Auxerre, a town of central France, capital of the department of Yonne, 38 m. S.S.E. of Sens on the Paris-Lyon railway, between Laroche and Nevers. Pop. (1906) 16,971. It is situated on the slopes and the summit of an eminence on the left bank of the Yonne, which is crossed by two bridges leading to suburbs on the right bank. The town is irregularly built and its streets are steep and narrow, but it is surrounded by wide tree-lined boulevards, which have replaced the ancient fortifications, and has some fine churches. That of St étienne, formerly the cathedral, is a majestic Gothic building of the 13th to the 16th centuries. It is entered by three richly sculptured portals, over the middle and largest of which is a rose window; over the north portal rises a massive tower, but that which should surmount the south portal is unfinished. The lateral entrances are sheltered by tympana and arches profusely decorated with statuettes. The plan consists of a nave, with aisles and lateral chapels, transept and choir, with a deambulatory at a slightly lower level. Beneath the choir, which is a fine example of early Gothic architecture, extends a crypt of the 11th century with mural paintings of the 12th century. The church has some fine stained glass and many pictures and other works of art.
The ancient episcopal palace, now used as prefecture, stands behind the cathedral; it preserves a Romanesque gallery of the 12th century. The church of St Eusèbe belongs to the 12th, 13th and 16th centuries. Of the abbey church of St Germain, built in the 13th and 14th centuries, most of the nave has disappeared, so that its imposing Romanesque tower stands apart from it; crypts of the 9th century contain the tombs of bishops of Auxerre. The abbey was once fortified and a high wall and cylindrical tower remain. The buildings (18th century) are partly occupied by a hospital and a training college. The church of St Pierre, in the Renaissance style of the 16th and 17th centuries, is conspicuous for the elaborate ornamentation of its west façade. The old law-court contains the museum, with a collection of antiquities and paintings, and a library. In the middle of the town is a gateway surmounted by a belfry, dating from the 15th century. Auxerre has statues of Marshal Davout, J. B. J. Fourier and Paul Bert, the two latter natives of the town. The town is the seat of a court of assizes and has tribunals of first instance and of commerce, and a branch of the Bank of France. A lycée for girls, a communal college and training colleges are among its educational establishments.
Manufactures of ochre, of which there are quarries in the vicinity, and of iron goods are carried on. The canal of Nivernais reaches as far as Auxerre, which has a busy port and carries on boat-building. Trade is principally in the choice wine of the surrounding vineyards, and in timber and coal.
Auxerre (Autessiodurum) became the seat of a bishop and a civitas in the 3rd century. Under the Merovingian kings the abbey of St Germain, named after the 6th bishop, was founded, and in the 9th century its schools had made the town a seat of learning. The bishopric was suppressed in 1790.
The countship of Auxerre was granted by King Robert I. to his son-in-law Renaud, count of Nevers. It remained in the house of Nevers until 1184, when it passed by marriage to that of Courtenay. Other alliances transferred it successively to the families of Donzy, Châtillon, Bourbon and Burgundy. Alice of Burgundy, countess of Auxerre, married John of Châlons (d. 1309), and several counts of Auxerre belonging to the house of Châlons distinguished themselves in the wars against the English during the 14th century. John II., count of Auxerre, was killed at the battle of Crécy (1346), and his grandson, John IV., sold his countship to King Charles V. in 1370.