Definitions

burgundy-trefoil

Burgundy

[bur-guhn-dee]

Burgundy (Bourgogne; Burgund) is a region historically situated in modern-day France and Switzerland, inhabited in turn by Celts (Gauls), Romans (Gallo-Romans), and in the 4th century assigned by Romans to the Germanic people the Burgundians, who settled there in their own kingdom. This Burgundian kingdom was conquered in the 6th century by Franks who continued this kingdom under their own rule.

Later in time, the region was divided between the Duchy of Burgundy (west of Burgundy) and the County of Burgundy (east of Burgundy). The Duchy of Burgundy is the more famous of the two, and the one which reached historical fame. Later, the Duchy of Burgundy became 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 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. When the dynastic succession was settled 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, and
  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 1477. 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.

During the Hundred Years' War, King John II of France gave the duchy to his younger son, rather than leaving it to his successor on the throne. The duchy soon became a major rival to the French throne, because the Dukes of Burgundy succeeded in assembling an empire stretching from Switzerland to the North Sea, mostly by marriage. The Burgundian Empire 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 by far, 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 the late 15th and early 16th centuries, Burgundy provided a power base for the rise of the Habsburgs, after Maximilian of Austria had married into the ducal family. In 1477 at the battle of Nancy during the Burgundian Wars the last duke Charles the Bold was killed in battle and Burgundy itself taken back by France. After the death of his daughter Mary her husband Maximilian moved the 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.

Wine

Burgundy produces wines of the same name. Although "Burgundy" means red, the Burgundy region produces both white wines and red wines. According to the AOC's regulations, they must only be made of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Gamay or Aligote grapes to be considered true Burgundy wines. The best-known wines are made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir varietals, and come from the Côte-d'Or, although also viticulturally part of Burgundy are Beaujolais, Chablis, Côte Chalonnaise, and Mâcon.

Burgundy wines can be described as varied, complex, human, and earthy. They are highly regarded because of historical tradition, and arguably because they transmit well the flavour of the land, what the French call terroir. The reputation, quality, and small numbers of production of the top wines mean high demand and high prices: Burgundy wines are among the most expensive wines in the world. Some consumers buy the high-end wines of this region purely for speculative purposes, as they are often regarded as Veblen goods.

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 kilometers long in a straight line. The canal is 242 kilometers 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 for relaxing in the leisure boats.

Culture

Famous Burgundian dishes include coq au vin and beef bourguignon.

See also

External links

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