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Myths & Legends

Marilyn Floyde 2007

About Avallon, Burgundy

Avallon is a town in the present day department of the Yonne – named after the River Yonne which is a tributary of the Seine, and one of the four departments making up the region of Burgundy in eastern central France. Burgundy gets its name from a pre-Roman Celtic tribe most closely associated with the area, the Burgundians. Other significant and influential tribes in the area were the Aedui, the Sequani, the Allobroges, the Senones and the Bituriges.

Avallon is practically in the centre of Burgundy and was an important Celtic Aeduan settlement with its own mint. There are coins dating back to pre-Christian times. These have a long-haired warrior on one side with the word ABALLO, and a horse on the other. It is widely recognised that the warriors from Avallon joined forces with Vercingetorix and the other Celtic tribes in the final battle against Caesar close by, at Alesia. Avallon is also a gateway town to The Morvan which is a wild, mountainous granite lakeland in the heart of Burgundy. In Roman times Avallon and the surrounding area was a known summer resort for wealthy Romans and their families. The countryside is verdant and fertile, with cherry and apple orchards in the valleys, and vineyards on the chalky escarpment. The immediate environs, known as the Avallonnais, are steeped in history.

"There existed a Celtic ‘collége de Druides’ which later, under the Romans, became the school for which Avallon was known throughout Burgundy."

The area has seen continuous habitation since the dawn of time. People from every stage of human development – from Cro Magnon to Homo Sapiens - have lived in the valley of the Cure – that magical river whose very name suggests its place in Celtic mythology.

The origins of Avallon are very ancient. One source claims, “On peut donc dire qu’il est peu de villes don’t l’ancienneté d’origine soit mieux établie que celle d’Avallon.” (ii) [Translation: We can say, therefore, that there are few towns with better ancient credentials than those of Avallon]. There existed a Celtic ‘collége de Druides’ which later, under the Romans, became the school for which Avallon was known throughout Burgundy. St. Germain, who was a contemporary of Arthur Riothamus, went to school there. Christianity was brought early to Avallon in 376 by Saint Martin de Tours. He allegedly destroyed an idol to Apollo and consecrated a former pagan Temple.

The most ancient building still standing is the Romanesque Eglise St.-Lazare founded on the site of an earlier church in about 800 AD. Legend has it that Avallon achieved prime pilgrimage status because of the bones of St Lazarus (he who was brought back from the dead) provided by Girard de Roussillon, who also endowed Vézelay with the relics of Mary Magdalene, Lazarus’ sister. His bones however, caused an evil little spat with the diocese of Autun, which claimed it had the real ones...

Because of its position high on a promontory it has good natural defences. It was also fortified because its location was vulnerable. It was an important way station on the main north-south Roman road – the Via Agrippa (Boulogne to Lyon) - which, during the unsettled post-Roman era, meant that it frequently became the site of battles, sieges and bombardments from all manner of marauding barbarians. The promontory and ramparts are bordered by two tributaries of the River Cousin and a stream. These are only shallow now (due to water-flow controls from the Morvan lakes) but there are records which indicate serious flooding in the 17th and 18th centuries. It could once have been a notional island. Other minor Roman roads linked Avallon with Alesia, Autun (Augustodonum), Sens (Agedincum), Paris (Lutèce) and Bourges to the west..

Next - ‘Avalon’ gets hijacked by Britain

(ii) ibid.

2016: King Arthur's French Odyssey - Avallon in Burgundy by Marilyn Floyde, has now been republished with fresh findings. Your can order it from www.islandofavallon.co.uk. or Amazon.
Now also translated into French.