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Auxonne (Municipality, Côte-d'Or, France)

Last modified: 2022-02-27 by ivan sache
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Flag of Auxonne, current and former versions - Images by Olivier Touzeau, 5 June 2021, and Pascal Vagnat, 26 March 2005, respectively

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Presentation of Auxonne

The municipality of Auxonne (7,683 inhabitants in 2016; 4,065 ha, including the Crochères forest, 1,412 ha; municipal website) is the main town in 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.

In the Middle Ages, there were two rival feudal states called Burgundy, a Duchy and a County, later transformed into Burgundy and Franche-Comté, respectively.
In the 9th century, Aussona was purchased from the Count of Burgundy by Duke of Burgundy Hugh IV. Then a bridgehead of the Duchy into the County, called Terres d'Outre-Saône (Lands beyond the Saône), the town was protected by ramparts made of compacted earth surmounted by a stockade, and by marshes and 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 spared Auxonne, a big wall with 23 towers and four gates was built around the small town.
After the death of Charles the Bold, 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 the Bold's daughter, Mary of Burgundy. Auxonne was therefore again a border town between France and Germany. The fortress of Auxonne was increased by Louis XII and Francis I.
Louis XIV ordered 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 18th century to the First Empire.

The Auxonne Artillery College was founded in 1757. From 1759 to 1763, architect Caristie built three barracks with pink stone from neighbouring Jura mountains.
On 15 June 1788, young Second Lieutenant Napoléon Bonaparte, from the Regiment of La Fère, was sent to the Auxonne College. He studied 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. Poor, nervous and speaking with a strong Italian accent, Bonaparte 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), author of ballistic treaties that dramatically improved the precision, accuracy (and deadly effects) of artillery. encouraged him and often told him "You'll go far!".
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 Auxonne College 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 to 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 honorary 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 episode.
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 École 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; incorporated in 1997 to Hoechst, itself incorporated in 2004 to Sanofi-Aventis.

Ivan Sache, 26 March 2005

Flag of Auxonne

The flag of Auxonne in use at least since 2018 (photo, photo) is white with the muncipal logo, which is composed of the municipal arms and the name of the town below it. The arm are " Per pale, 1a. Azure semy of fleurs-de-lis or a bordure componny argent and gules, 1b. Bendy of six or and azure a bordure gules, 2. Azure a demi-cross moline argent". The arms are featured in the Armorial Général, with a full cross in the second quarter (image. The Armorial National de France (Traversier &: Vaisse, 1842) features the arms with the quarters swapped.

Laurent Hablot, professor of Western Emblematic at the École Pratique des Hautes Études and former student of Michel Pastoureau, points out that princes seldomly granted addition of their personal arms on municipal arms. Among the few known examples, Aigueperse was granted the "chief of Berry" by Duke John of Berry around 1375 and Aix-en-Provence was granted the chief of Anjou by Louis III of Anjou in 1431.
The arms of the Burgundian towns that feature the "chief of Burgundy", Auxonne included and Dijon excepted, are modern creations, designed long time after the Duchy of Burgundy ceased to be an independent state, in 1477.BR> [Departmental Archives of Côte-d'Or]

The former flag of Auxonne (photo) was white with the former municipal logo and the name of the town written in a Century-like font below it.

Olivier Touzeau & Pascal Vagnat, 5 June 2021