In Saint-Germain-en-Laye, an exhibition on the first Christians of Autun

In Saint-Germain-en-Laye, an exhibition on the first Christians of Autun

What was happening in Gaul between the 3rd and 6th centuries? Between the glorious period of the Roman Empire and the advent of the Merovingian kings, our imagination struggles to imagine the life of our ancestors. The purpose of the exhibition at the National Archeology Museum, in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, is precisely to open a window on this period, through the example of Autun (Saône-et-Loire).

After a detailed presentation of Augustodunum (Autun, “city of the emperor Augustus”), a leading city at the beginning of the 3rd century, we admire a series of exceptional objects from the following period, while the city was rebuilt after unrest and Christianity spread. Diametre vase, hairpins made of Baltic amber or Yorkshire jet, clothing woven with gold threads… testify to the permanence of an aristocratic class and dynamic international exchanges.

This “treasure” was discovered in 2020 in a sector of the Saint-Pierre-l’Estrier necropolis. Members of the National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research excavated 234 tombs dated between 280 and 380. “We identified a wide variety of burials,” explains archaeologist Nicolas Tisserand, one of the scientific curators of the exhibition. . Certain burials, grouped around a mausoleum and overlapping with each other, mark a new funerary organization. These are undoubtedly deceased Christians gathered around their bishop. » But without formal proof.

However, “in Autun, ancient texts and archeology complement each other,” adds Daniel Roger, deputy director of the museum. As an example, he shows the cast of a famous inscription, discovered in 1839 in the necropolis. A certain Pectorios mentions Christ and his baptism: this is the oldest known reference in Gaul. The route ends with the slow reorganization of the city around churches and monasteries. From then on, we moved into the Middle Ages.

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