Last modified: 2005-12-24 by ivan sache
Keywords: cote-d'or | auxonne |
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Municipal flag of Auxonne - Image by Pascal Vagnat, 26 March 2005
The city of Auxonne (8,000 inhabitants; 4,165 hectares, including the forest of Crochères, 1,412 hectares) is the main city of the Val de Saône (the upper valley of river Saône, upstream from its confluency with river Doubs). Auxonne is located 40 km south-west of Dijon, on the border of Burgundy and Franche-Comté. It was a former border town between France and the German Empire; Auxonne was also famous for its Artillery College, whose most renowned student was Napoléon Bonaparte.
In the Middle-Ages, there were two rival feudal states called Burgundy,
a Duchy and a County, later transformed into Burgundy and
In the IXth century, Aussona (Auxonne) was purchased by Duke of Burgundy Hughes IV from the County of Burgundy. Auxonne was then a bridgehead of the Duchy into the County, called Terres d'Outre-Saône (Lands beyond the Saône). The city was protected by ramparts made of compacted earth surmonted by a stockade, and by marshes and the river Saône.
Auxonne ceased to be a border town when the County of Burgundy was incorporated into the Duchy of Burgundy in 1384. After the Hundred Years' War, which did not damage Auxonne, a big city wall with 23 towers and four gates was built around the small city.
After the death of Charles le Téméraire, last Duke of Burgundy, in 1477, King of France Louis XI annexed Burgundy and Franche-Comté and built a fortress in Auxonne. In 1493, Charles VIII retroceded Franche-Comté to Maximilian of Austria, who had married Charles le Téméraire's daughter, Mary of Burgundy. Auxonne was therefore again a border city between France and Germany. The fortress of Auxonne was increased by Louis XII and François I.
Louis XIV asked Vauban to revamp the fortifications of Auxonne, which remained a fortified town until the conquest of Franche-Comté and the Treaty of Nijmegen, signed in 1678. Vauban built from 1689 to 1693 an artillery arsenal, which is the only one in France to have been preserved in its original structure until now. The arsenal was mostly dedicated to the production of gun carriage and provided resupply for the troops fighting in Germany and Italy from the XVIIIth century to the First Empire.
The Artillery College of Auxonne was founded in 1757. From 1759 to
1763, architect Caristie built three barracks with pink stone from
On 15 June 1788, a young Second Lieutnant from the Regiment of La Fère was sent to the Auxonne College. His name was Napoléon Bonaparte. He stayed there until September 1789, went back to Corsica for a long leave, and returned to Auxonne from 11 February to June 1791 with his brother Louis. Bonaparte was poor, nervous and had a strong Italian accent; he was rejected by the high society of Auxonne because of his weird, utopical political views. Accordingly, he spent most of his time in his room, studying history, geography, literature and mathematics. The perceptive Professor of Mathematics Jean-Louis Lombard (1723-1794) encouraged him and often told him "You'll go far!". Lombard wrote treaties of ballistics, which dramatically improved the precision, accuracy (and deadly effects) of artillery.
During his idle time, Bonaparte wrote a few historical short novels and more serious treaties (Dissertation sur l'Autorité Royale, 1788). In 1791, he published in Dole (there was no printer in Auxonne) 100 copies of the satirical pamphlet Lettre à Buttafoco, in which he ridiculed the Royalist opponents to the independence of Corsica.
Bonaparte also walked a lot in the countryside, which he found more pleasant and less boring than the small garrison town. All along his life, Bonaparte acknowledged the quality of the College of Auxonne and the perceptivity of Lombard "who knew how to teach young people the wonderful subtleties of mathematics". After the coup and the proclamation of the Consulate, one of the first Decrees signed by the Premier Consul maintained the Arsenal and the Artillery College, which were about to be suppressed by the Directoire.
The barracks were renamed Caserne Napoléon in 1854, then Caserne Chambure in 1887, and eventually Quartier Bonaparte in 1931. They house today the 511th Service Corps and First Regiment of Burgundy. The Chief of the Corps bears the title of Governor of the Town of Auxonne.
In 1840-1841, a needle barrier (200 m) was built on the Saône in Auxonne. The barrier allows the regulation of the flow on the river in order to maintain navigation nearly all the year. However, the needle barriers are now obsolete and not easy to handle; ten of them were recently replaced on the Saône with modern valve barriers. The Auxonne barrier has been kept as an element of technical and cultural heritage.
Captain Claude Noisot (1787-1861), born in Auxonne, was the "faithful
of the faithful" soldiers of Napoléon. After his retirement, he set up
a Napoleonic Museum in his estate in Fixin, near Dijon. In 1847, he
asked the famous sculptor Francois Rude to make a memorial called Le
Réveil de Napoléon à l'Immortalité. Hundred stairs were cut in the hill above the memorial to recall the Cent-Jours.
Count Claude-Antoine Prieur-Duvernois (1763-1832) was born in Auxonne. Before the French Revolution, he served as an army officer and promoted the application of physics to agriculture, arts and industry. He was elected Deputy of the department of Côte-d'Or in 1791, and later known as Prieur de la Côte-d'Or. He proposed the unification of the weights and measures, which was the first step to the adoption of the metric system. He was also involved in the creation of Ecole Polytechnique, the Télégraphe, the Bureau des Longitudes and the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers.
Gaston Roussel (1877-1947) left in 1903 his birth city of Auxonne for Paris. He discovered Hemostyl, a medicine against anaemia and hemostasy, extracted from horse serum. He founded the Institut de Sérothérapie Hémopoiétique, which was the first step towards the Roussel-UCLAF group, founded in 1920.
Source: Website of the Office du Tourisme of Auxonne
Ivan Sache, 26 March 2005
The flag of Auxonne is white with the municipal logotype and the name of the city written in a Century-like font below the logotype.
Pascal Vagnat, 26 March 2005