of the church, is, however, of the Renaissance period. The vaulting of the three portals is of exceptional depth owing to the projection of the lower storey of the façade. Above this storey rise two towers of five stages, the fifth stage being formed by an octagonal cupola. The columns decorating the façade represent all the four orders. The design of this façade is wrongly attributed to Hugues Sambin (fl. c. 1540), a native of Dijon, and pupil of Leonardo da Vinci, but the sculpture of the portals, including “The Last Judgment” on the tympanum of the main portal, is probably from his hand. St Jean (15th century) and St Étienne (15th, 16th and 17th centuries), now used as the exchange, are the other chief churches. Of the ancient palace of the dukes of Burgundy there remain two towers, the Tour de la Terrasse and the Tour de Bar, the guard-room and the kitchens; these now form part of the hôtel de ville, the rest of which belongs to the 17th and 18th centuries. This building contains an archaeological museum with a collection of Roman stone monuments; the archives of the town; and the principal museum, which, besides valuable paintings and other works of art, contains the magnificent tombs of Philip the Bold and John the Fearless, dukes of Burgundy. These were transferred from the Chartreuse of Dijon (or of Champmol), built by Philip the Bold as a mausoleum, now replaced by a lunatic asylum. Relics of it survive in the old Gothic entrance, the portal of the church, a tower and the well of Moses, which is adorned with statues of Moses and the prophets by Claux Sluter (fl. end of 14th century), the Dutch sculptor, who also designed the tomb of Philip the Bold. The Palais de Justice, which belongs to the reign of Louis XII., is of interest as the former seat of the parlement of Burgundy. Dijon possesses several houses of the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, notably the Maison Richard in the Gothic, and the Hôtel Vogüé in the Renaissance style. St Bernard, the composer J. P. Rameau and the sculptor François Rude have statues in the town, of which they were natives. There are also monuments to those inhabitants of Dijon who fell in the engagement before the town in 1870, and to President Carnot and Garibaldi.

The town is important as the seat of a prefecture, a bishopric, a court of appeal and a court of assizes, and as centre of an académie (educational district). There are tribunals of first instance and of commerce, a board of trade-arbitrators, a chamber of commerce, an exchange (occupying the former cathedral of St Étienne), and an important branch of the Bank of France. Its educational establishments include faculties of law, of science and of letters, a preparatory school of medicine and pharmacy, a higher school of commerce, a school of fine art, a conservatoire of music, lycées and training colleges, and there is a public library with about 100,000 volumes.

Dijon is well known for its mustard, and for the black currant liqueur called cassis de Dijon; its industries include the manufacture of machinery, automobiles, bicycles, soap, biscuits, brandy, leather, boots and shoes, candles and hosiery. There are also flour mills, breweries, important printing works, vinegar works and, in the vicinity, nursery gardens. The state has a large tobacco manufactory in the town. Dijon has considerable trade in cereals and wool, and is the second market for the wines of Burgundy.

Under the Romans Dijon (Divonense castrum) was a vicus in the civitas of Langres. In the 2nd century it was the scene of the martyrdom of St Benignus (Bénigne, vulg. Berin, Berain), the apostle of Burgundy. About 274 the emperor Aurelian surrounded it with ramparts. Gregory of Tours, in the 6th century, comments on the strength and pleasant situation of the place, expressing surprise that it does not rank as a civitas. During the middle ages the fortunes of Dijon followed those of Burgundy, the dukes of which acquired it early in the 11th century. The communal privileges, conferred on the town in 1182 by Hugh III., duke of Burgundy, were confirmed by Philip Augustus in 1183, and in the 13th century the dukes took up their residence there. For the decoration of the palace and other monuments built by them, eminent artists were gathered from northern France and Flanders, and during this period the town became one of the great intellectual centres of France. The union of the duchy with the crown in 1477 deprived Dijon of the splendour of the ducal court; but to counterbalance this loss it was made the capital of the province and seat of a parlement. Its fidelity to the monarchy was tested in 1513, when the citizens were besieged by 50,000 Swiss and Germans, and forced to agree to a treaty so disadvantageous that Louis XII. refused to ratify it. In the wars of religion Dijon sided with the League, and only opened its gates to Henry IV. in 1595. The 18th century was a brilliant period for the city; it became the seat of a bishopric, its streets were improved, its commerce developed, and an academy of science and letters founded; while its literary salons were hardly less celebrated than those of Paris. The neighbourhood was the scene of considerable fighting during the Franco-German War, which was, however, indirectly of some advantage to the city owing to the impetus given to its industries by the immigrants from Alsace.

See H. Chabeuf, Dijon à travers les âges (Dijon, 1897), and Dijon, monuments et souvenirs (Dijon, 1894).