Wednesday, May 18, 2011

off to Autun

Today dawned warm and sunny. It was so wonderful to be able to explore Autun on such a lovely spring day. Autun was founded by the Romans and was a major city in both Roman Gaul and medieval France, but today, is a small, less touristy town.

Our first stop was the Romanesque cathedral dedicated to Saint Lazarus. This was built in the late 11th into the early 12th century and is famous for its surviving Romanesque sculpture, especially the pieces by Gisleburtus.
This artist is one of the very few we know by name from this period since most masons and sculptors on medieval cathedrals are anonymous.

One of his most famous scenes is that of the Last Judgement over the west entrance of the church. His figures are known for the depth of emotion they display, especially the damned being sent to Hell.

There are also numerous capitals in the cathedral depicting Old and New Testament stories. It is truly amazing any of these survive.

Next, it was off to the Musee Rolin which has artifacts of Autun through the ages, especially from the ancient Roman and medieval periods.

Finally, we made a quick stop at the remains of the second century Roman theatre. This building was created to hold 15,000 to 16,000 spectators. All of the marble lining of the seats and many of the major building stones were removed by the population in the early medieval period and have been incorporated into nearby homes and shops. Since ancient Roman theater was dedicated to pagan gods, it was shut down by the Christian Roman emperors. It was not until centuries later that plays once again became popular. By that time, the population of Autun was much smaller than its hight under the Roman empire and the theater had become a ruin. Even in its present state, however, the acoustics are wonderful. I was able to stand down by the stage and the students in the stands were able to hear me when I spoke in a near normal tone of voice.

After a beautiful drive back through the vineyards, the students had the rest of the afternoon to relax in Beaune.


The Last Judgement of the West entrance

The blessed going to heaven and catching a ride on the angels. Those already in heaven look our from the windows of their mansions.

This is part of a story about St Jerome finding an injured lion and helping him.

One of the gargoyles

The remains of a third century, Roman mosaic

This is the temptation of Eve by Gisleburtus

When we arrived at the Coach parking lot, we found out that they had discovered Roman buildings under part of the area and the archeologists were working on the site

The Roman theater in Autun

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Location:Beaune, France

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