Autun, France

Celebrated sculpture of the Temptation of Eve

The historic city of Autun was founded as a Roman settlement (called Augustodunum) by the emperor Augustus in 10 BC, and it became one of the great cities of Roman Gaul. Remains of Roman Autun can be seen in two Roman gates, a Roman theater (the largest in Gaul), and a large Gallo-Roman temple on the outskirts of town. Today, Autun is a small town of 22,000 that is still mostly contained within its medieval walls, which follow the line of Roman fortifications. The spire of Autun Cathedral rises above the town against the picturesque backdrop of the Morvan hills. The cathedral is famed for its sculptures by Gislebertus that cover the portal and capitals, which are regarded as some of the finest Romanesque art in France. Near the cathedral is a museum of Gallo-Roman and Romanesque artifacts, which includes some fine religious art from both eras. In late August each year, Autun hosts the "Pageant of Antiquity," which involves 600 costumed residents in a theatrical extravaganza that includes Roman chariot races, period dances and music, circus acts and reenactments of medieval events.

Autun Cathedral
Dating from the early 12th century with later Gothic additions, the Cathédrale St-Lazare is a pilgrimage church (for relics of Lazarus) famed for its splendid sculptures by the Romanesque sculptor Gislebertus.
Musée Rolin
Housed in a Renaissance mansion, this museum displays Gallo-Roman and Romanesque artifacts and religious art. Most notable is Gislebertus' sensual Temptation of Eve, rescued from the cathedral's north door.
Temple of Janus
Across the river north of Autun is a large ruin of a Roman temple, standing an impressive 79 ft high. Traditionally identified with the god Janus, it dates from the 1st century AD.