The austere "Cellier de Clairvaux" is all that remains today of what was once a vast enclave on the northeast walls of the city of Dijon, property of the Cistercian monks of the house of Clairvaux. From the 13th century on, this enclave, known as Petit Clairvaux (Little Clairvaux), provided lodgings for monks and other clergy as they traveled through Burgundy. In times of peace as well as war, it also served as the Clairvaux Abbey’s main site for the processing, storage, and sale of wine in Dijon, an important task for a Burgundian city, then as now.

With this earliest map of the city from the 1570s and with the inventory of some of its holdings from nearly a century before that, we have some help imagining what Petit Clairvaux looked like in the Middle Ages. The inventory transcribed here was made in March of 1483 [1484 by our calendar] by a cleric named Jehan Verne, in the employ of the mayor's office for the city of Dijon, with all sorts of royal, noble, and religious authorities looking over his shoulder. Beginning in the room of the "governor" of Petit Clairvaux, the title given to the Cistercian with authority over the enclave and its many houses, vineyards, and storerooms, this document takes us on a tour of an interior filled with signs of wealth and the tools of various kinds of work that range well beyond what is normally associated with a religious house. The tour continues into the study, the kitchen, the chapel, the wine cellar, the guest quarters, and into many of the nooks and crannies along the way, where items were housed and goods were stored.

There is much to learn in the short inventory, both about the goods that were kept there and the lives of those who were entrusted with them. Not surprisingly, the agricultural products common to the region--both wine and mustard--make an appearance. A mustard mill is listed among the objects found in the passageway between the study and the kitchen, and the wine cellars are filled with quantities of several different vintages, as well as containers of many shapes and sizes, pipes, tubing, barrels, buckets, and many other implements used to store and dispense wine. Aside from these regionally oriented items, the inventory also lists many of the furnishings and linens belonging to the house, at times in great detail, such as the "small, turned-leg bench, with a small walnut table attached to the bench, outfitted with two trestles," (p.1) or "a small iron clock with its bell and counterweight" (p. 2).

The objects are not the only things we see, however. We also learn that the governor was a woodworker; several carpentry and cabinet-making tools were kept in the passageway outside the kitchen, and the scribe notes that "the governor would spend time working with them from time to time" (p. 4). We also encounter the material traces of one of the most important people living in Dijon, a near-neighbor of Petit Clairvaux, the municipal prosecutor Jehan Rabustel. Jehan served as prosecutor for thirty years and more before his death in 1473 or 1474. It is his house but also his widow who appear here, unnamed, as is all too often the practice when medieval records deign to speak of women. She kept a few of her belongings at one of the buildings on site.

Of particular interest in this document are the many mentions of images depicting the Virgin Mary; in the thirteen folios, there are more than five, whether they appear woven in a framed tapestry (p. 9) or painted on wood (p. 2). Although an image of St. Bernard, made of white stone, is also listed, it is Mary's image that is at the heart of this holy community.