10 largest cities in France




Avallon is a French commune located in the Yonne department, of which it is one of two sub-prefectures, in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region (south-east of Paris). It is included in the Morvan regional natural park.

The inhabitants, called the Avallonnais, numbered 6,572 in 2017. The urban area of Avallon had 15,922 inhabitants in 2014 and is made up of 37 municipalities.



The site is already occupied before Roman times. The presence of an oppidum of the Gallic people of the Aedui bears witness to this.

It seems that the city depended on the province of Autun. The Avallonnais Morvan must have played an attractive role for the rich Gallo-Roman families who came from Autun with its numerous springs and immense forests. The city being easily accessible thanks to the via Agrippa built to connect Lyon to Boulogne-sur-Mer and, as such, it appears on the table of Peutinger. At that time the city had a church, a court and a theater.

Middle Ages

High Middle age
In the 7th century, the monk Jonas mentions a castle named Cabalonem Castrum. But this defensive warning device does not prevent sporadic invasions from sweeping through the city:

the Saracens, who came from Spain in 731 to Occitania and lived there in small rooms, attempted sometimes fruitful raids in the heart of Burgundy in the middle of the 7th century;
the Viking bands multiply their forays after 843.
The inhabitants, frightened, decide to surround Avallon with a great wall.

Avallon is then the capital of the pagus Avalensis. The fate of the village is linked to that of Bourgondie: sometimes independent kingdom, sometimes united with the kingdom of Austrasia (until the ninth century). In 806 Charlemagne, in a chapter house, donated Avallon and Auxois to his son Louis le Débonnaire. In 817, he passed it on to his son Pépin.

In 931, the Duke of Burgundy Gislebert went to war against the king of the Franks Raoul, his brother-in-law, who seized Avallon and annexed it to the county of Auxerre.

At the end of the Carolingian era, the city was ravaged by the Normans.


Central Middle Ages
In 1005, King Robert the Pious wanted to take back the Duchy of Burgundy from Otte-Guillaume: Avallon was besieged and taken by the royal army the same year. Once the city is taken, the castle is destroyed. The city fell back to the Duchy of Burgundy in 1032, shortly after the death of the King of France.

In the 12th century, the city was given new ramparts.

The inhabitants, serfs or bourgeois, then belong to three different masters: the Duke of Burgundy, the Abbot of Saint-Martin, the canons of Saint-Lazare. In 1200, the Duke of Burgundy Eudes III freed the inhabitants of Avallon and granted them a town charter. It is then the Abbé de Saint-Martin who imitates the Duke. On the other hand, the canons, conservatives, did not give in until much later and under duress. They obtain "the right to appoint four aldermen to govern, govern, handle, administer the city and provide for its business and negotiations, the right to present at the choice of the king a captain or lieutenant for their defense, and, when the third estate is admitted to the States of Burgundy, around the fourteenth century, they sent two deputies there. In 1232 a transaction took place between the masters and brothers of the Avallon leper colony and the abbot of the abbey of Saint-Martin d'Autun.

During the Middle Ages, cisterns and wells were installed in the houses, the city having only two sources of water: Morlande and the Beurdelaine source.

Late Middle Ages
Despite an improvement and an expansion of the ramparts of the twelfth century, Avallon did not escape the violence engendered by the Hundred Years War. In 1359, King Edward III of England, after having jostled the Burgundian troops in Montreal, settled in the old castle of Guillon, from where he ravaged the Avallonnais. Despite the Treaty of Guillon and the departure of the English, bands of mercenaries continued to plunder the region.

At the beginning of the 15th century, the towers and the ramparts were in ruins. In 1419 and 1421, financial aid granted by the Dukes of Burgundy, Jean sans Peur and Philippe le Bon, made it possible to meet them. Long before this financial aid, Jean sans Peur had reinforced the city's defenses by having the Beurdelaine tower built there from 1404 in a circular shape. Then in 1419, he had towers installed that could allow the use of bombards and improve the defense of the Auxerroise gate.

In 1433, Jacques d'Espailly dit Fort-Épice, mercenary and captain in the service of the King of France, seized the city by surprise and kept it for eight months. Philippe le Bon himself begins a six-week siege to take over Avallon. The Duke of Burgundy must use a bombard armed with stone cannon balls, knights and crossbowmen to assault the city. The attack was repelled by Jacques d'Espailly, but the latter fled with a few men to Montreal, which allowed Philippe le Bon to seize the city. However, the city, with its burnt and destroyed suburbs, lost half of its population. It takes twenty years for the city to recover from this ordeal.

After the capture of the city, Philippe le Bon had the ramparts rebuilt, including the Beurdelaine Tower in 1435 to make it an artillery depot, partly destroyed by the sap and the battering ram of the besiegers. In 1453 he had a square tower erected at the highest point of Avallon, to establish a watchtower and place a clock, then in 1455, he modernized the fortifications by having the ramparts equipped for the use of firearms. At the same time, the streets are paved.

Modern times

In 1543, the population almost tripled. But the Wars of Religion did not spare the city, and the leaguers in 1590 caused great damage. Lightning also damaged the large bell tower of Saint-Lazare and the small bell tower, in 1589 and 1595 respectively. We must add to this gloomy picture, the plague in 1531, and 1587.

In 1606, the city suffered a new plague epidemic. One of the consequences of the event is the arrival of fourteen monks of the order of Minimes in 1607. In 1652, with the support of Anne-Austria, mother of Louis XIV and queen of France, the order opposes upon the arrival of the Franciscan order. In 1622, the Saint-Julien church came under the supervision of the order with the help of the Capuchin order.

The 18th century is the time of embellishments: the hospital was rebuilt in 1713 by an endowment from President Odebert) and the town hall built in 1770. In 1791 the church of Saint-Julien was demolished.

In 1790, during the French Revolution, the Convent des Minimes was sold to the city.

Modern period
From March 16 to 17, 1815, Napoleon I, after having fled from Elba Island and on his way to Paris, spent the night in Avallon, at the Hôtel de la Poste.

In the 19th century, the city was hit by several droughts between May and September. It was in this context that in 1842, Eugène Belgrand carried out water supply works in order to solve problems of water supply through a siphon system. The city center does not have a water table and rainwater trickling down to the bottom of the valley. During this work, an aqueduct built near the tanneries passes over the Cousin. The work ended on December 10, 1847, although the Laboureau fountain in the city center was not built until 1870.