1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Auch

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AUCH, a city of south-western France, capital of the department of Gers, 55 m. W. of Toulouse on the Southern railway. Pop. (1906) 9294. Auch is built on the summit and sides of a hill at the foot of which flow the yellow waters of the Gers. It consists of a lower and upper quarter united in several places by flights of steps. The streets are in general steep and narrow, but there is a handsome promenade in the upper town, laid out in the 18th century by the intendant Antoine Mégret d’Etigny. Three bridges lead from the left to the right bank of the Gers, on which the suburb of Patte d’Oie is situated. The most interesting part of the town lies in the old quarter around the Place Salinis, a spacious terrace which commands an extensive view over the surrounding country. On its eastern side it communicates with the left bank of the river by a handsome series of steps; on its north side rises the cathedral of Sainte-Marie. This church, built from 1489 to 1662, belongs chiefly to the Gothic style, of which it is one of the finest examples in southern France. The façade, however, with its two square and somewhat heavy flanking towers dates from the 17th century, and is Greco-Roman in architecture. Sainte-Marie contains many artistic treasures, the chief of which are the magnificent stained-glass windows of the Renaissance which light the apsidal chapels, and the 113 choir-stalls of carved oak, also of Renaissance workmanship. The archbishop’s palace adjoins the cathedral; it is a building of the 18th century with a Romanesque hall and a tower of the 14th century. Opposite the south side of the cathedral stands the lycée on the site of a former Jesuit college. Only scanty remains are left of the once celebrated abbey of St Orens. The ecclesiastical seminary contains an important library with a collection of manuscripts, and there is a public library in the Carmelite chapel, a building of the 17th century. The former palace of the intendants of Gascony is now used as the préfecture. Auch is the seat of an archbishopric, a prefect and a court of assizes, and has tribunals of first instance and of commerce, a chamber of commerce, a lycée, training-colleges, a school of design, a branch of the Bank of France and an important lunatic asylum. The manufactures include agricultural implements, leather, vinegar and plaited sandals, and there is a trade in brandy, wine, cattle, poultry and wool; there are quarries of building-stone in the neighbourhood.

Auch (Elimberris) was the capital of a Celtiberian tribe, the Ausci, and under the Roman domination was one of the most important cities in Gaul. In the 4th century this importance was increased by the foundation of its bishopric, and after the destruction of Eauze in the 9th century it became the metropolis of Novempopulana. Till 732, Auch stood on the right bank of the Gers, but in that year the ravages of the Saracens drove the inhabitants to take refuge on the left bank of the river, where a new city was formed. In the 10th century Count Bernard of Armagnac founded the Benedictine abbey of St Orens, the monks of which, till 1308, shared the jurisdiction over Auch with the archbishops—an arrangement which gave rise to constant strife. The counts of Armagnac possessed a castle in the city, which was the capital of Armagnac in the middle ages. During the Religious Wars of the 16th century Auch remained Catholic, except for a short occupation in 1569 by the Huguenots under Gabriel, count of Montgomery. In the 18th century it was capital of Gascony, and seat of a generality. Antoine Mégret d’Etigny, intendant from 1751 to 1767, did much to improve the city and its commerce.