From top down, left to right: Autun Cathedral, Passage de la Terrasse, Lycée militaire, Autun Theatre and City Hall, Roman-era theatre, Temple of Janus
Coat of arms of Autun
Location of Autun
Autun is located in France
Autun is located in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté
Coordinates: 46°57′06″N 4°17′58″E / 46.9517°N 4.2994°E / 46.9517; 4.2994
CantonAutun-1, Autun-2
IntercommunalityCC du Grand Autunois Morvan
 • Mayor (2020–2026) Vincent Chauvet[1] (MoDem)
61.52 km2 (23.75 sq mi)
 • Density210/km2 (550/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+01:00 (CET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+02:00 (CEST)
INSEE/Postal code
71014 /71400
Elevation280–642 m (919–2,106 ft)
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km2 (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.

Autun (French: [otœ̃] ) is a subprefecture of the Saône-et-Loire department in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region of central-eastern France. It was founded during the Principate era of the early Roman Empire by Emperor Augustus as Augustodunum to give a Roman capital to the Gallic people Aedui, who had Bibracte as their political centre. In Roman times the city may have been home to 30,000 to 100,000 people, according to different estimates.[3] Nowadays, the commune has a population of about 15,000.


The commune lies in the northwest of the department.


Early history

Roman theatre
Janus Temple

Augustodunum was founded during the reign of the first Roman emperor, Augustus, after whom it was named. It was the civitas "tribal capital" of the Aedui, Continental Celts who had been allies and "brothers" (fratres) of Rome since before Julius Caesar's Gallic Wars. Augustodunum was a planned foundation replacing the original oppidum Bibracte, located some 25 km (16 mi) away. Several elements of Roman architecture such as walls, gates, and a Roman theater are still visible in the town.

In AD 356, a force of Alemanni brought the siege of Autun. 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, Autun became famous for its schools of rhetoric. A world map based on the Geography of Ptolemy was famous for its size and was displayed in the portico of one of the schools. It may have survived until early modern times.[4]

In 532 the Merovingian kings Childebert I and Chlothar I in Battle of Autun defeated the Burgundians led by king Godomar and took over the country of Burgundy.[5] In 642 or 643, another battle was fought near Autun between feuding Frankish noblemen.

In 725, the Umayyad general Anbasa 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, Émilien of Nantes, who was slain during the course of the battle.

Autun marks the easternmost extent of the Umayyad campaign in Europe. However, the position was never retained, and Anbasa died soon after. The Umayyads are known to have raided the lower Rhone during the next decade, but Uzès was their northernmost stronghold and possibly Marseille the easternmost coastal stronghold. In 880, Count Richard of Autun was made the first Duke of Burgundy.

In 1506, Barthélemy de Chasseneuz made his reputation as an attorney, defending the rats of Autun against the charge of eating the barley crop.[6]

Modern times

In 1788, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord became bishop of Autun. He was elected member of the clergy for the Estates-General of 1789.

The High School plays an important role in the history of the city and even France since Napoleon, who gave it its current name and whose brothers Joseph and Lucien studied there. This school continues to operate today. The decorated wrought iron gates were erected in 1772; the subjects taught in the school are indicated by various representations of objects along the top of these grids.

During the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, the leader of the Army of the Vosges, Giuseppe Garibaldi,[7] chose the city as his headquarters.


Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
1793 7,792—    
1800 9,176+2.36%
1806 9,400+0.40%
1821 9,744+0.24%
1831 9,936+0.20%
1836 10,435+0.98%
1841 11,164+1.36%
1846 11,637+0.83%
1851 11,997+0.61%
1856 11,156−1.44%
1861 11,897+1.29%
1866 12,389+0.81%
1872 11,684−0.97%
1876 12,889+2.48%
1881 14,049+1.74%
1886 14,895+1.18%
1891 15,187+0.39%
1896 15,543+0.46%
YearPop.±% p.a.
1901 15,764+0.28%
1906 15,479−0.36%
1911 15,498+0.02%
1921 13,856−1.11%
1926 14,119+0.38%
1931 14,045−0.11%
1936 14,863+1.14%
1946 14,438−0.29%
1954 14,399−0.03%
1962 15,305+0.77%
1968 18,398+3.12%
1975 21,556+2.29%
1982 20,587−0.65%
1990 17,906−1.73%
1999 16,419−0.96%
2007 15,069−1.07%
2012 14,124−1.29%
2017 13,290−1.21%
Graphs are unavailable due to technical issues. There is more info on Phabricator and on
Source: EHESS[8] and INSEE (1968-2017)[9]


The city boasts two ancient Roman gates (Porte Saint-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.

Couhard Pyramid

Autun Cathedral, also known as Saint Lazare Cathedral, dates from the early twelfth century and is a major example of Romanesque architecture. 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 church for the veneration of the relic Saint Lazarus, mentioned in the Gospels, and considered the first bishop of Marseille, and who, always according to tradition, arrived in Provence with Mary Magdalen.

Saint-André gate
Arroux gate

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. St. Lazare was only later elevated to the rank of cathedral, replacing the former cathedral dedicated to St. Nazaire.[10]

The Autun Cathedral is famous for its 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.

Other notable connections


Main article: Tourism in Saône-et-Loire

Autun remparts (defensive walls from the Roman Era)
Tour des Ursulines near the Autun Cathedral
Bellerophon riding Pegasus and slaying the Chimera, central medallion of a Roman mosaic from Autun, Musée Rolin, 2nd to 3rd century AD

Autun's best-known museum is the Musée Rolin. It houses historical artistic collections.

Near Autun, tourists can also see:

Sister cities

Autun has sister city relationships with the following municipalities.

City Country Year
Stevenage United Kingdom 1975
Ingelheim am Rhein Germany
Kawagoe Japan 2002[12]
Arévalo Spain 2005

See also


  1. ^ "Répertoire national des élus: les maires" (in French)., Plateforme ouverte des données publiques françaises. 13 September 2022.
  2. ^ "Populations légales 2021" (in French). The National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies. 28 December 2023.
  3. ^ Xavier de Planhol; Paul Claval (17 March 1994). An Historical Geography of France. Cambridge University Press. p. 47. ISBN 978-0-521-32208-9.
  4. ^ John Brian Harley, David Woodward, The History of Cartography Vol I p. 290.
  5. ^ Stefánik. Historical Atlas of the World. pp. 92–93. ISBN 9781781866153.
  6. ^ Edward Payson Evans, The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals (1906), p. 18.
  7. ^ Howard, Michael. The Franco-Prussian War: The German Invasion of France, 1870-1871. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1962. p.254
  8. ^ Des villages de Cassini aux communes d'aujourd'hui: Commune data sheet Autun, EHESS (in French).
  9. ^ Population en historique depuis 1968, INSEE
  10. ^ Linda Seidel, Legends in limestone: Lazarus, Gislebertus, and the Cathedral of Autun (University of Chicago Press, 1999), p. 35 online.
  11. ^ Laherrère, Jean (2005). "Review on oil shale data" (PDF). Hubbert Peak. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2007-06-17.
  12. ^ フランス共和国ブルゴーニュ州 オータン市 (in Japanese). Japan: Kawagoe International Center. 2003. Archived from the original on 2008-04-26. Retrieved 29 November 2014.

Further reading