10 largest cities in France




Autun is a French commune in the Saône-et-Loire department in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region, located in the Morvan regional natural park.

Sub-prefecture of Saône-et-Loire since 1790, the city had 13,290 inhabitants (Autunois and Autunoises) in the 2017 census, at the heart of an intercommunal grouping together around 40,000 inhabitants.

Founded by the Romans as Augustodunum, sister and emulator of Rome at the beginning of the reign of Emperor Augustus, Gallo-Roman capital of the Aedui to replace Bibracte, bishopric since Antiquity, Autun was until the end of the fifteenth century a prosperous city and an influential cultural center, despite looting and invasions. Its geographic isolation and increasing competition from Dijon, Chalon-sur-Saône and later Le Creusot contributed to its decline over the following centuries. Difficult to convert to industry in the nineteenth century (exploitation of oil shale and fluorite), Autun experienced a revival in the twentieth century which made it the headquarters of several national companies (Dim, Nexans) and one of the six French military high schools. The city retains a rich heritage of its ancient and medieval past which also makes it an important tourist site in the heart of Burgundy.



Autun is a large town of history which has preserved many ancient or medieval traces. The city was one of the Roman Christian capitals.

Augustodunum, Roman city
It was under the reign of the Roman Emperor Augustus (-27/14) that the city of Autun was founded: its ancient name, Augustodunum, means the fortress of Augustus. Augustus had the will to create a great city in Gaul which would show the Roman power. Augustodunum was therefore endowed with monuments which still make it famous today.

The city is quickly equipping:
an enclosure about 6 km long and enclosing an area of ​​200 ha, with many towers. It was pierced by four doors - two of which, the doors of Saint-André and Arroux, remain - at the ends of the two main streets which intersected at right angles (cardo maximus and decumanus maximus);
a Roman theater that can hold up to 20,000 people, the largest in capacity in the western part of the Roman Empire;
an amphitheater which has now disappeared, located next to the theater;
the so-called “Janus” temple, outside the ramparts. If this temple was wrongly attributed to the Roman deity Janus, archaeologists do not know which deity was worshiped there. We can read on an explanatory plaque near the temple of Janus:
“To the north-west of the ancient city, on the right bank of the Arroux, was developing a district of which the only visible vestige, the so-called“ Janus ”temple emphasizes its religious vocation. […] The particular form of this temple, known as fanum, is in the Gallic tradition although its construction technique, dating from the 1st century AD is Roman. The name of Janus was wrongly associated with it in the sixteenth century by the historian Pierre de Saint-Julien de Balleure, who thus interpreted the name of the sector where it stands: La Genetoye. This term actually designates a place where broom grows. The deity worshiped here remains totally unknown. […] "

In 1976, following the great drought, the aerial prospecting of René Goguey finally allowed after 13 years to highlight a whole set including a large theater 150 meters north-west of the temple of Janus, whose surveys of 1977 revealed curved and radiating walls of the cavea built on the walls of an important previous building. Its diameter of 120 meters exceeding the semi-circle, it belongs to the series of Gallo-Roman theaters associated with temples.

the pyramid of Couhard, which stands near an ancient necropolis, the “Field of the Urns”, is said to be the burial place of the Aeduan druid Diviciacos, friend of Cicero and Caesar, or even of an ancient vergobret. However, its exact destination, tomb or cenotaph has given rise to questions.
The creation of Autun attracted the surrounding populations and in particular the inhabitants of Bibracte, the Aeduan oppidum, which gradually fell into oblivion.

Autun was famous for its school of rhetoric, the first to bring letters to Trier were the panegyrists, rhetoric teachers from the schools of Autun, Bordeaux, Rome and even Trier. Among the speeches written from 197 to 312, five were composed in Autun. Already in 107 this Autun school of philosophy and rhetoric attracted students from all over the Empire. A poem of 148 hexameters was written by a rhetorician of the famous school of rhetoric which flourished in Autun at the time of Constantine.

Taken by Julius Sacrovir in the year 21, Autun was the center of the Sacrovir revolt led by this Gaul and Julius Florus. Beaten by the legions that arrived to restore order, Julius Sacrovir ends up committing suicide in one of his villas on the outskirts of the city. In the third century, it was besieged for seven months, taken and destroyed by the usurper Victorinus in 270; then rebuilt in the following century by Constantine.

At the beginning of 2010, during the construction of housing near the Porte d'Arroux, the work revealed an ancient district as well as more than 100,000 bronze coins dating from the third century.

Middle Ages
Léger (born around 616 - died in 678), was bishop of Autun. He was tortured in Lucheux (Somme) on the order of the mayor of the Ébroïn palace, who then had him assassinated. He chaired around 670 the second Council of Autun (after that of 599 convened by Bishop Syagre).

The city was sacked by the Saracens of General Ambiza on August 22, 725. Following this disaster, a few years later in 733, Charles Martel entrusted it to Theodoric I (708-755?), Grandson of Bernarius, founder of the line of Thierry, counts of Autun, of which Thierry II of Autun (748-804) is brother of the famous Guillaume de Gellone (751-28 May 812).

It was sacked again by the Normans in 888. In the tenth century it became the capital of a county dependent on the Duchy of Burgundy.


In the Middle Ages, the city became an important place of pilgrimage, and was given a new cathedral in addition to the Saint-Nazaire cathedral in Autun. People came to venerate the supposed relics of Lazarus of Aix, not those of Saint Lazarus of Bethany, that of the Bible, but those of a bishop of Aix-en-Provence from the fifth century; the latter had participated in the evangelization of Provence and had been beheaded during the reign of Domitian, in the year 94. The cult of Lazare d'Aix, also called Saint Lazare at Autun in the twelfth century, certainly responded to that of Mary -Madeleine present in Vézelay. The Saint-Lazare cathedral (1120), a Romanesque church of the Cluniac type, is famous in particular for its tympanum, carved with many details representing the Last Judgment and signed by the artist Gislebert. This magnificent portal owes its exceptional preservation to the canons of Autun, despite the destruction of medieval works committed in the 18th century.

The causes of appeal from the court of the Duke of Burgundy, recognize that the abbey of Saint-Martin d'Autun, has seniority, high, medium and low justice on the land of Chanchauvain, today Champ-Chanoux , and which also belonged to the priory of Chanchanoux, to the finage of Saint-Eugène.

It was on July 13, 1463, that the inhabitants of Saint-Martin and Saint-Pantaléon received their letters of emancipation from the abbot of the abbey of Saint-Martin d'Autun.

Modern times
In 1788, Talleyrand became bishop of Autun. He was elected deputy of the clergy for the States General (France) of 1789. He delivered a vibrant speech in 1789 to make himself known, because he had only come once before.

In 1790, Autun was chosen to be the capital of one of the seven districts of the brand new department of Saône-et-Loire.

During the revolutionary period of the National Convention (1792-1795), the town provisionally bore the name of Bibracte.

The seventeenth-century lycée holds an important place in the history of the city and even of France since Napoleon Bonaparte, who gave it its current name, as well as his brothers Joseph and Lucien were educated there. This school continues to operate today. You can admire the wrought iron gates erected in 1772, the subjects taught in this place are indicated by various representations of objects along the top of these gates.

The former hotel of the Marquis de Fussey located rue de l'Arquebuse, built in 1782, became the seat of the sub-prefecture in 1820. During the Franco-Prussian war, Garibaldi made it his headquarters at the end of 1870 and the beginning of 1871.



The city leans on the southern edge of a depression called Autun basin dated from the Permian which includes the Autunian stratotype forming the Autunois. It is surrounded to the north by bocage meadows (wide-mesh bocage), to the west by the Morvan massif, and to the south by deciduous forests (Planoise national forest) covering a sandstone plateau.

The Autunois region is made up of sixty-four municipalities grouped into seven cantons. The following municipalities are found in the cantons of Autun-Nord and Autun-Sud: Antully, Auxy, Curgy, Dracy-Saint-Loup, Monthelon, Saint-Forgeot, Saint-Pantaléon (a town campaigning for its demerger) and Tavernay .