AN hour north of Dijon and a short drive from the A6 lays the fortified, Burgundian, hilltop village of Flavigny sur Ozerain.
If it seems time has stopped in this mediaeval village it makes it a much more charming and desirable to visit. Julius Caesar installed his troops in 'Flaviniacum' in 52 BC while he fought the coalition Gaul army, led by Vercingétorix, who had their base at Alésia on the opposite side of the valley perched on Mont Auxois.
The first constructions date back to the Gallo-Roman period when Flavigny became a place of great importance, the name Flavinus is that of the owner of the ground, a villa with agricultural outlines and artisanal remains date from that period.
From the 7th century to the French Revolution, the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Joseph de Clairval was based at Flavigny. Today there only remains 18th century buildings and a Carolingian crypt, which dates from the 8th century, but is home to the factory which manufactures the famous Anis de Flavigny sweets, (this is a family owned company independent of the Saint Joseph de Clairval Abbey.)
The Saint Joseph de Clairval Abbey was founded in Switzerland in 1972 and a Minor Seminary followed at Flavigny in 1976; in memory of its founding in Switzerland the Abbey retains the name of Clairval. The monastic community live according to the rule of Saint Benedict.
The abbey monks organise retreats to allow laymen to partake in the richness of the contemplative life, following the spiritual exercises of Saint Ignatius.
The monks also produce a newsletter, which is published in French, English, German, Dutch, Italian and Spanish, and you can receive a copy by filling out an online form. It is free of charge and each week more than 100 kg of mail is dispatched to five continents. The monks also offer a photoengraving and desktop publishing service.
The Benedictine monks also sell CDs, cassettes, books, stone statues and reproductions of wood imagery.
With a numerous and active population, a maze of streets and lanes at one time point to how Flavigny was an important centre in Burgundy. Tanners, stonemasons, weavers, glassmakers, notaries, doctors, pharmacists, the ecclesiastics, and the winegrowers all kept Flavigny alive with a healthy economy.
During the revolution, the monastic buildings were sold off as national goods and bought by private individuals and contractors of stone quarries.
By the 19th century, Flavigny had become a prosperous wine growing city and District Administrative Centre, with a police force, justice of peace, tax office, markets and fetes. Of those just the Foire de la Saint Simon, which was reintroduced in 1977 and the market des Quatre Saisons remain.
In 1863 Flavigny was the first town in the region to be provided with running water and shortly after electricity, due to the turbine at Moulin Chantrier.
By the end of the 19th century, the population slowly diminished. The grape phylloxera, a pest that feeds on the vine roots resulting in deformed and secondary fungal infections cutting off nutrients and water to the vine wiped out the vineyards along with those throughout Europe and the vineyards were replaced by fields.
After the Liberation, following the Second World War, Flavigny lost its police force, justice of the peace and major businesses to Venarey les Laumes when the railway was introduced to the town, completing the decline of Flavigny. In recent years the population has taken an upward turn, younger people have moved to the village and with it families and new activities.
Flavigny is a typical mediaeval, fortified village, with its maze of cobbled streets and hidden secrets around every corner. A sense of the past always lingers as you pass buildings that ooze the trappings of luxury of a past time. A stay in Flavigny or its surroundings for the family will awaken all the senses of touch, taste, hearing, sight and smell.
There are opportunities for photography, painting, hiking and bird watching or visit the Flavigny music festival, the art studio, botanical gardens and the museum of textile design.
Unless you live in the village or are staying in one of the gîtes or chambre d'hôtes parking is outside the village; a car park has recently been built for this purpose.