The Fourvière district has two types of architecture : ancient and religious. This heritage is composed of the Basilica of Fourvière, the ancient archaeological park with the Roman theater and the Odéon, the Gallo-Roman Museum, the remains of the public baths, the Rosary Gardens and the Parc des Hauteurs (hilltop park) ... Visitors will discover an exceptional panorama overlooking the city, tracing the evolution of urban Lyon.
Fourvière is accessible from Vieux Lyon by winding streets or steep stairways, the oldest and most interesting of which is Gourguillon. It is also accessible via funicular.
It was on the Fourvière hill that Lugdunum was established in 43 BC. The selection of the site was guided by its strategic position: at 300 meters above sea level, it allowed settlers to monitor the Roman communication channels. The Roman colony founded by Lucius Plancus Munatius grew towards the Saône and the Presqu’Ile (the peninsula), quickly becoming the capital of Gaul. Under the reign of Emperor Augustus, the city grew and developed: monuments were constructed, a forum was created, aqueducts were dug, baths were built and trade developed. It is also in this period that the two structures that remain today, the ancient theater and the Odéon, were built.
The city was underwent a period of great prosperity, but from the 3rd century AD, its center moved to the Saint-Jean district. Fourvière was then abandoned by the population. During the first millennium, it hosted mainly vineyards and farm buildings as well as some religious sites. The remaining Roman monuments served as a stone quarry. The intensity of religious life took over during the 16th century, all the way to the 19th century, during which a large number of monasteries were implanted on the hill, though they disappeared after the Revolution. The nickname "the hill that prays" was then given to the district. In the 19th century the Loyasse Cemetery was constructed and thereafter, the Basilica of Fourvière was built between 1891 and 1894.
Basilique de Fourvière
Basilique de Fourvière
8 Esplanade de Fourvière, 69005 Lyon
Website - tel : 04 78 25 13 01.
Open daily : 7 a.m to 7 p.m.
Many types of guided tours: discovery, thematic or more unusual (in French).
The Treasury of the Basilica is exposed at the Musée d’Art Sacré.
In 1894, the construction of the Basilica of Fourvière represented a tribute to the more than 1,500 years of spiritual and cultural life at the site. But this construction project began in the 17th century, when the hill took on a new importance. While a plague ravaged the region, in 1643 the aldermen of the city vowed to go on pilgrimage to the Fourvière every year if the epidemic stopped. Their wish was granted. Since that day, Fourvière has been a place of pilgrimage and each year, the blessing of the city takes place on September 8th, in the presence of the Mayor of Lyon, who gives the archbishop a symbolic golden crown. The blessing is completed by three shots of the canon. The construction of the basilica began in 1872 after the Franco-Prussian war.
Inspired by Byzantine art, the architect Pierre Bossan wanted a building that expressed the greatness of faith. The exterior is clean and simple with its four towers and crenellated walls that express unfailing faith in the Virgin Mary. The interior is lavishly decorated with mosaics and flooded with light, constructed in honor of the Virgin Mary. Symbolically, the architect meant to lead pilgrims from the shadows to the light of faith.
On this site Pierre Bossan constructed a unique and original piece of architecture influenced by Byzantine, Romanesque and Gothic styles. It would be dedicated in 1896 and established as a basilica the following year. The Basilica measures 86 meters long and 35 meters wide.
The four octagonal towers with battlements are 48 meters high. They feature the four cardinal virtues: Fortitude, Justice, Prudence and Temperance. The triangular pediment evokes the vow of aldermen to stop the plague in 1643. On the front visitors will note in particular the frieze located just above the portal as well as David and Goliath and the Judgment of Solomon on the tower of Justice, to the right. From this tower, 287 steps lead to the Saint-Michel terrace, which offers an impressive view over the city and toward the Alps.
At the top of the steps, the bronze door hosts a representation of Noah's Ark and the Arch of the Covenant.
Upon entering the basilica one is struck by the light caught on the gold mosaics, which tell the story of the Virgin in the history of France and in the history of the Church. The entire interior is ornamented by high-quality decorations. The three naves, topped with three domes supported by 16 colored columns are impressive in their majesty. Eight chapels are richly decorated with a great artistic diversity. The six wall mosaics are beautifully executed, and in particular feature Joan of Arc delivering Orléans, and the arrival of Saint Pothin in Lyon. The floor is also covered with a mosaic.
The great organ was built in 1896 by Michel Merklin.
The upper church opens to the crypt (or the lower church) via an exceptional red marble staircase. The first chapel is adorned with a Madonna and Child, a second is devoted to Joseph, symbolizing the Old Testament. Above the altar stands the statue of Saint Joseph holding the infant Jesus. The surrounding pavement consists of medallions depicting the seven deadly sins.
Place de Fourvière (on the right side of the Basilica), 69005 Lyon
The first traces of a chapel on the site date back to 1168. At that time, the canon of Saint-Jean, Olivier de Chavannes, erected a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary. 10 years later, a second chapel was established at the initiative of the bishop of Lyon in honor of Saint Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, who had been murdered (the chapel is located behind the chapel of the Virgin). Over the centuries, the chapels were repeatedly destroyed and renovated. Among the furniture of the chapel of the Virgin, we note in particular the altarpiece with two angels presenting the crown of the Virgin to God. Above the altar, a stained glass by Bégule represents the wish of the Aldermen.
In 1852, the small bell of the chapel of the Virgin was replaced by the monumental statue of the Golden Virgin (5.5 meters tall, weighing 3 tons), which rises to 56 meters above ground. That evening, the people of Lyon spontaneously decided to put lanterns in their windows. This is the origin of the illuminations on December 8th and the Festival of Lights (see "Events").
Musée d’Art Sacré
8 Place de Fourvière (to the right of the basilica) 69005 Lyon
Website - tel : 04 78 25 13 01.
Open every day from mid-March to December: 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. / 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Closed on Sunday mering.
Brochure guide available in 5 languages. Hosts temporary exhibitions.
This museum of religious art displays the treasure of Fourvière. Collections are composed of religious goldworks, liturgical vestments, objects of devotion ... Fun adaptations for young people (games, booklets).
6 Rue de l'Antiquaille, 69005 Lyon
Tel: 04 72 38 49 30.
Open daily: mid-April to mid-September: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. ; mid-September to mid-April: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The Grand Theater is the oldest in France. It was built by Emperor Augustus in 15 BC and hosted tragic and comedic performances. Expanded during the reign of Hadrian, its capacity increased from 4,700 to 10,700 people. It consisted of three main parts, the cavea (the stands), the orchestra (semi-circle in front of the stage) and the stage. Like most Roman theaters, it was built into the hill. The upper stands were supported by vaulted galleries in wood and stone. Spectators in the stands were divided according to their social status. Notable members of society sat near the stage, and the poorest citizens sat towards the top of the stands.
The stage wall was sumptuously decorated, composed of columns, niches and statues. A sloping roof protected the stage and pulled in sound. The system was completed with a canvas canopy fixed to masts to protect the actors and spectators from the sun.
The Odeon (a Roman theater) was dedicated to music and reading, political orators, philosophers or poets. Its construction came after that of the great theater. It dates back to the 2nd century. The Odeon of Fourvière is considered one of the largest in the Roman Empire, alongside that of Vienna. Based on the same model as the nearby theater, it was constructed on a hillside and the top of the stands was supported by arches. Accessible by 5 gates, it measured 73 meters in diameter and consisted of 23 steps. Today only the 16 lower rows remain.
The stage of the Odeon is paved with colorful geometric designs: diamonds, squares, rectangles, circles highlighted bands. The floor was made with the finest marble of the empire: green porphyry from Greece, red porphyry and granite from Egypt, yellow marble from Africa, purple and red marble from Asia ... The presence of such materials reveals the prestigious character of the monument and allows visitors to imagine the luxury offered by the building.
17 Rue Cléberg, 69005 Lyon
Website - tel : 04 72 38 49 30.
Full price / reduced price: €4 / €2.50. Free for those under 18 years old. Free with the Lyon City Card.
Open Tuesday to Friday: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Guided tours in 5 languages. Wheelchair accessible.
Audio guides for free in 9 languages.
Workshops and activities for children.
Many cultural activities and recreational programs are offered throughout the year.
Library, boutique and bookshop.
The archaeological museum is a complement to the other archaeological sites such as the ancient theater and the Odeon. The museum traces the history of Lyon from late prehistoric times to the 7th century. Opened in 1975, it is a true architectural achievement, the work of Bernard Zehrfuss. Though discreet from the outside, it highlights the exhibits inside.
An amazing underground circuit takes visitors through time with the richness of its collections. The masterpieces of the museum include in particular:
La Table Claudienne (the Claudian Table): speech of the Emperor Claudius, engraved in bronze (225 kg)
Le sarcophage du triomphe de Bacchus (the sarcophagus of the triumph of Baccus) in carved white marble,
Le calendrier gaulois (Gallic calendar) engraved in bronze, which has 2,000 words engraved in letters and Roman numerals
Les mosaïques (the mosaics) address diverse topics of Roman life.
The 17 thematic areas are also home to sculptures, jewelry, ceramics, amphorae, weapons and Gallo-Roman tools, as well as models of monuments as they would have looked in ancient times.
Parcs et Jardins
The Parc des Hauteurs and the Jardin du Rosaire
The Parc des Hauteurs (hilltop park) connects Fourvière Basilica to the Loyasse Cemetery. It gives access to the Saint Jean district down through the Rosary garden. The park is reserved for pedestrians and richly vegetated, dotted with recreational facilities and themed gardens. It offers magnificent views of the city, especially since the construction of the suspension bridge "The Four Winds."
The most historic cemetery of Lyon welcomes famous people and large families from Lyon, the Loyasse Cemetery is the oldest in the city. It is also a place of creation of local artists to discover during the visit.
Jardin du Rosaire
Accessible via the Esplanade de Fourvière or the Montée Saint Barthélémy
Playground for children.
The Rosary Garden links Vieux Lyon and the Fourvière district. It was established at the same time as the construction of the basilica to allow the passage of processions in honor of the Virgin Mary. Each station is marked on the ground by small bronze roses. The current garden was created in the 1990s, and covers over 2 acres. It features beautiful botanical compositions and several gardens: Rose garden, Chinese garden, garden of colors, flower garden ... At the bottom of an esplanade, a decorated fountain with a cast iron mask depicts a dolphin and aquatic plants, dating back to 1730. This fountain was previously on the Place des Terreaux, and people came there to get water. Then it was moved in 1850 to the Esplanade de Fourvière before being placed in the garden in 1996.
Activity for children
Tree-top ropes course with Fourvière Aventures
Place du 158e Régiment d'Infanterie (west of the cathedral), 69005 Lyon
Website - tel : 04 78 36 31 75.
Full price / reduced price: €23 / €20 / 6 to 11 years old: €16 / 4 to 5 years old: €11.
Open from March to October:
March, September and October: Saturday and Sunday: 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.
April and May: Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday and during school holidays: 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.
June: Wednesday: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. ; Saturday and Sunday: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
July and August, every day from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. ; Friday until 9 p.m.