Autun was, at the Roman era, a pretty important city! At that time, Augustodonum became “Rome's sister and emulator”, soror et emula Romae in Latin! We had theatres, amphitheatres, villas... all these buildings surrounding by solid ramparts 6 km long, flanked by 40 towers and 4 gates. From those 4 gates, it remain the gate of Arroux (north-west, towards Bourges) and the gate of St-André (north-east, where ended the road leading to Besançon).
This last gate was named after a chapel fit out in the Middle Age in one of the tower. Its primitive name was porta Lingonensis, “gate of Langres”... yes, city of Langres is located in Eastern France, and our gate points towards this direction! This one is composed of two arches helping along traffic and two smaller ones for pedestrians. The whole building is crowned by a 10 arches gallery.
In the 19th century, they took down the gate and rebuilt it, with the help of the famous architect Viollet-le-Duc: this chap completely ruined it in 1845. Well, yes, the gallery and the vault were “imagined” by the architect... nothing to see with the primitive building! In the past, two small round towers used to surround the gate: one still exists and houses the current protestant temple of Saint-André. A temple that we can't visit...
In front of the gate Saint-André took place saint Symphorien's martyr in 180. Autun was pagan at this time, but Symphorien's parents were Christian saints already. Oooo, Christians people in a Roman place? Not good at all… And one day, because Symphorien refused to take part in a procession dedicated to Cybele (ooo, naughty one), he was arrested and tortured. They sentenced him to death outside the city of Autun, just in front of the rampart.
His mum, top of the wall, saw the scene, helpless, and started to cheer her son while he was getting over the gate of Saint-André: “Keep it up, my son! Don't be afraid of death, it leads to life. Don't regret your life on earth, look at the sky!” Well, we hope those words helped this poor Symphorien…