Autun is a commune
Communes of France
The commune is the lowest level of administrative division in the French Republic. French communes are roughly equivalent to incorporated municipalities or villages in the United States or Gemeinden in Germany...

 in the Saône-et-Loire
Saône-et-Loire is a French department, named after the Saône and the Loire rivers between which it lies.-History:When it was formed during the French Revolution, as of March 4, 1790 in fulfillment of the law of December 22, 1789, the new department combined parts of the provinces of southern...

 department in Burgundy
Burgundy is one of the 27 regions of France.The name comes from the Burgundians, an ancient Germanic people who settled in the area in early Middle-age. The region of Burgundy is both larger than the old Duchy of Burgundy and smaller than the area ruled by the Dukes of Burgundy, from the modern...

 in eastern France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

. It was founded during the early Roman Empire
The Principate is the first period of the Roman Empire, extending from the beginning of the reign of Caesar Augustus to the Crisis of the Third Century, after which it was replaced with the Dominate. The Principate is characterized by a concerted effort on the part of the Emperors to preserve the...

 as Augustodunum. Autun marks the easternmost extent of the Umayyad
The Umayyad Caliphate was the second of the four major Arab caliphates established after the death of Muhammad. It was ruled by the Umayyad dynasty, whose name derives from Umayya ibn Abd Shams, the great-grandfather of the first Umayyad caliph. Although the Umayyad family originally came from the...

 campaign in Europe.

Early history

Autun was founded during the reign of the first Roman emperor
Roman Emperor
The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman State during the imperial period . The Romans had no single term for the office although at any given time, a given title was associated with the emperor...

, Augustus
Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...

, after whom it was named. It was the civitas
In the history of Rome, the Latin term civitas , according to Cicero in the time of the late Roman Republic, was the social body of the cives, or citizens, united by law . It is the law that binds them together, giving them responsibilities on the one hand and rights of citizenship on the other...

capital of the Celtic Aedui
Aedui, Haedui or Hedui , were a Gallic people of Gallia Lugdunensis, who inhabited the country between the Arar and Liger , in today's France. Their territory thus included the greater part of the modern departments of Saône-et-Loire, Côte-d'Or and Nièvre.-Geography:The country of the Aedui is...

, who had been allies and fratres ("brothers") of Rome since before Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

's conquest of Gaul
Gallic Wars
The Gallic Wars were a series of military campaigns waged by the Roman proconsul Julius Caesar against several Gallic tribes. They lasted from 58 BC to 51 BC. The Gallic Wars culminated in the decisive Battle of Alesia in 52 BC, in which a complete Roman victory resulted in the expansion of the...

. Augustodunum was a planned foundation replacing the original oppidum
Oppidum is a Latin word meaning the main settlement in any administrative area of ancient Rome. The word is derived from the earlier Latin ob-pedum, "enclosed space," possibly from the Proto-Indo-European *pedóm-, "occupied space" or "footprint."Julius Caesar described the larger Celtic Iron Age...

or hillfort Bibracte
Bibracte, a Gaulish oppidum or fortified city, was the capital of the Aedui and one of the most important hillforts in Gaul. It was situated near modern Autun in Burgundy, France. The material culture of the Aedui corresponded to the Late Iron Age La Tène culture,In 58 BC, at the Battle of...

, located some 15 miles away. Several elements of Roman architecture such as walls, gates, and a Roman theatre are still visible in the town.

In 356 AD, Autun came under siege
Siege of Autun
In 356 AD, Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate received a report that Augustodunum was under attack by a group of Alamanni and that as a result of the poor state of repair of the walls, the city was in danger of falling. He marched to Autun and relieved the siege....

 by a force of Alamanni
The Alamanni, Allemanni, or Alemanni were originally an alliance of Germanic tribes located around the upper Rhine river . One of the earliest references to them is the cognomen Alamannicus assumed by Roman Emperor Caracalla, who ruled the Roman Empire from 211 to 217 and claimed thereby to be...

. The disrepair of the walls left the city in danger of falling. Autun was saved by the arrival of the Emperor Julian in one of his early military successes.

In late antiquity
Late Antiquity
Late Antiquity is a periodization used by historians to describe the time of transition from Classical Antiquity to the Middle Ages, in both mainland Europe and the Mediterranean world. Precise boundaries for the period are a matter of debate, but noted historian of the period Peter Brown proposed...

, Autun became famous for its schools of rhetoric
Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the facility of speakers or writers who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. As a subject of formal study and a productive civic practice, rhetoric has played a central role in the Western...

. A world map famous for its size was displayed in the portico
A portico is a porch leading to the entrance of a building, or extended as a colonnade, with a roof structure over a walkway, supported by columns or enclosed by walls...

 of one of the schools and may have survived until early modern times.

The area lies in the area of Burgundy, and in the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

, it was a Count of Autun who became the first Duke of Burgundy
Duke of Burgundy
Duke of Burgundy was a title borne by the rulers of the Duchy of Burgundy, a small portion of traditional lands of Burgundians west of river Saône which in 843 was allotted to Charles the Bald's kingdom of West Franks...


In 725, the Umayyad
The Umayyad Caliphate was the second of the four major Arab caliphates established after the death of Muhammad. It was ruled by the Umayyad dynasty, whose name derives from Umayya ibn Abd Shams, the great-grandfather of the first Umayyad caliph. Although the Umayyad family originally came from the...

 general ‘Anbassa ibn Suhaym al-Kalbi (عنبسة بن سحيم الكلبي) marched up the Saône
The Saône is a river of eastern France. It is a right tributary of the River Rhône. Rising at Vioménil in the Vosges department, it joins the Rhône in Lyon....

 valley to Autun. On 22 August 725 he captured the town after defeating forces led by the local bishop, Emilian D’Autun, who was slain during the course of the battle. Autun would be the easternmost point of expansion of Umayyad forces into Europe. Just seven years later in 732, the Umayyads would be forced to begin their withdrawal to al-Andalus
Al-Andalus was the Arabic name given to a nation and territorial region also commonly referred to as Moorish Iberia. The name describes parts of the Iberian Peninsula and Septimania governed by Muslims , at various times in the period between 711 and 1492, although the territorial boundaries...

 after facing defeat at the Battle of Tours
Battle of Tours
The Battle of Tours , also called the Battle of Poitiers and in Battle of the Court of the Martyrs, was fought in an area between the cities of Poitiers and Tours, located in north-central France, near the village of Moussais-la-Bataille, about northeast of Poitiers...


Main sights

The city boasts two ancient Roman
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 gates (the Porte St.-André and Porte d'Arroux) and other ruins dating to the time of Augustus. One of the most impressive remains is that of the ancient theatre, which was one of the largest in the western part of the empire with a 17,000 seat capacity. To the northwest of the city is the so-called Temple of Janus, only two walls (faces) of which remain. To the southeast is the mysterious Pierre de Couhard, a rock pyramid of uncertain function which may date to Roman times.

Autun Cathedral, also known as St. Lazare's cathedral, dates from the early twelfth century and is a major example of Romanesque architecture
Romanesque architecture
Romanesque architecture is an architectural style of Medieval Europe characterised by semi-circular arches. There is no consensus for the beginning date of the Romanesque architecture, with proposals ranging from the 6th to the 10th century. It developed in the 12th century into the Gothic style,...

. It was formerly the chapel of the Dukes of Burgundy; their palace was the actual episcopal residence. The cathedral was originally built as a pilgrimage
A pilgrimage is a journey or search of great moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person's beliefs and faith...

 church for the veneration
Veneration , or veneration of saints, is a special act of honoring a saint: an angel, or a dead person who has been identified by a church committee as singular in the traditions of the religion. It is practiced by the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic, and Eastern Catholic Churches...

 of the relic
In religion, a relic is a part of the body of a saint or a venerated person, or else another type of ancient religious object, carefully preserved for purposes of veneration or as a tangible memorial...

s of Lazarus
Lazarus of Bethany
Lazarus of Bethany, also known as Saint Lazarus or Lazarus of the Four Days, is the subject of a prominent miracle attributed to Jesus in the Gospel of John, in which Jesus restores him to life four days after his death...

, Lazare d'Aix, a Christian martyr who was archbishop of Aix-en-Province. Autun's 12th-century bishop, Étienne de Bâgé, probably built the church in response to the construction of Ste. Madeleine
Vézelay Abbey
Vézelay Abbey was a Benedictine and Cluniac monastery in Vézelay in the Yonne département in Burgundy, France. The Benedictine abbey church of Ste-Marie-Madeleine Vézelay Abbey (now known as Basilique Sainte-Marie-Madeleine) was a Benedictine and Cluniac monastery in Vézelay in the Yonne...

 at nearby Vézelay
Vézelay is a commune in the Yonne department in Burgundy in north-central France. It is a defendable hill town famous for Vézelay Abbey. The town and the Basilica of St Magdelene are designated UNESCO World Heritage sites....

, home to the French cult of Mary Magdalene
Mary Magdalene
Mary Magdalene was one of Jesus' most celebrated disciples, and the most important woman disciple in the movement of Jesus. Jesus cleansed her of "seven demons", conventionally interpreted as referring to complex illnesses...

. St. Lazare was only later elevated to the rank of cathedral, replacing the former cathedral dedicated to St. Nazaire
Nazarius and Celsus
Saints Nazarius and Celsus were two martyrs of whom nothing is known except the discovery of their bodies by Saint Ambrose.According to Paulinus the Deacon's Vita Ambrosii, Ambrose, at some time within the last three years of his life, after the death of the Emperor Theodosius Saints Nazarius and...


Autun Cathedral is famous for its architectural sculpture, particularly the tympanum
Tympanum (architecture)
In architecture, a tympanum is the semi-circular or triangular decorative wall surface over an entrance, bounded by a lintel and arch. It often contains sculpture or other imagery or ornaments. Most architectural styles include this element....

 of The Last Judgment above the west portal
Portal (architecture)
Portal is a general term describing an opening in the walls of a building, gate or fortification, and especially a grand entrance to an important structure. Doors, metal gates or portcullis in the opening can be used to control entry or exit. The surface surrounding the opening may be made of...

, surviving fragments from the lost portal of the north transept
For the periodical go to The Transept.A transept is a transverse section, of any building, which lies across the main body of the building. In Christian churches, a transept is an area set crosswise to the nave in a cruciform building in Romanesque and Gothic Christian church architecture...

, and the capitals
Capital (architecture)
In architecture the capital forms the topmost member of a column . It mediates between the column and the load thrusting down upon it, broadening the area of the column's supporting surface...

 in the nave
In Romanesque and Gothic Christian abbey, cathedral basilica and church architecture, the nave is the central approach to the high altar, the main body of the church. "Nave" was probably suggested by the keel shape of its vaulting...

 and choir. All of these are traditionally considered the work of Gislebertus
thumb|300px|Last Judgement by Gislebertus in the west tympanum at [[Autun Cathedral]].Gislebertus, Giselbetus or Ghiselbertus, sometimes "of Autun" , was a French Romanesque sculptor, whose decoration of the Cathedral of Saint Lazare at Autun, France - consisting of numerous doorways, tympanums,...

, whose name is on the west tympanum. It is uncertain whether Gislebertus is the name of the sculptor or of a patron
Patrón is a luxury brand of tequila produced in Mexico and sold in hand-blown, individually numbered bottles.Made entirely from Blue Agave "piñas" , Patrón comes in five varieties: Silver, Añejo, Reposado, Gran Patrón Platinum and Gran Patrón Burdeos. Patrón also sells a tequila-coffee blend known...

. If Gislebertus is in fact the artist, he is one of very few medieval artists whose name is known.

Other notable connections

  • Bishop and Saint Leodegar
    Saint Leodegar or Leger, Bishop of Autun , was the great opponent of Ebroin— the mayor of the Palace of Neustria— and the leader of the faction of Austrasian great nobles in the struggles for hegemony over the waning Merovingian dynasty...

  • Nivelon I (d. 768) was known as Count of Autun
  • In the late 9th century, Charles Martel
    Charles Martel
    Charles Martel , also known as Charles the Hammer, was a Frankish military and political leader, who served as Mayor of the Palace under the Merovingian kings and ruled de facto during an interregnum at the end of his life, using the title Duke and Prince of the Franks. In 739 he was offered the...

    's daughter (name listed as Auda, Alane, or Aldana) married Thierry IV
    Thierry IV
    Thierry IV or Theoderic IV was a Frankish noble. Count of Autun and Toulouse; he was thought to be a son of Sigebert V, and grandson of Sigebert IV of Raze. It is now well documented that it was a hoax...

     (also called Theoderich or Theoderic), Count of Autun. According to the controversial book Holy Blood Holy Grail (which may merely be repeating local legend), Theoderic was declared a King by the Carolingians, and his son was Saint William of Gellone
    William of Gellone
    Saint William of Gellone was the second Count of Toulouse from 790 until his replacement in 811. His Occitan name is Guilhem, and he is known in French as Guillaume d'Orange, Guillaume Fierabrace, and the Marquis au court nez.He is the hero of the Chanson de Guillaume, an early chanson de geste,...

    . (For more details on this topic, see Septimania#References in popular culture.)
  • In the late 9th century, the countship was vacant after the death of Robert the Strong
    Robert the Strong
    Robert IV the Strong , also known as Rutpert, was Margrave in Neustria. His family is named after him and called Robertians. He was first nominated by Charles the Bald missus dominicus in 853. Robert was the father of the kings Odo and Robert I of France. Robert was the great-grandfather of Hugh...

    , but was returned to Bernard Plantilosa, son of Bernard of Septimania, and then later to Bernat of Gothia, Count of Barcelona
    Bernat of Gothia, Count of Barcelona
    Bernard II was the Count of Barcelona, Girona and Margrave of Gothia and Septimania from 865 to 878.-Origins:...

     after Bernard fell out of favor.
  • In 878, King Louis the Younger
    Louis the Younger
    Louis the Younger , sometimes Louis III, was the second eldest of the three sons of Louis the German and Emma. He succeeded his father as the King of Saxony on 28 August 876 and his elder brother Carloman as King of Bavaria from 880...

     took the countship away and gave it to his chamberlain, Theodoric.
  • Richard of Autun (c.867-921), also Count of Autun, was also the first Duke of Burgundy
    Duke of Burgundy
    Duke of Burgundy was a title borne by the rulers of the Duchy of Burgundy, a small portion of traditional lands of Burgundians west of river Saône which in 843 was allotted to Charles the Bald's kingdom of West Franks...

    , whose ducal principality amalagmated several countships including Autun
  • Honorius of Autun
    Honorius Augustodunensis
    Honorius Augustodunensis , commonly known as Honorius of Autun, was a very popular 12th-century Christian theologian who wrote prolifically on many subjects. He wrote in a non-scholastic manner, with a lively style, and his works were approachable for the lay community in general...

     (died c. 1151)
  • Napoleon I
    Napoleon I
    Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...

    's foreign minister Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord was a sometime bishop of Autun.
  • Nicolas Rolin
    Nicolas Rolin
    Nicolas Rolin was a leading figure in the history of Burgundy and France, becoming chancellor to Philip the Good .-Biography:...

    , Chancellor of Burgundy under Philip the Good, came from Autun, where several examples of his artistic patronage can be seen. The Rolin Madonna, by Jan van Eyck
    Jan van Eyck
    Jan van Eyck was a Flemish painter active in Bruges and considered one of the best Northern European painters of the 15th century....

    , in the Louvre
    The Musée du Louvre – in English, the Louvre Museum or simply the Louvre – is one of the world's largest museums, the most visited art museum in the world and a historic monument. A central landmark of Paris, it is located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the 1st arrondissement...

    , shows what was probably at least intended as a view of Autun in the background.
  • In 1837, a commercial mining of oil shale
    Oil shale
    Oil shale, an organic-rich fine-grained sedimentary rock, contains significant amounts of kerogen from which liquid hydrocarbons called shale oil can be produced...

     deposit near Autun marked the beginning of the modern oil shale industry
    Oil shale industry
    Oil shale industry is an industry of mining and processing of oil shale—a fine-grained sedimentary rock, containing significant amounts of kerogen , from which liquid hydrocarbons can be manufactured. The industry has developed in Brazil, China, Estonia and to some extent in Germany, Israel and...

  • In 1852, the uranium
    Uranium is a silvery-white metallic chemical element in the actinide series of the periodic table, with atomic number 92. It is assigned the chemical symbol U. A uranium atom has 92 protons and 92 electrons, of which 6 are valence electrons...

     mineral autunite
    Autunite with formula: Ca22·10-12H2O is a yellow - greenish fluorescent mineral with a hardness of 2 - 2½. Autunite crystallizes in the tetragonal system and often occurs as tabular square crystals. Due to the moderate uranium content of 48.27% it is radioactive and also used as uranium ore...

     was first discovered near Autun, and named for the town.
  • The European Triathlon
    A triathlon is a multi-sport event involving the completion of three continuous and sequential endurance events. While many variations of the sport exist, triathlon, in its most popular form, involves swimming, cycling, and running in immediate succession over various distances...

     Championships were also held in the town in 2006.
  • The Fifth Stage of the 2007 Tour de France
    2007 Tour de France
    The 2007 Tour de France, the 94th running of the race, took place from 7 July to 29 July 2007. The Tour began with a prologue in London, and ended with the traditional finish in Paris. Along the way, the route also passed through Belgium and Spain...

     ended in the town, with the entrance to Autun being a twisting and winding route down from a nearby mountain.

Sister Cities

Autun has sister city
Town twinning
Twin towns and sister cities are two of many terms used to describe the cooperative agreements between towns, cities, and even counties in geographically and politically distinct areas to promote cultural and commercial ties.- Terminology :...

 relationships with:
City Country Year
Stevenage is a town and borough in Hertfordshire, England. It is situated to the east of junctions 7 and 8 of the A1, and is between Letchworth Garden City to the north, and Welwyn Garden City to the south....

United Kingdom 1975
Ingelheim am Rhein
Ingelheim am Rhein
Ingelheim am Rhein is a town in the Mainz-Bingen district in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany on the Rhine’s west bank. The town calls itself the Rotweinstadt and since 1996 it has been Mainz-Bingen’s district seat....

Kawagoe, Saitama
is a city located in Saitama Prefecture, Japan, and is about a 30-minute train ride from Ikebukuro in Tokyo.As of July 1, 2011, the city has an estimated population of 343,926...

Arévalo is a municipality in Spain, it is situated in the province of Ávila and is part of the autonomous community of Castile and León. The name came from Celtic word arevalon, meaning "place near the wall."-Regional importance:...


See also

  • Autun Cathedral
  • :fr:Musée Rolin
  • Bishopric of Autun
  • Communes of the Saône-et-Loire department
  • Parc naturel régional du Morvan

Further reading

  • Westermann, Großer Atlas zur Weltgeschichte (in German)

External links

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