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Autun, town (1990 pop. 19,422), Saône-et-Loire dept., E central France, on the Arroux River. It is an industrial center producing metals, machinery, leather, cloth, timber, and shale oil. An important market town in ancient times, Autun was a residence of the prefects of Gaul and was the seat of an important Gallic university. Between the 5th and 9th cent. Autun was often attacked by barbarians. Among the Roman ruins are the remains of the town wall, an amphitheater, and the 3d-century gates of SS. André and Arroux. The Hotel Rolen (15th cent.), with the 12th-century sculpture of Eve, is now a museum. The Cathedral of St. Lazare (12th cent.) is also famous for its medieval sculpture. The town has other museums as well as a bishop's palace.

Autun is a commune in the Saône-et-Loire department in Burgundy in eastern France.

The history of Autun dates back to Roman times.

Autun marks the easternmost extent of the Umayyad campaign in Europe.


Autun was founded during the reign of the Roman emperor Augustus (Autun derives from its Latin name Augustodunum), and was famous for having schools of rhetoric. Several elements of Roman architecture such as walls, gates, and a Roman theatre are still visible in the town. The area also lies in the area of Burgundy, and in the Middle Ages, it was a Count of Autun who became the first Duke of Burgundy.

In 725, the Umayyad general ‘Anbassa ibn Suhaym al-Kalbi (عنبسة بن سحيم الكلبي) marched up the Saône 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 after facing defeat at the Battle of Tours.

Ecclesiastical history

Christian teaching reached Autun at a very early period, as we know from the famous funeral inscription, in Greek, of a certain Pectorius frequently known as the Inscription of Autun which dates from the third century. The first bishop known to history is Saint Reticius, an ecclesiastical writer, and contemporary of the Emperor Constantine I (306337). The Bishop of Autun enjoys the right of wearing the pallium, in virtue of a privilege accorded to the see in 599 by pope St. Gregory the Great (590604). The diocese comprises the entire Department of Saone et Loire in France.


The city boasts two ancient Roman gates (the Porte St.-André and Porte d'Arroux) and other ruins dating to the time of Augustus (Augustodonum). 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 has a major Romanesque cathedral dating from the early twelfth century, which was formerly the chapel of the Dukes of Burgundy; their palace was the actual episcopal residence. St. Lazare was originally built as a pilgrimage church for the veneration of the relics of Lazarus, whom Christ was thought to have raised from the dead. Autun's 12th-century bishop, Étienne de Bâgé, probably built the church in response to the construction of Ste. Madeleine at nearby Vézelay, home to the French cult of Mary Magdalene, Lazarus's sister. St. Lazare was only later elevated to the rank of cathedral, replacing the former cathedral dedicated to St. Nazaire.

St. Lazare cathedral is famous for its incredible architectural sculpture, particularly the tympanum of The Last Judgment above the west portal, surviving fragments from the lost portal of the north transept, and the capitals in the nave and choir. All of these are traditionally considered the work of Gislebertus, whose name is on the west tympanum. It is uncertain whether Gislebertus is the name of the sculptor or of a patron. If Gislebertus is in fact the artist, he is one of very few medieval artists whose name is known. Cathedral: ,

Other notable connections

Sister cities

Autun has sister city relationships with:


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