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Autun: imposing Roman remains and a cathedral

Autun is a town of about twenty thousand inhabitants of central-eastern France, in the French region of Burgundy, in the department of Saône-et-Loire. Autun is located on the left bank of the Arroux river, 50 km west of Beaune, and 90 km south-west of Dijon.

The city was founded, with the name of Augustodunum, during the reign of the Roman emperor Augustus. In imperial times it was an important Roman municipality and the residence of the prefect of Gaul. During the late empire the city was devastated several times by the barbarians.

In 725 the city was captured by the Arabs. This conquest represented the extreme northern point reached by the Arab troops in Europe, who in 732, after the defeat of the Battle of Tours, were forced to withdraw.

In the following centuries Autun flourished again under the Dukes of Burgundy, but was set on fire during the Hundred Years War.

TOURIST ATTRACTIONS: WHAT TO VISIT IN AUTUN

THE ROMAN REMAINS

The city is known for its Roman remains and the Romanesque Cathedral of St.-Lazare. The walls that surround the city for about 6 km, and which also retain two of the monumental gates (Porte St.-André and Porte d’Arroux), are from the Roman period.

Also the remains of the Temple of Janus, the Pierre de Couhard and the remains of the Roman Theater are also part of the period of Imperial Rome. The Roman Theater is a structure with a diameter of 148 meters and which contained 20,000 spectators.

THE ROMANIC CATHEDRAL

Artistically of great importance is the Cathedral of St.-Lazare. A Burgundian Romanesque-style church which was built at the behest of Bishop Étienne de Bâgé in the 12th century to collect the relics of Saint-Lazare. The church is richly decorated with sculptures. Of particular interest are those of the tympanum above the western portal, which represent universal judgment, the work of Gislebertus. The sculptures of the capitals of the columns are also very beautiful and varied.

Other interesting buildings in Autun include: the Ursuline Tower, the Hôtel de Ville (19th century), the Théatre de la Ville, the Military Lyceum (lycée militaire), the ancient Prison (prison cellulaire) and finally the 19th century neo-renaissance Covered Passage (Passage couvert).

THE MUSEUMS

Among the museums of Autun worth mentioning: The Rolin Museum (Musée Rolin) which houses a rich art collection ranging from antiquity to the 20th century (Roman mosaics, medieval sculptures, Flemish tables). The Natural History Museum (Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle) which is one of the most prestigious natural history museums in France with more than 800,000 specimens of birds, fossils, plants, insects and shells. To end with the Museum of the “Ancient Boys of the Troop” (Musée des Anciens Enfants de Troupe).

The climate of Autun.

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