Once a major Roman city
www.autun-tourisme.com. Roman Augustodunum was reckoned to be ‘the sister and rival of Rome’ according to contemporary reports, and present-day Autun enthusiastically plays up to its Roman origins. Two original gateways, the Porte d’Arroux and Porte Saint-André, pierce the town walls, beyond which there are two further curiosities: the remains of the 1stC Temple de Janus, and enigmatic Pierre de Couhard, a misshapen stone pyramid planted over a Roman necropolis. During August, full-costume spectacles complete with legionnaires and chariot races take place in the remains of the Roman theatre – check with the tourist office for details.
The focus of the medieval town is the 12th-15thC Cathédrale de Saint-Lazare, renowned for its marvellous carvings. The master sculptor Gislebertus spent 20 years from 1125 creating the capitals and the tympanum over the portal. Some of the finest carvings can be viewed at close quarters in the Chapter House, and there are more in the excellent Musée Rolin, together with Gallo-Roman pieces and European paintings including a famous 15thC Nativity by the Maître de Moulins for details see www.autun-tourisme.com/en.