Autun is an ancient city and diocese containing the entire area of Saôneet–Loire in southern France, about 60 miles southwest of Dijon. Christianity came to Autun (Augustodunum ) from Lyons at the beginning of the 3rd century. The famous 3d-century Christian epitaph (in Greek) of pectorius was discovered (1830) in the cemetery of St. Peter l'Estrier, a few miles from Autun. Sacked by the warriors of Tetricus in 269, Autun became an independent city (c. 300); and tradition designates St. Amator as its first bishop (c. 250). But the first recorded bishop was St. Reticius, who assisted at a council in Rome in 313 (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 5.5). In 542 Bishop Nectarius brought the relics of St. Nazarius from Milan for his cathedral; St. Syagrius was the first bishop of Autun to receive the pallium. SS. Léger and Ansbert restored the monuments of the city (7th century) and founded the diocesan legacy. Under the Merovingians a number of monasteries were founded, including St. Symphorian (5th century), St. Martin (c. 589) by Brunhilde, and St. Andochius (restored in the 8th century).
In the 11th century the monks of Cluny effected a reform that was destined to spread to the Church at large and to constitute a powerful aid to the papacy. Bishops Valterius (975–1024) and Stephen of Bâgé (1112–36) favored the reform, and Norgaud (1098–112) opposed it in favor of episcopal rights. The great Abbey of cluny was located in Autun. Romanesque in architectural style, it was completed early in the 12th century and until the erection of the basilica of St. Peter in Rome was the largest ecclesiastical building in Europe. For many centuries the library of Cluny was one of the richest and most important in France and the storehouse of a vast number of valuable manuscripts. The conclave that elected Pope callistus ii (1119–24 was held at Cluny. The main structure of the cathedral of Saint-Lazare dates from the 11th and 12th centuries, though the Gothic central towers and the chapels were added in the 15th century by Nicolas Rolin, chancellor of Burgundy, who was born in Autun.
The first council at Autun was held in 589. A second council took place during the episcopate of Bishop Léger (659–678); it acknowledged the Rule of St. Benedict as the normal monastic rule. Another council in 1065 reconciled Robert, Duke of Burgundy, with the bishop of Autun. In 1077 Pope Gregory VII convened a council in Autun that deposed Manasses, Archbishop of Reims, for simony and usurpation of the see. In 1094 Hugues, Archbishop of Lyons, renewed the excommunications of Henry IV of Germany and of Guibert, the antipope. Autun was sacked by the Protestant adherents of Coligny in 1570; but the Counter Reformation was inaugurated by Bp. Peter IV Saulnier (1588–1612), who installed the Capuchins (1606), Minims, and Jesuits. Bishop Claude de Ragny (1621–25) renewed the diocesan clergy and with the aid of St. Vincent de Paul reformed the local monasteries. The seminary was founded by Bp. Gabriel de Raquette and entrusted to the Sulpicians; and he introduced the Daughters of Charity at Paray-le-Monial, where St. Margaret Mary (d. 1690) had the apparitions of the Sacred Heart.
Bibliography: É. griffe, La Gaule chrétienne à l'époque romaine (Paris 1947–) 1:48–50. a. de charmasse, ed., Cartulaire de l'église d'Autun, 3 pts. in 2 v. (Autun 1865–1900).