Cathédrale Saint-Lazare d'Autun

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Autun Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Lazare d'Autun) is a Roman Catholic cathedral, and a national monument of France, in Autun. Famous for its Cluniac inspiration and its Romanesque sculptures by Gislebertus, it is the seat of the Bishop of Autun.

St. Nazarius' Cathedral

The first cathedral of Autun was built from the 5th century onwards (later dedicated to Saint Nazarius or St. Nazaire, as it held relics of Saints Nazarius and Celsus) and was several times refurbished and enlarged. In about 970 it obtained from Marseille some of the relics of Lazarus. These gradually became an object of pilgrimage and the crowds became too great for the cathedral building. The Bishop of Autun, Etienne de Bâgé, therefore decided in about 1120 on the construction of a new cathedral as a pilgrimage church and for the better veneration of the relics. The new cathedral was allotted a site to the north of the earlier cathedral of Saint Nazaire, of which some remains may still be seen.

St. Lazarus' Cathedral

Work on the new cathedral of Saint Lazarus or St. Lazare began in around 1120 and advanced rapidly enough for the building to be consecrated in 1130. It was mostly finished by 1146, when the relics of Lazarus were translated from the old cathedral. The Tomb of Lazarus, the shrine of the relics, was constructed in the choir in 1170-1180. The narthex or portico was not completed until the very end of the century.

The inspiration of the new building, both in layout and decoration, was Cluniac. The designs were the work of the bishop Etienne de Bâgé, who was particularly influenced by the Cluniac abbey of Paray-le-Monial.

For a number of years after 1146 the two cathedrals operated in tandem, with Saint Lazare as the summer cathedral (from Easter to All Saints' Day) and Saint Nazaire as the winter cathedral. Saint Lazare was eventually confirmed as the one cathedral of Autun in 1195.

In the 15th century the Romanesque appearance of the exterior was extensively modified by the addition of spires and side chapels. In 1462 Bishop Jean Rolin had a new belfry built in replacement of the Romanesque one, destroyed by a bolt of lightning.

From 1793 until 1805 it was home to the famous painting Madonna of Chancellor Rolin by Jan van Eyck, now in the Musée du Louvre.

The twin flanking towers date from the 19th century.


Notable is the west tympanum (1130–1135), signed Gislebertus hoc fecit ("Gislebertus made this") and ranked amongst the masterpieces of Romanesque sculpture in France. Portraying the Last Judgement, it was plastered over in 1766, Christ's head being entirely obliterated. Gislebertus also sculpted a figure of Eve (north portal), the first large scale nude in European art since antiquity and a model of sinuous grace.

The interior has a nave and two aisles, divided by massive pillars with longitudinal carvings. The nave elevation is composed of three levels: grand arcade, triforium and clerestory, each marked by a cornice. The nave is covered by a barrel vault over transverse arches. Most of the capitals were carved by Gislebertus: some of them are exhibited in the Chapter Hall, including fine representations of the Flight into Egypt and Adoration of the Magi.

Other artworks include the Martyrdom of St. Symphorianus, by Ingres, in the south transept.

  • Autun Cathedral at Structurae
  • Autun Cathedral at the archINFORM database (in German)
  • (French) La Cathédrale d'Autun
  • (French) L'Art Roman en Bourgogne: Autun

Building Activity

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