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Geography and Landscape


The Burgundy region is located southeast of Paris. With an area of almost 32,000 square kilometers, the region is about the same size as Belgium. The Côte d'Or department covers 8765 km2, Nièvre 6,815 km2, Yonne 7,425 km2 and Saône-et-Loire 8,575 km2. Burgundy is bordered on the north by Champagne, on the east by Savoy and Franche-Comté, on the south by Beaujolais and Lyonnais and on the west by the Loire Valley.


Burgundy LandscapePhoto:tara hunt Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic no changes made

Burgundy has a true mosaic of characteristic landscapes, but mainly has gently sloping hills (between 150 and 600 meters) and wide river valleys. Only the Morvan is a bit more mountainous with peaks of up to 900 meters, including the Mont Beuvray (821 m) and the Bois du Roi (902 m).

Burgundy can be divided into four different areas. In the east lies the wide river plain of the Saône. The north and west consist of fertile plains that together form the sedimentary basin of Basse-Bourgogne, around the towns of Auxerre and Chablis.

In the center are limestone plateaus that end in steep slopes in the east, Arrière-Côte and Côte. To the south lie granite masses and plateaus of the beautiful, hilly nature reserve Parc Naturel Régional du Morvan, and further the Charolais and the Mâconnais.

Burgundy is a very wetland area. The Marne, the Aube, the Ource, the Seine, the Ozerain, the Armançon, the Serein, the Cure, the Yonne and the Loire flow in a northerly direction with their side branches that flow partly to the south such as the Arconce, the Bourbince, the Arroux and the Nièvre. The Saône runs south, with its tributaries flowing northwards, the Ouche, the Dheune and the Grosne.

In the 19th century, the main rivers were linked by a number of canals: Canal de Bourgogne (between Yonne and Saône), Canal de Center (between Loire and Saône), Canal du Rhône au Rhin and Canal de la Marne à la Saône.

Parc Naturel Régional du Morvan

Morvan BurgundyPhoto:Havang in the public domain

This is one of 23 regional nature parks in France. The total area is 175,000 hectares, of which 70,000 hectares is occupied by forests (mainly beech, oak, pine, spruce) and 1300 hectares by water.

In 1970, 64 municipalities were included in this national park. The Morvan covers an area of 50 km in width and 70 km in length and consists roughly of two parts: La Bas-Morvan and Le Haut-Morvan. At 855 m, Mont-Préneley is the highest point in Burgundy.

The Morvan has some large forests: Forêt de la Gravelle (2000 ha), Forêt Le Bois du Roi (1013 ha), Forêt domaniale d'Anost (1695 ha), Forêt domaniale au Duc (1227 ha) and Forêt domaniale de Breuil- Chenue (1113 ha). The Morvan has an extensive network of rivers, the most important of which are the Cure, the Chalaux, the Cousin, the Ternin and the Yonne.

Climate and Weather

Burgundy Auxerre in the sunPhoto:Christophe.Finot Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic no changes made

Burgundy is far inland and therefore has a largely Central European continental climate with cold winters and warm summers. Only in the west of the area does the Atlantic Ocean leave its mark on the climate. The southeast is influenced by the Mediterranean climate.

The weather usually comes in from the west, when moisture-saturated clouds arrive from the Atlantic Ocean and linger against the highest mountains of the Morvan, it can rain long in the heart of the region. On average, there is between 650 and 900 mm of rainfall per year in Burgundy. In the Morvan there is much more rainfall in the mountain areas, 1600 to 1800 mm per year. It rains or snows 180 days a year on the peaks. The most rain falls in the months of June and August, the least rain falls in the month of March.

The average temperatures are slightly higher than in England.

Climate table Auxerre

precipitationavg tempmax.temp.min.temp.
January51 mm2,7°C16,8°C-20,1°C
February54 mm4,0°C23,0°C-18,8°C
March47 mm6,8°C26,6°C-10,8°C
April40 mm9,8°C28,7°C-3,6°C
May65 mm13,5°C31,3°C-1,0°C
June65 mm16,7°C35,8°C3,0°C
July48 mm18,7°C39,6°C5,8°C
August57 mm18,3°C38,8°C4,0°C
September54 mm15,8°C35,3°C0,5°C
October54 mm11,4°C28,8°C-2,9°C
November53 mm6,2°C22,8°C-8,1°C
December55 mm3,6°C18,4°C-15,1°C
Year540 mm10,6°C39,6°C-20,1°C

Climate table Dijon

precipitationavg temp
January59 mm1,6°C
February53 mm3,6°C
March53 mm6,5°C
April52 mm9,8°C
May86 mm13,7°C
June62 mm17,2°C
July51 mm19,7°C
August65 mm19,1°C
September67 mm16,1°C
October58 mm11,3°C
November64 mm5,6°C
December62 mm2,3°C
Year732 mm10,5°C

Plants and Animals


Porcini mushrooms BurgundyPhoto:Svdmolen Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Much of the Burgundy Landscape is covered with meadows, hedgerows and deciduous and coniferous forests. Flowers include field butterflowers, white and blue violets, ranunculus and anemones. Many mushrooms also grow there: oyster mushrooms, porcini mushrooms, chanterelles and morel mushrooms.

The most common tree species are beech, oak, hornbeam and (silver) birch. Burgundy has 17 endangered plant species.

The Morvan has a rich flora including wild daffodil, wood anemone, marsh marigold, primrose, celandine, yellow broom, pink day-cuckoo flower, the rare white night cuckoo flower, forget-me-not, field horn flower, blue cornflower and orchid.


Wild Boar BurgundyPhoto:Frank Vincentz Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Mammals such as deer, badgers, foxes, wild cats, stone martens, hares and rabbits live in the Burgundian forests and on the plains.

Many species of fish swim in the lakes and rivers: brook and rainbow trout, carp, pike, zander, burbot (freshwater cod), mullet, shad, lamprey, barbel, tench and roach. The Burgundian river landscape is also the habitat for the grass snake. Some special amphibians are tree frog, yellow-bellied fire toad, great crested newt, asp, viper, esculap snake and emerald lizard.

Well-known birds of prey are sparrowhawks, red and black kites, merlin, hawks, harriers, buzzards, snake eagles, pygmy eagles, and peregrine falcons. Other birds include kingfisher, bee-eater, sand martin, dipper and the great yellow wagtail.

The cultivated agricultural areas are regularly plowed by herds of wild boars. Every year, tens of thousands of wild boars are shot by hunters.

The insect world is very rich due to the varied landscape and the many plant and flower species. Some special species are the cockchafer, the stag beetle, the praying mantis and the golden beetle, and further butterflies such as blue, queen's webpage, fritillary butterfly and in some places the large fire butterfly.

Burgundy has 101 endangered species, including bats, otters, curlews, owls, harriers, eels, pike, toads, lizards and crayfish.

Buzzard Burgundy Photo:Peter van der Sluijs CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

The Morvan also has a rich collection of birds. Birds of prey such as buzzards, falcons, hawks and many owl species are common. Furthermore, swallows, finches, magpies, crows, goldfinches, jackdaws, blue tits and robins. Rarer are pied and gray flycatcher, kingfisher, hoopoe, dipper and ortolan. Reptiles and amphibians include grass snake, Moorish water snake, salamanders, toads, lizards, frogs. Mammals are represented by foxes, badgers, polecats, martens, rabbits, hares, fallow deer, wild boars and wild cats.



Arcy-sur-Cure Caves BurgundyPhoto:Public domain

Several traces bear witness to the fact that people lived in present-day Burgundy as far back as the Paleolithic, the Old Stone Age (c. 2,000,000 - 8,000 BC). Locations include Arcy-sur-Cure and Roche de Solutré, near Mâcon. So much material has been found there that the entire period (c. 20,000-16,000 BC) is called Solutréen. The same goes for Chassey-le-Camps, where many remains from the Neolithic (ca. 6000-1800 BC) have been found. So much so that a period is also named after this, namely Chasséen (4000-3000 BC). During this time the nomadic people settled in this area and gradually became livestock farmers and arable farmers.


Roman Theater Autun BurgundyPhoto:Zairon Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Approx. 300 BC. the Gallic Aduans settled in present-day Burgundy, excellent farmers and ranchers. They lived in fortified places, the so-called "oppida". The largest oppidium, and in fact the capital of the whole area, was Bibracte, a fortress on Mont Beuvray in the south of the Morvan.

From the 2nd century BC. this area was attacked and despite fierce resistance from the Gallic tribes, the Romans under Julius Caesar took over in 52 BC. into the area. The legendary Gallic captain Vercingetorix suffered the decisive defeat.

After this period of resistance, the Gauls benefited from Roman civilization and experienced a period of economic prosperity. The capital was moved from Bibracte to Augustodunum (today's Autun). Almost immediately the Gauls came into contact with Christianity. An important city like Auxerre was built in the 4th century AD. Christianized and an important place of pilgrimage.

The 4th century was also marked by the decline of the Roman Empire and the invading Germanic peoples (Goths, Vandals, Franks, Saxons and Angels) and the Huns. In 476 the Western Roman Empire ceased to exist.

Middle Ages

Charles Martel BurgundyPhoto:J. Patrick Fischer Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

In 486 the Frankish empire (area between the Rhine and the North Sea) of the Merovingians was founded by Clovis, king of the Salian Franks. He was baptized in 496 and thus the Gallo-Romans and the Franks easily formed a state. After Clovis's death in 507, the Frankish Empire was divided among his three sons. In 532-534 they added the kingdom of the Burgundians, the Burgondiones, to their possessions. These Burgundians came from the Baltic coast and entered this area at the end of the 4th century. After the death of one of the sons, Clotaire I, the empire was divided into three parts of the empire: Austrasia, Neustria and Burgundy (located between Austrasia and Provence, with the capital alternately Chalon-sur-Saône and Autun).

Under Clotaire II (613-629) these parts of the kingdom were ruled by court maids and had a high degree of independence. Under Dagobert I (629-639) a last attempt was made to unite the three kingdoms, but this failed miserably. The stewards became even more powerful, which ultimately led to the decline of the Merovingians.

It was only under Charles Martel (714-742) and certainly under Charlemagne (768-814) that the Frankish empire became increasingly powerful and expanded considerably, as far as Spain and Germany. In the provinces he ruled with a heavy hand, but this resulted in a cultural and scientific flourishing period.

After the death of Charlemagne, a succession issue arose. After the reign of his son Louis the Pious, the great empire was again divided into three by the Treaty of Verdun in 843. Louis the German got the eastern part, Charles the Bald the western part and Lothair the so-called Middle Kingdom. From this division, France was eventually born.

Burgundy was divided between the Middle Kingdom and West Francia by Verdun. The part of the Middle Kingdom was already lost to East Francia in 921. The northwestern point later became the Duchy of Burgundy.

During this time Europe was ravaged by invading Normans, but the feudal men also became increasingly independent. Richard the Just, Count of Autun, managed to unite the other Burgundian counts and drive the Normans out of Burgundy.

Capeting House (987-1328)

Hugo Capet FrancePhoto:Public domain

In 987, the Carolingians were ousted by the Capetians and Hugo Capet, duke of the Ile de France, was crowned king. Feudal states like Burgundy were very powerful and almost independent in those early days. In 1015 Robert II the Pious succeeded in conquering Burgundy, but under his son Robert I the Elder central authority was again seriously undermined. Burgundy at that time consisted of the region around Dijon.

Only under Louis VI the Fat were the feudal rulers somewhat restrained. As a result, prosperity increased again for the ordinary population. During this time monastic orders such as the Cluniacans and Cistercians also became increasingly important for the development of the Burgundian country.

Under Louis VI (1137-1180), the influence of England on France increased due to dynastic complications. The marriage of Hendrik Plantagenêt to Eleanor of Aquitaine created a very powerful empire: England, Anjou, Normandy and large parts of southwestern France.

The Capetians saw these developments with sorrow and Philip II Augustus (1180-1223) went to war with the English, who were led by Richard the Lionheart and his successor John without Land. It was a successful battle for Philip, because in the end all fiefs north of the Loire were annexed to the French kingdom. Throughout the 13th century, peace and tranquility defined the image in France, including under the mighty Louis the Saint. He reformed the administrative and administrative apparatus and made peace with the English in 1259. He died in Tunis in 1270 during the Second Crusade.

Hundred Years' War (1340-1453)

Battle of AzincourtPhoto:Public domain

Peace and prosperity ended during the reign of Philip VI of Valois. Famine and plague made many victims. Furthermore, the English King Edward III claimed the French throne and as a result, among other things, a number of wars broke out that together would be called the Hundred Years' War. The battle went badly for the French because as early as 1360 the whole of south-west France came under the rule of the English. Under the weak Charles VI (1380-1422) France reached its lowest point. Vazals tried to take over the power from Charles and even entered into alliances with the English. Thus, the Bourguignons, led by John the Fearless, the Duke of Burgundy sided with the English. They came into conflict with the Armagnacs, and after John the Fearless had his opponent murdered, a kind of civil war started.

The English, under Henry V, took full advantage of the infighting of the French and in 1415 the French army was also devastatingly defeated at Azincourt. Henry received help from Philip the Good of Burgundy and afterwards Normandy and Rouen were also taken. The States General of France subsequently recognized Henry V as king of France.

In 1422 both the French and the English king died and both Henry VI and Charles VII were proclaimed king. In practice, the English Henry VI turned out to be the strongest, because he conquered the last French stronghold, Orléans.

However, the French heroine Jeanne d'Arc turned the tide by retaking Orleans with Charles VI's army on May 8, 1429. Charles now felt strong enough to have himself crowned king of France in Reims. After this he also managed to recapture Paris and to get Philip the Good of Burgundy behind him. In 1444 an armistice was signed with the weakened English, and at the end of the Hundred Years' War only Calais remained in the hands of the English.

Under Charles the Bold (1467-1477), the Duchy of Burgundy stretched from Amsterdam to Mâcan and from Amiens to Mulhouse. This mighty empire was founded on figures such as Philip the Bold (1363-1404), John the Fearless and Philip the Good (1419-1467), the father of Charles the Bold. Charles, however, antagonized Louis XI (1461-1483) of France and lost his ally Edward IV of England, who made peace with Louis. Charles died in 1477 after fighting with rebellious Lorraine.

To a new French state

Louis XI France Photo:Maksim Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Louis XI attempted to reunite the national French state in the second half of the 15th century, but encountered the counts and dukes, who each wanted to go their separate ways. Burgundy was only brought into line after the death of Charles the Bold. However, Charles had an heiress, Mary of Burgundy, who married Maximilian of Austria. Louis then managed to conquer the French tribal area, but all other conquests fell to the Habsburgs. For Burgundy, this meant that it continued to exist, but without the current Burgundy. In addition, there was a German emperor on the Burgundian throne.

The business became even more international when the son of Maximilian and Mary, Philip the Fair (1482-1506), married the Spanish princess Johanna. Their son, Charles V, eventually became emperor of Germany, king of Spain and lord of the Netherlands. The Burgundian empire finally ceased to exist and from then on the authority was only exercised by a royal governor.

Sixteenth century

St. Barthelemy NightPhoto:Public domain

The sixteenth century in France was dominated by church reforms and the inevitable religious disputes associated with them. The Huguenots (French Protestants) in particular had a hard time under the rule of successively Francis I (1515-1547), Henry II (1547-1559), Frans II (1559-1560), Charles IX (1560-1574) and Henry III (1574-1589). The most violent event was St. Bartholomew's Day in 1572, when about 20,000 Huguenots were literally massacred after the marriage between the Protestant Henry of Navarre and the Catholic Margaret de 'Medici.

Only under this Henry IV (1589-1610) of Navarre did things calm down again in France. He converted to Catholicism, but also granted freedom of religion to his former fellow believers, the Huguenots, through the edict of Nantes in 1598.

European rulers

Louis XIV FrancePhoto:Public domain

Under the absolute rulers Louis XIII (1610-1643) and Louis XIV (1643-1675), France became the most powerful state in Europe. This was also due to some important figures such as Cardinal Richelieu (actually Armand Jean du Plessis), who even became the founder of absolutism, whereby the power of the nobility was decreasing and that of the States General was almost nil. Regional government was handed over to royal intendants.

Another powerful figure of that time was Mazarin, who was in control, especially in the financial field, and significantly increased the tax burden on the population. In 1648 the Thirty Years' War came to an end, when Alsace was added to France. However, France was immediately plunged into civil war again in protest against the tax woes. However, Mazarin emerged victorious from the resulting disorder, and made Louis XIV marry the Spanish Maria Teresa. After Mazarin's death in 1661, Louis, called the "Sun King", took full power and ruled a mighty and prosperous realm where the sun "never" set. In the eighties of the 17th century, things went a lot less for Louis due to several defeats against an ever-growing group of enemies.

French revolution

Robespierre FrancePhoto:Public domain

Louis XIV was succeeded by the weak Louis XV, who after the Seven Years' War (1756-1763) had to cede the colonial possessions in the East Indies and America to the English. In their own country, the economy deteriorated and the absolutist behavior came under increasing criticism. This also remained under the authority of Louis XVI (1774-1792), under whose rule the French Revolution broke out in 1789.

For the first time since 1614, the States General met again, a frenetic attempt by Louis to regain good standing with the population. There had to be a vote and this happened as always per stand and not per head. This was against the sore leg of the so-called 'third' class, the bourgeoisie, who in fact ensured the prosperity and development of France, but had nothing else to say, in contrast to the nobility and the clergy, who also benefited from all kinds of privileges. The six hundred civilians then revolted and on July 14, 1789, the Bastille, the hated symbol of the old rulers, was stormed. This uprising spread like an inkblot all over the country and the new motto "liberté, egalité et fraternité" was heard everywhere. The privileges of the estates were abolished and castles and monasteries were destroyed, including in Burgundy. Louis wanted to flee but was forced to stay on and in September 1791 signed a constitution based on a parliamentary monarchy. The republic was finally proclaimed in 1792. Within the republic another battle raged between the Girondins, who advocated equality of law, private property and self-government, and between the Jacobins (Robespierre, among others), who were supporters of a central state and for the nationalization of private property. Robespierre instituted the death penalty by guillotine in 1793 and Louis XVI was one of the most famous victims. However, Robespierre was also beheaded in July 1794.

France under Napoleon

Napoleon FrancePhoto:Public domain

While France suffered the horrors of the revolution, a number of other European powers sought to take advantage of it and hold back the revolutionary ideas of the French.

However, when Napoleon Bonaparte became commander of the army, the ambitions of the European countries were over. Under his leadership his army proved practically invincible and he conquered almost all of Europe. In 1804 he was crowned emperor and issued the "Code civil", a new and revolutionary civil code in which all kinds of matters were regulated for the entire population. It was only when Napoleon tried to conquer Russia that things went completely wrong.

In 1812 his army was devastated in the Russian cold, which in turn encouraged other countries to take up arms against France. In 1814, Napoleon was deposed and exiled to Elba, and the Bourbons rejoined the throne with Louis XVIII. Napoleon managed to assemble an army once more and advance to Paris, but in 1815 he was finally defeated at Waterloo.

19th century

Louis Napoleon FrancePhoto:Public domain

Under Louis XVIII a bicameral system with limited suffrage was created, the "Charte". His successor, Charles X (1824-1830), again restricted the right to vote and lifted the freedom of the press. The resistance to this return to authoritarianism was so fierce that Charles took his money and resigned in 1830. Things continued to rumble under Louis Philippe d'Orléans (1830-184), especially among the republicans and the workers. Finally, another revolt broke out in Paris in 1848, resulting in the Second Republic. After a coup d'état in 1852, Louis Napoleon became the most powerful man in France as Napoleon III. Due to a Spanish succession issue, in which Prussia threatened to take the Spanish throne, Napoleon declared war on Germany. France, backed by no ally, suffered some defeats and Napoleon was even captured by the Germans in 1870. This short war had its consequences, as the Alsace-Lorraine region belonged to Germany from that time on. The Third Republic would last in France until the start of World War II in 1940.

First and Second World War

Petain FrancePhoto:Publlic domain

The First World War was mainly fought in Northern France, but Burgundy also played a crucial role. Here the French general Joffre managed to temporarily halt the German advance in Châtillon-sur-Seine. After the war, France received Alsace-Lorraine back from Germany as compensation.

In 1939, Adolf Hitler's Germany invaded Poland, after which France declared war on Germany. In the second half of May 1940 the Germans penetrated far into France, as far as Paris and Burgundy. Several Burgundian cities were bombed.

The resistance in France, very active in the Morvan (marquisards), was led by General Charles de Gaulle, who would later become president of France. On June 6, 1944, Allied troops landed on the Normandy coast and on 1945 the Germans capitulated.

Era De Gaulle

Charles de Gaulle FrancePhoto:Public domain

Immediately after the war, De Gaulle formed a provisional government. He then wanted to regulate more powers for the president through a constitutional reform, but this failed. Only after the Fourth Republic did he get his way. The takeover of power in the French colony of Algeria urged De Gaulle to lead the French. As a result, it was not so difficult for him to implement the constitutional amendment he wanted anyway. In this way he became firmly at the head of the Fifth Republic and managed to contain the Algerian uprising and push for independence from the North African country.

In 1969 De Gaulle stepped down after some of his proposals were voted down by referendum. Main points were the reform of the Senate and a new regional division of France.

After De Gaulle

Francois Hollande FrancePhoto:Pablo029 Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

After De Gaulle, Georges Pompidou (until 1974), Valéry Giscard d'Estaing (until 1981), François Mitterand (until 1995) and Jacques Chirac (1995-) became president. The rise of the extreme right-wing Front National party in the 1980s and 1990s caused a lot of political unrest in France. The southern part of Auvergne, in particular, was not sensitive to the extreme ideas of this party over the years.

In the 1970s the regions, including Burgundy, got more to say and there was more room for their own language and local culture.

Nicolas Sarkozy has been president since May 16, 2007. The president has relatively great power, because he is head of state and government leader. In October 2008, the magnitude of the credit crunch becomes noticeable and in February 2009 the government is pumping billions into the economy. In March 2010, the governing parties suffered a major loss in regional elections. In June 2010, the government announced drastic cuts to reduce government debt. In May 2012, the socialist Francois Hollande becomes the new president of France. In 2013, France sends an intervention force to the former colony of Mali. In March 2014, Manuel Valls becomes the new prime minister, after a rise of the National Front. The front also won nationally in the European elections in May. 2015 was dominated by terrorist attacks on French soil by the Islamic State. In January 17 victims fell, mostly employees of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. In November, 130 people were killed in various attacks in Paris. In February 2016, the clearing of the "jungle" of Calais, a large camp with illegal immigrants who want to make the crossing to Great Britain, starts. On July 14, 2016, Islamic State strikes again when a truck crashes into a crowd on National Day, killing more than 80. In May 2017, center candidate Emaunuel Macron wins the French presidential election of the ultra-right Marine Le Pen. His movement La Republique en Marche then won the absolute majority in parliamentary elections in June.

Emmanuel Macron, 25th President of France
Photo:, Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International no changes made

At the end of 2018, major nationwide "yellow vests" protests are taking place against attempts to curb fossil fuel use through price hikes that become violent, prompting government adjustments. The protests will continue in 2019. In July 2020, President Macron will appoint Jean Castex as prime minister, after Edouard Philippe resigned after a bad result for the ruling La République En Marche! party to local elections. In Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, a suburb to the northwest of Paris, Samuel Paty, a history teacher who recently showed caricatures of the prophet Mohammed was beheaded in the street. The eighteen-year-old Chechen culprit was shot dead by the police.

Jean Castex, Prime Minister of France since July 1, 2020
Photo: Florian DAVID, CCAttribution-Share Alike 4.0 International, no changes made


Old town of Dijon in Burgundy Photo:Hervé Sartori Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

Burgundy has a total of approximately 1.7 million 'Bourguignons' (15th French region) and has a population density of approximately 51 inhabitants per km2 (The population numbers per department are as follows: Saône-et-Loire 580,000, Côte d'Or 535,000 , Yonne 340,000 and Nièvre 250,000. The distribution of the population over the various regions of Burgundy is very uneven: the Châtillonnais region has only 10 inhabitants per km2, the Morvan 10-15 inhabitants / km2 and the department Nièvre 35 inhabitants /. km2.

Burgundy consists largely of rural areas, but most people live in urban areas: about half of the Burgundians live on only 5% of the territory.

The age distribution also differs strongly from region to region: Nièvre has 25% over-60s, the Côte d'Or 17.7% and 46% of the population is under 30 years old.

Biggest cities

Dijon155.000 inhabitants
Chalon-sur-Saône45.000 inhabitants
Nevers34.000 inhabitants
Auxerre34.000 inhabitants
Mâcon33.000 inhabitants
Fontaine-Française32.000 inhabitants
Sens25.000 inhabitants
Le Creusot22.000 inhabitants
Chenôve22.000 inhabitants
Beaune21.000 inhabitants
Montceau-les-Mines19.000 inhabitants
Autun18.000 inhabitants
Nuits-Saint-Georges14.000 inhabitants
Auxonne12.000 inhabitants


French Language MapPhoto:Public domain

Official language is French, in addition, Breton (Brittany) is spoken by minorities, Occitan (the south), Basque (in the western Pyrenees), German (Alsace-Lorraine), Dutch (French Flanders), Catalan (Roussillon), Italian ( around Nice), Corsican (in Corsica).

The French language is a Romance language spoken by approximately 100 million people as their mother tongue, of which approximately 60 million in France. French is also spoken in Belgium down the line Viset-Mouscron and Brussels, in Switzerland (Suisse romande), Italy (Aosta Valley), Haiti and Canada (Quebec), and in many former French colonies the language of administration and administration is used. French is the continuation of Vulgar Latin, which was introduced and developed in Gallia Transalpina by the Roman conquerors (58–50 BC).

The history of French begins when the Carolingian Renaissance, which revived the study of Classical Latin, made people aware of a gap between Latin, language of administration, jurisdiction and religion, and everyday language. This is evidenced by a decision of the Council of Tours (813), which from then on had to be preached in the vernacular ("lingua romana rustica"). Broadly speaking, three periods can be distinguished in the history of French: Old French (early 9th - early 14th century), Middle French (early 14th - early 17th century) and modern French (early 17th century - present).

The French language originally consisted of Latin words introduced by the Romans, supplemented by words of Celtic and Frankish origin. From the 12th century onwards, these "folk words" have been borrowed from Latin, the "learned" words. In the 16th century, many words were also borrowed from Italian. Many words have also been borrowed from Dutch and, since the 18th century, also from English.

Especially in recent decades, much has been borrowed from English in the fields of technology, sports, fashion, and the like, which has resulted in the derisive term Franglais. French purists oppose this "invasion" of foreign words.


Reims CathedralPhoto:Ad Meskens Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

The French population is approx. 80% Roman Catholic (approx. 48 million), 4.5% predominantly Sunni Islamic (approx. 4 million) and there are also small minorities of Protestants (approx. 950,000), Jews (approx. 700,000; the largest Jewish community in Europe) and Armenian-Christian. Catholicism was the state religion since the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 by Louis XIV.

Since the separation of church and state in 1905, the state no longer has any involvement with the Church. The Roman Catholic Church has eighteen provinces in France and a total of 95 dioceses. The Archbishop of Lyon is at the head of the ecclesiastical provinces.

After St. Bartholomew's Day (1572), the power of Protestantism in France was broken. Protestant churches were not recognized until the law of 1802. The main Protestant denominations are: the Église Réformée de France, the Église de la Confession d'Augsburg d'Alsace et de Lorraine, the Église évangélique luthérienne and the Église réformée d'Alsace et de Lorraine.

Since 1905 there has been a federation of Protestant churches consisting of Reformed, Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists and free churches: the Fédération Protestante de France.

Protestant theological faculties for the training of ministers are located in Aix-en-Provence, Montpellier, Paris and Strasbourg; the last two are inter-confessional faculties. Despite the relatively small number, the influence of the Protestants in France is quite large.

Cistercian Monastic Order

Monastery of Fontenay, BurgundyPhoto:Elliott Brown Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic no changes made

This order was established in the early 10th century when the Roman Catholic Church was in bad shape worldwide. This monastic order is an offshoot of the Benedictine order of Cluny.

In 910, Duke Guillaume d'Aquitaine donated part of his lands to Berno, abbot of the monastery at Baume (Jura), to establish a monastery that should live according to the teachings of Benedict of Nursia. The three main rules were: obedience to the abbot, manual labor, and chastity. For the monks, dressed in black robes, the liturgy was central.

Cluny became the center of the reform movement with great intellectual and artistic aura and during the Middle Ages was the spiritual, political and cultural center of Europe. In the 12th century more than 1100 monasteries, good for about 10,000 monks, were connected, spread over France, Italy, Spain, England and Germany. In Burgundy, monasteries were found in Auxerre, Paray-le Monial, Vézelay, Nevers and La Charité-sur-Loire.

At the end of the 11th century, the strict rules were increasingly being used. Due to the income of tenants and the many donations, the order became increasingly rich and decadence struck. In response to this the very austere Cistercian order arose. In the 15th century Cluny lost its autonomy and in 1790 the order of Cluny was dissolved.


National Governance

France National AssemblyPhoto:Pol Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Under the 1958 constitution, France is a parliamentary republic whose president as head of state has extensive powers. The president has been directly elected by the people by universal suffrage for seven years since 1962. In 2002, the President of France will be elected for a term of five years instead of the current seven years.

The president enacts the laws passed by parliament or by the people (in the case of a referendum), signs the decisions of the council of ministers he chairs, appoints the prime minister and, in case of need, can exercise the whole of the legislative and executive powers. withdraw and declare the dissolution of the National Assembly.

If desired, the president can even replace the prime minister, except when there is a so-called "cohabitation" in the government. This only occurs when the composition of the National Assembly is such that the president is forced to appoint a prime minister of a different political color from his own. After the elections of June 1, 1997, this situation arose when the neo-Gullist president Chirac ruled the country together with a cabinet and a Prime Minister Jospin, who were of leftist nature. The collaboration between Chirac and Jospin went quite smoothly for the first four years.

The government, headed by the prime minister, is proposed and appointed by the president. The government determines and implements the general policy of the country and is accountable to the National Assembly.

Legislative power is exercised by the two-chamber parliament. The National Assembly (Assemblée Nationale) has 577 members, 22 of whom are from the overseas departments and territories. The Assembly is elected for five years through a district system. The senate is mainly elected by the members of the "conseils généraux", the departmental councils, and by the municipal councils.

The senate has much less powers than the Assembly and has 321 members, 12 of whom are representatives of the French abroad and 13 for the overseas departments and territories. Senate members are elected for nine years and every three years the senate is renewed for a third. The president of the senate is the second highest office holder in the country after the president.

All French citizens of 18 years and older have the right to vote and to be elected to the Assembly one must be at least 23 years old and 35 years old for the Senate. Women have only had the right to vote since 1944.

Parliamentary and presidential elections take place in two rounds. If the candidate manages to obtain more than 50% of the vote in his constituency in the first round of the parliamentary elections, he is immediately elected. If he does not succeed, a second round follows in which a simple majority is sufficient. A condition for the parliamentary elections is that the candidate has obtained at least 12.5% of the votes in the first round.

In the presidential election, only two candidates who received the most votes in the first round can run in the second round. For the current political situation in France, see chapter history.

Administrative division

Frankrijk Indeling Photo:Public domain

The French state has 22 regions, which are divided into 96 departments. The country also has: four overseas departments, the "Départements d'Outre-Mer" (DOM): French Guyana, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Réunion; three overseas territories, the "Territoires d'Outre-Mer" (TOM): French Polynesia, the Wallis and Futuna Islands and New Caledonia; the two overseas 'collectivités territoriales' Mayotte and St-Pierre-en-Miquelon and some areas on the South Pole, "Les Terres Australes et Antarctiques Françaises (TAAF). The prefet is in charge of each region and department and is the representative of the government and of each individual minister.

The departments are divided into arrondissements (325), headed by a sous prefet; the arrondissements are divided into cantons (3,714) and these in turn into 36,433 municipalities. Approx. 90% of the municipalities have less than 2000 inhabitants. The arrondissements and cantons have only administrative significance.

The Union of the Corsican People (Union du Peuple Corse) has been fighting for the island's independence for years and has many hundreds of bombings to its name. The region of Corsica has a separate status since 1981, a degree of self-government. The bombings then temporarily diminished, but in 1982 more than 800 attacks were committed.

Regional governance and administrative division

The Burgundy region, with Dijon as its capital, is administratively divided into four departments or prefectures: Côte d'Or, Saône-et-Loire, Nièvre and Yonne.

The departments are subdivided into 15 districts (arrondissements), 174 cantons and 2044 municipalities.

In 1982 the organization, tasks and powers of the regions were established. Since 1986 there have been direct elections to the regional parliaments, the "Conseil Régionals". A regional government is mainly concerned with promoting the economic, social and cultural development of the region. It is supported in this by an advisory committee comprising various social and economic organizations. Although they are allowed to levy their own taxes, their budget is significantly lower than that of the departments.

Typically Burgundy

Burgundy Pinot Noir Photo:PRA Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made



Wine was already being produced on the Burgundian territory at the beginning of our era. In the Middle Ages it was mainly the monks who were engaged in viticulture. Four abbeys were very important: Cluny, Cîteaux, Bèze and Saint-Vivant. In the 18th century the professional wine trade began to develop and the first commercial wholesalers settled in Beaune and then in Nuits-St-George and Dijon. A tragedy for winegrowing was the American phylloxera phylloxera, which destroyed all Burgundian vineyards in the second half of the 19th century. They were able to recover thanks to the grafting of French vines on American rootstocks that were resistant to the phylloxera.

The quality of a wine is mainly determined by the grape variety (cépage), the quality of the soil (terroir) and the climate. The Burgundian vineyards are terraced on slopes of which the height varies between 200 and 500 meters. The orientation of the slopes is very important and differs for each area. In each wine village, the vineyards are divided into "climats", which are composed according to the soil and the location of the terrain.

For a good Burgundy wine, it is essential to pay close attention to the year in which the wine was bottled, as weather conditions strongly influence the quality of the wines.

Burgundies ripen well and reach their peak after a few years. In general, they are preferably left for five to seven years. Large white wines, on the other hand, are eight to ten years old and large red wines ten to fifteen years.

Depending on the grape and the climate, picking takes place in September or October. This is often still done by hand, but also increasingly with advanced picking machines.


Pinot noir: these grapes are used to make the important red wines of the Côte. The production is mainly focused on storage wines that have to mature for ten to twenty years.

Chardonnay: very suitable for the important white wines of Burgundy. This grape variety thrives best on calcareous, marl-rich soils.

Gamay: is used for the red wines from the granite soils of the Beaujolais, but also on the clay-limestone soils of the Mâconnais and Chalonnais

Aligoté: indigenous white grape only used to produce the fresh, fruity "burgundy aligoté".

Chablis Burgundy Photo:Jon-Eric Melsæter Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

Famous Regions

The Chablisien and Auxerrois: the vineyards of the world famous chablis (made from the Chardonnay grape, here called Beaunois) are located in the north of Burgundy. The chablis comes from the slopes with a good location, the "chablis premier cru" and the "chablis grand cru" come from the best plots. There are four so-called apellations: petit chablis, chablis, chablis premier cru and the seven grands cru, Blanchot, Bougueros, Les Clos, Grenouille, Preuses, Valmur and Vaudésir.

The Auxerrois vineyards have traditionally supplied the capital with red wines along the rivers Yonne and Seine. Well-known wine towns are Irancy and Saint-Bris, where an excellent white wine is also made from the Sauvignon Blanc grape variety.

The Côte d'Or or La Côte: a 50 km long ridge with a width of 400-1800 meters that lies between the Canal de Bourgogne at Dijon and the Canal du Center at Chagny. The vineyards of the Côte de Nuits (1,300 ha) begin south of the city of Dijon and continue to the village of Nuits-Saint-Georges, 20 kilometers to the south.

Romanée-Conti: this 1.8 ha vineyard is the most famous in the world and belonged to Madame de Pompadour in the past.

Clos de Vougeot: the most famous "clos" has been around since the 13th century. The vineyard, with its dark, full-bodied wines, was founded by monks from the Abbey of Cîteaux.

Côte de Beaune: this area stretches from Ladoix-Serrigny to Maranges. White wines that are among the best in the world come from here: Charlemagne, Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet.

Hautes-Côtes de Nuits and Hautes-Côtes de Beaune: The vineyards of these two areas are somewhat higher and the temperatures are therefore somewhat lower. Most wines that are produced are therefore somewhat lighter in taste.

Côte Chalonnaise: The wines from this area are not yet well known: Rully, Bouzeron and Givry among others.

Maconnais: this region runs from Tournus to Macon and the most commonly used grape is chardonnay. Well-known wines are Pouilly-Fuissé, Pouilly-Vinzelles and Saint-Véran. With 6,500 ha, the Maconnais is the largest wine region in Burgundy.

Beaujolais BurgundyPhoto:Geoff Wong Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

Beaujolais wines

Since 1930, Beaujolais has been recognized as the most southern wine region of Burgundy and owes its name to the house Beaujeu.

Viticulture in this area dates back to the time of the Romans. Beaujolais wines were very popular in the Middle Ages, but fell out of favor in the 17th century. They were rediscovered in the 18th century and new sales markets could be reached through the development of the railway network. The vineyards stretch from the slopes of the Mâconin in the north to the Azergues Valley in the south.

The gamay grape produces a fresh, fruity wine, which is drunk young and, unlike most other red wines, is chilled.



Burgundy is the 13th French export region and trades mainly with Germany, Italy, Great Britain and the United States. Also important is the strategic location in France itself between the two most important French economic regions, Ile-de-France and Rhône-Alpes.


Burgundy Bresse ChickenPhoto:Kweniston Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported no changes made

Burgundy's economy is largely based on agriculture. In addition to arable farming (grain), animal husbandry (specializing in white Charolais cattle and spotted monbéliardes) and forestry, viticulture also plays an important role. Charolais cattle are exported to dozens of countries. The Bresse area is dominated by poultry farming, including special blue-legged chickens.

Of the 1.9 million hectares of agricultural land, 616,000 hectares are used for grain, 194,000 hectares for oilseed rape, 43,000 hectares for animal feed and 28,000 hectares for viticulture. The rest of the agricultural land is used for pastures or forestry.

Burgundy has four large, characteristic agricultural areas. A large area covers approximately the entire department of Yonne, a large part of the Côte d'Or, and the northern part of the Niève; mainly grain and rapeseed are grown and cattle are grown here. Charolais cattle and pigs are bred for meat in the Morvan and Charolais areas. The Saône region has a mixed character with dairy cows, poultry and agricultural products such as sugar beet, maize and grain. There is also the wine region, which is not that large, but of eminent importance for the region.

About a third of the working population was employed in the agricultural sector approximately 45 years ago, currently less than 10%.


Burgundy ViniculturePhoto:Megan Mallen Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

The combined surface area of all Burgundy vineyards is only one third of that of Bordeaux. Yet Burgundy wines have a big name all over the world.

Viniculture is limited to a long, narrow strip. It starts about 150 kilometers southeast of Paris and runs to about 60 kilometers north of Lyon. The strip is divided into five areas: Chablis, Côte d'Or, Chalonnais, Mâconnais and Beaujolais.


Burgundy Circuit de Magny-CoursPhoto:Cjp24 Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Most companies belong to the precision mechanical and metal processing industry, the car industry (around the Magny-Cours Formula 1 circuit), the packaging industry and the electronics industry. Also important is the pharmaceutical industry with several thousand employees.

Burgundy has been an important metalworking center since ancient times, thanks to the ore deposits that come to the surface and the large quantities of firewood that lay there for the taking. The Cistercians produced a lot of iron until the 14th century and played a major role in the development of the technique, partly through the invention of the camshaft.

From the 16th century, iron production grew thanks to the invention of the blast furnaces. In the 18th century, coke was first introduced as a fuel in England and the steam engine was also invented. English-style melters did not appear in France until 1819, and two years later the first melters appeared in Burgundy, including in Fourchambault and Le Creusot. In the late 18th-early 19th century, the development of the steel industry and the coal mines led to the founding of cities such as Le Creusot, Montchanin, Blanzy, La Machine, Decize and Imphy. In the 20th century, foreign competition and the use of energy sources other than coal led to a decline in the metal industry. Yet the metal industry still remains one of the corks on which the Burgundian industry thrives.

Holidays and Sightseeing

Dijon BurgundyPhoto:Arnaud 25 Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Burgundy has a lot to offer tourists, from special nature reserves to historically and religiously interesting cities and many villages that have been declared the officially declared 'Plus beaux villages de France' category.

Dijon is the capital of Burgundy, and this city "with the hundred bell towers" has modern shopping streets and terraces, also medieval houses, churches, monuments and museums.

The Museum of Fine Arts (French: Musée des beaux-arts de Dijon) is one of the largest art museums in France, including approx. 10,000 drawings, approx. 60,000 engravings, an important collection of Primitives and an important collection of 19th century images. Other museums worth seeing in Dijon: archaeological museum (French: Musée Archéologique de Dijon), museum of religious art (French: Musée d'art Sacré), science garden (French: Jardin des Sciences), electricity and light museum (French : Musée de l'Électricité), life in Burgundy (Musée de la Vie Bourguignonne Perrin de Puycousin) and the Magnin museum (French: Musée Magnin), in which approximately 2000 works by Maurice and Jeanne Magnin are exhibited.

Semur-en-Brionnais BurgundyPhoto:Daniel VILLAFRUELA CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Semur-en-Brionnais belongs to the official category 'One of the most beautiful villages in France - Plus beaux villages de France)', with the castle of Saint Hugues, noble houses, Romanesque gardens and the collegiate church of Saint Hillaire from the 12th century .

Noyers-sur-Serein also belongs to the aforementioned category of villages in France with its timber-framed houses, a 13th-century castle and a famous truffle market in autumn.

Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, with streets from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, is also one of the 'most beautiful', with a medieval fortress around Benedictine Abbey Saint-Pierre, where the famous anise sweet 'Anis de Flavigny' is made and in summer the famous festival of baroque music, 'Musicales en Auxois' is held.

In Chalon-sur-Saône, the history of photography is exhibited in the Musée Nicéphore Niepce. Musée Dominique Vivant Denon exhibits paintings by French, Italian and also Dutch artists from various centuries.

Autun CathedralPhoto:Kokin in the public domain

Autun is a city of Gallo-Roman origin with the largest amphitheater (20,000 seats) in the Roman world, the 12th century cathedral of Saint Lazare and the Rolin museum with decorative art from the last four centuries.

Nevers was also an important place in Gallo-Roman times, and in the fifth century Nevers became an important monastery center. The body of Bernadette Soubirous (Lourdes!) Is located in the chapel of the monastery of Saint-Gildard and Nevers and has therefore become an important pilgrimage site.

Auxerre is the capital of Basse-Bourgogne and developed into an important trading city at the beginning of our era and in the Middle Ages into a pilgrimage site for Saint-Germain and in the crypt of the Abbey Saint-Germain are some of the oldest murals of France. Other places of interest are the Saint-Etienne cathedral and the authentic skipper's quarter Quartier de la Marine.

Châteauneuf-en-Auxois, with its towers, keep and ramparts, is a typical example of Burgundian military architecture from the fourteenth century.

In Châtillon-sur-Seine, among other Celtic finds, the famous man-sized amphora of Vix was found, the largest ancient vase ever found. The archaeological treasure is on display in the Musée du Pays Châtillonnais.

In Guédelon you can visit the construction site of a medieval fortress built there with materials and tools from that time. Many great Renaissance style castles were built along the River Yonne in the 16th century, including the Maulnes, Ancy-le-Franc, Tanlay and Saint-Fargeau castles. The Castles Route in Southern Burgundy takes you past the castles of Cormatin, among others, with one of the most beautiful gardens in France, Sully and Drée. the 17th-century Bazoches Castle, near Vézelay, houses a church, three libraries and a 17th-century sundial.

Cluny AbbeyPhoto:Michal Osmenda Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

Between 900 and 1200, the Benedictine Abbey of Cluny (founded 910 and not completed until around 1150), the largest abbey in Christianity and most famously Abbot Saint Hugues, was the center of an important reform movement with political power extending over large parts of Western Europe. The ecclesiastical architecture also conformed to Cluny's insights and regulations, including the priory of Anzy-le-Duc and the churches of Montceaux l'Etoile, Marcigny (Saint-Nicolas), Iguerande and those of Châteauneuf-en-Brionnais, one of the last Romanesque buildings in Burgundy. Despite the fact that Cluny Abbey was largely destroyed during the French Revolution, the remains are still very impressive. The Basilica of Paray-le-Monial is one of the finest examples of Cluniac architecture, is also very similar to Cluny Abbey, and is an important pilgrimage site. The basilica Sainte-Marie-adeleine in Vézelay, restored by Viollet-le-Duc, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The austere early Romanesque abbey of Saint Philibert of Tournus is one of the most important French Benedictine monasteries, including a 33-meter-long dining room and the Center International d'Etudes Romanes.

Hospices of Hôtel-Dieu Beaune , BurgundyPhoto:Stefan Bauer Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic no changes made

The highlight of the city of Beaune is the Gothic-style 15th-century Hospices of Hôtel-Dieu, where the sisters cared for the poor, disabled, orphans and the sick until 1970. The famous wines from the Hospices vineyard are sold through a public auction every November, and the International Festival of the Baroque Opera is held in July. Until the founding of the Archdiocese of Paris in 1622, northern Sens was the capital of Christianity and has the first Gothic cathedral in France, the Saint-Etienne Cathedral, with one of the richest treasuries in France. Founded in 1118 and yet exceptionally well-preserved, the Cistercian Abbey of Fontenay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is home to one of Europe's oldest metal workshops and walking through the monastery, you will feel as if you were back in the 12th century. The restored priory church of Charité-sur-Loire is also on the World Heritage List and is therefore one of the most beautiful Romanesque churches in Burgundy.

The Burgundian part of the Loire invites to fishing, hiking, canoeing and cycling, in short, enjoy the nature around the last truly untouched river in Europe. In La Charité-sur-Loire you can cross the Loire while sitting on a donkey via a bridge. Since Gallo-Roman times, Burgundy has been cultivating wine, and it is therefore not surprising that the vineyards of the Côte Viticole currently yield no fewer than 32 celebrated grands-crus, including Marsannay, Vosne-Romanée, the Chambertin, the Clos de Vougeot and the Nuits-St-Georges of the Côte de Nuits; the Santenay, the Montrachet, the Pommard, the Saint-Romain, the Volnay, the Auxey-Duresses of the Côte de Beaune. Not only the Loire, but also the Burgundy canals, all built between the 17th and 19th centuries for the transport of wood to Paris, lead along a varied landscape and lead to several rivers. The massif of the Morvan Regional Park has several lakes built in the 19th century, which were then used for the transport of wood, but are now entirely dedicated to tourism, including the lakes Settons, Panneciëre, Reservoir de Chaumeçon, Saint Agnan.

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Last updated October 2021
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