Autun Cathedral | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Autun Cathedral

Autun, Bourgogne-Franche-Comte, France

Luke Tomes

24 Nov 2020
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Autun Cathedral

Autun Cathedral, known as Cathédrale Saint-Lazare, is a medieval church renowned for its decorations by famous French sculptor, Gislebertus.

Autun Cathedral history

Between 1120 and 1130, Autun Cathedral was built as a great pilgrimage church (not originally a cathedral) to hold the relics of Lazarus, which were discovered in Autun in the early 12th century. Lazarus was the brother of Mary Magdalene and the man whom Jesus raised from the dead.

A variety of Gothic additions were made to the church, including the great spire (raised by Cardinal Rolin), after a fire in the 15th century. But the main core of the church and its magnificent sculptures remain firmly Romanesque.

The magnificent sculptures survived the French Revolution thanks to local clergy who, ironically, did not like them at all. In 1766, the canons decided the portal sculptures were mediocre and out of date and accordingly covered them with a thick layer of plaster and painted a more contemporary design over it.

Christ’s head kept protruding out of the plaster so they hacked it off and cast it aside. It survived in a local collection before being given to the Musée Rolin in 1895. It was returned to its proper place in 1948.

Autun Cathedral today

Amongst the cathedral’s most celebrated features is its Romanesque west tympanum of the Last Judgement.

The Autun Cathedral is a magnificent display of Romanesque Art and Architecture. The sculptures created by Gislebertus successfully integrate biblical iconography relating to the new and old testament’s with ease and amazing artistic ability.

The size and quality of the tympanum of the Last Judgment, and the lintel of the Temptation of Eve are impressive and exquisitely detailed pieces of art. The Autun Cathedral remains on the highest elevation in Autun, France and is considered a fine example of the French Romanesque.

The Gothic spire dates from the 15th century although the west towers were rebuilt in the 19th century, based on the Romanesque style of Paray-le-Monial.

Getting to Autun Cathedral

The address of Autun Cathedral is Place du Terreau, 71400, Autun France. It lies in the centre of the town which is located in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region of central-eastern France, roughly 85 km from Dijon and 180 km from Lyon (roughly a 2 hour drive).

The cathedral is open 8am-6pm year-round – admission

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