In 43 BC (nine years after Caesar had conquered Gaul and one year before his assassination in Rome), Lucius Munatius Plancus (governor of Gaul) founded west of the confluence of the Rhône and Saône, on the Fourvière heights, Colonia Copia Claudia Augusta Lugdunum (or just Lugdunum). The choice of this emplacement was strategic.
Lugdunum on the Fourvière heights.
The site of Lugdunum (Lyon) at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône placed it on an important axis of circulation through the Rhône Valley, which linked the Mediterranean to the future interior provinces.
The city was founded for a group of Roman refugees. It is the year 43 BC; for the Gauls of Vienne (the Allobroges) it's the call to battle. They have recently learned of the assassination of Julius Caesar. Now that their old enemy has ceased to be a threat, they were no longer afraid to chase away the Romans living in their city.
A model of Modern Lyon placed at the grounds outside Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière. Fourvière Hill is at the middle top of the picture. This is where everything began.
Within 50 years, Lugdunum increased greatly in size and importance, becoming the administrative center of Roman Gaul and Germany. The proximity to the frontier with Germany made Lugdunum strategically important for the next four centuries, as a staging ground for further Roman expansion into Germany and the "de facto" capital city and administrative center of the Gallic provinces. Its large and cosmopolitan population made it the commercial and financial heart of the northwestern provinces as well.
Two emperors, Claudius and Caracalla, were born in Lugdunum.
A walk at Fourvière Hill (red line). Bus/funicular transfers (blue lines). On foot transfer (green line).
Our walk/tour of the Fourvière Hill starts aboard Funicular F1 (Saint-Jean - Saint-Just). The funicular starts at Vieux-Lyon - Cathédrale Saint-Jean station. Take F1 line and stop at the intermediate stop: Minimes - Théâtres Romains.
Alternatively, one can take from the same staion the second line, F2 (Saint-Jean - Fourvière), that brings visitors just outside La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière.
F2 line did not operate during my visit due to renovation works, so I used the F1 option.
Of course, one can go up the hill via steps if he is fit enough!
Get out of the Minimes - Théâtres Romains station, at Place des Minimes, in front of the archeological site. The square offers beautiful views of the city. A bit further south, on Rue des Farges, are located the ruins of Roman thermae (public baths) - Thermes antiques de Lyon. One can access (free of charge) the thermae from the big car passage of a modern building (on 6 Rue des Farges) located opposite the very southern point of Place des Minimes.
The Roman thermae on Rue des Farges.
Maurice Utrillo (1883-1955). La Place des Minimes, à Lyon-Saint Just.
The Roman baths were built in the first century A.D. Around these baths was a very dense neighborhood of homes, workshops, and shops.
The practice of bathing required successive rooms, including a changing room, warm and hot rooms with pools, a sudatorium (the equivalent of our sauna), and a cold room with a swimming pool.
Only the south end of the building is visible today since the main part is buried under the Jean Moulin middle school. This is the rounded end (apse) of the two warm rooms and part of the courtyard (palaestra), where people exercised before taking a bath.
Église Saint-Just des Macchabées.
In 1565, a new basilica was constructed to replace the one destroyed three years earlier, but at a new location (41, Rue des Farges) inside the city walls. This church, the full name of which is Saint-Just of the Maccabees (Église Saint-Just des Macchabées), until 2014, hosted the "French-speaking Orthodox parish of the Holy Encounter", a parish of the Orthodox Byzantine rite dependent on the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
The Roman theaters of Fourvière.
These two structures, located side by side, formed a unique set in the Roman world. Transformed into quarries in late Antiquity, they had almost disappeared from the landscape. They were updated and partially rebuilt during the first half of the twentieth century. As living monuments, they welcome the "Nuits de Fourvière" shows each summer.
Théâtre Gallo Romain.
The odeon is the smaller of the two theaters, which was designed for concerts and declamations. It could also be used as a meeting place. Odeons were rare in the western part of the Empire. Only Lyon, Vienne, and Valence had them.
The Roman Odéon.
Gallo-Roman Museum of Lyon
Wander around the ruins and the gardens. After admiring the open views of Lyon, head for the Gallo-Roman Museum. You can enter the museum via the archeological site at the foothills of the theater or from its main entrance (17, Rue Cléberg) at the top of the theater.
Note: When I was visiting the city, the Gallo-Roman Museum was closed for renovations.
Nearly invisible from the outside, the Gallo-Roman Museum of Lyon blends into the landscape of a unique archaeological site.
Nearly invisible from the outside, the museum blends into the landscape of a unique archaeological site. The concrete structure disappears under the vegetation, and two large windows channeling light make the theaters part of the exhibition. One of the remarkable characteristics of the building is the aesthetic quality of the reinforced concrete, both inside and outside. Providing a straightforward background, the architecture highlights the works. The customary arrangement of rooms has been replaced by open spaces following a large spiral ramp.
Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière seen from Place Saint Jean.
The design of the basilica by Pierre Bossan draws from both Romanesque and Byzantine architecture, two non-Gothic models that were unusual choices at the time. It has four main towers and a bell tower topped with a gilded statue of the Virgin Mary. It features fine mosaics, superb stained glass, and a crypt of Saint Joseph.
The interior of Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière.
If you have some extra time, head for Rue des Macchabées (continue on Rue des Farges and then Rue de Trion and then turn left on Rue des Macchabées). Here on No 11, on a terrace overlooking the Saône river, used to be a Gallo-Roman home from the late first century, which was then replaced by a necropolis and after that by the Basilica of Saint Justus (Saint-Just basilica), one of the oldest in Lyon. This basilica was rebuilt several times until the end of the Middle Ages, when (1562) it was destroyed by the Huguenot captain François de Beaumont. Today, the foundations of the churches can be seen.
Basilica of Saint Justus in 1550.
Back at Place des Minimes. Walk for some meters north to find the entrance to the archeological site. Access to the site is free of charge. The site is big, and it is dominated by the two ancient Roman theaters: the smaller Odéon and the big Théâtre Gallo Romain.
The big Théâtre Gallo Romain.
The theater, also known as the "large theater", to differentiate it from the odeon, is set into the slope of the hill. It is the oldest theater in Roman Gaul and is also one of the largest (108 meters in diameter) and the theaters of Vienne and Autun. Originally, there were only two levels of tiered seats for about 5,000 spectators. Later, it was modified: the stage was rebuilt, and the third level of seats was added, enlarging capacity to 10,000 spectators. Plays were presented there, most often comedies, accompanied by dances.
The Roman Odéon.
Odeon originally had two levels of tiered seats that could hold up to 3,000 spectators. At the foot of the seats, the magnificent orchestra pavement was made of the most beautifully colored marbles of the Roman world, including green porphyry from Greece, red porphyry and granite from Egypt, yellow marble from Africa, and purple and red marble from Asia Minor. Like the theater, the odeon became a quarry after it was abandoned, but its ruins remained visible.
The top of the Gallo-Roman Museum of Lyon offers great views.
The idea of creating a museum to house objects related to the Roman city of Lyon was first discussed in the thirties. It wasn't until the sixties that the project took shape and was entrusted to the architect Bernard Zehrfuss. Zehrfuss was responsible for the idea of burying the building so that it would fit smoothly into the exceptional setting around it and would not "offend the professionalism of my Roman colleagues". Construction began in 1972. The museum was inaugurated on November 15, 1975.
The gardens of the museum.
Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière
Exit from the main entrance to the museum and follow the northbound lane of Rue Roger Radisson towards the Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière.
The basilica was built between 1872 and 1884 in a dominant position overlooking the city. The site it occupies was once the Roman forum of Trajan, the forum vetus (old forum). The building itself is imposing and can be seen from everywhere in the city, like the Sacré-Coeur of Montmartre in Paris.
Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière seen from Vieux Lyon.
The basilica of Fourvière actually contains two churches, one on top of the other. The upper sanctuary is very ornate, while the lower is a much simpler design. The upper church is dominated by three cupolas and lit by six stained glass windows that help the rich interior décor be highlighted. The materials used for construction and decoration compete in quality and beauty: white Carrara marble, pink granite from northern Italy, blue marbles from Savoy, green onyx, splinters of silver and gold, ebony, and ivory.
Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière.
Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière.
The basilica of Fourvière is dedicated to the Virgin Mary (Notre Dame), to whom is attributed the salvation of the city of Lyon from the bubonic plague that swept Europe in 1643. The inauguration of the golden statue of the Virgin Mary on the northwest tower is the origin of the famous Festival of Lights (Fête des Lumières). Each year in early December (December 8, day of the Immaculate Conception), Lyon thanks the Virgin for saving the city by lighting candles throughout the city. The Virgin is also credited with saving the city many other times, such as from a Cholera epidemic in 1832 and the Prussian invasion in 1870.
View of Lyon from the Basilica gardens.
Next to the basilica is located the Religious Art Museum of Fourvière. The museum is currently closed for renovations till 2020.
The surrounding area of the basilica is nicely organized, and from the terrace, at its north side, one can admire the city's best views. There is also a café here under expansion and renovation, which after the completion, will offer a beautiful place for the visitor to rest and have a coffee or a meal.
The shops next to the Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière.
La Tour Métallique
Not far away from the basilica (some 100m to the north) stands La Tour Métallique, one of Lyon's most easily recognizable landmarks. The landowners are privately built to rival the Eiffel Tower in Paris. It forms the highest point in Lyon and is, in fact, higher than the Eiffel Tower at its summit due to it being on a hill. It is now a television relay tower.
Saint Just funicular station (line F1).
La Tour Métallique.
The easiest way to depart from Fourvière and go down to Vieux Lyon is on foot by following the paths which start from behind the basilica. Through lavish vegetation and religious statues located along the paths, in only some minutes you reach Montée Saint-Barthélémy and then via the steps of Montée des Chazeaux Sendero de Ascenso, you are down to Rue du Boeuf.
Alternatively, if you are not into walking, the entrance of funicular F2 (Saint-Jean - Fourvière) is just in front of the basilica. When I was visiting, F2 was out of order because of renovation works. Instead, a bus used to take visitors from a stop outside the basilica to the top station (Saint-Just) of funicular line F1. Both funicular lines take you down to Saint-Jean in Vieux Lyon.
Walk IV: Croix-Rousse
La Croix-Rousse Hill.
La Croix-Rousse is a hill 254 meters high and the name of a neighborhood located on this hill. The neighborhood is divided into “les pentes” (slopes) and "le plateau” (atop the hill). Boulevard de la Croix-Rousse runs east–west and is the border between the Pentes de la Croix-Rousse and the Plateau de la Croix-Rousse.
Panoramic view of La Croix-Rousse hill.
Boulevard de la Croix-Rousse was constructed on the former site of the Croix-Rousse ramparts in 1865. A restored and impressive part of these fortifications can be seen at the western end of the boulevard (Fort Saint-Jean), on Saône River, and at the eastern end (Bastion Saint-Laurent), overlooking the Rhone River.
Fort Saint-Jean on Saône River.
The name "La Croix-Rousse" ('the russet/red cross') comes from a reddish-brown stone cross erected there in the 16th century.
The neighborhood's appearance is heavily influenced by the central role that Lyon played in the silk industry in France. The vast majority of buildings in the area feature large vaulted ceilings with exposed wooden rafters. Compared to other areas in Lyon, the larger internal height available in these buildings was necessary for housing the tall silk looms that were operated in the area.
Art in the streets of La Croix-Rousse.
Also of note are the traboules of Croix-Rousse, the covered passageways used by silk merchants to travel and ferry material between buildings while being sheltered from the rain.
The area has since been subject to gentrification and now exhibits a vibrant cultural scene. La Croix-Rousse has always possessed a unique atmosphere compared to the rest of the city. As an illustration, some inhabitants call themselves Croix-roussiens. When you are in the neighborhood, you really feel like being in another city. The buildings, especially those in “les pentes”, reveal the humbler social class of their tenants, and while at the plateau, you have the feeling of a town rather than a city.
La Croix-Rousse is nicknamed “la colline qui travaille” ('the hill that works') in contrast to the better-known hill to the southwest, Fourvière, which is known as la “colline qui prie” ('the hill that prays'). The district started developing in the 18th century when the silk workshops moved here from the Vieux-Lyon area. The canuts (silk workers) were subject to deplorable working conditions. On account of these conditions, they staged many worker uprisings, known as the Canut revolts. The first revolt, in October 1831, is considered to be one of the very first worker uprisings.
The area was immortalized in Paul-Jacques Bonzon's book series “Les Six Compagnons”, which depicts the adventures of seven young working-class teenagers from the area.
Paul-Jacques Bonzon's “Les Six Compagnons”.
A walk in Croix-Rousse (red line).
Start the walk from Place des Terreaux in Presqu’île. Rue Sainte-Marie-des-Terreaux leads north through narrow streets and stairs to Place des Capucins. The area is characterized by “ethnic” shops, mainly Arabic and Turkish. Continue Montée de la Grande-Côte, a paved, free of traffic street with art galleries and small specialized shops, which connects the Terreaux quarter and the Plateau de la Croix Rousse.
Montée de la Grande-Côte.
In the last decades of the 20th century, the urban redevelopment of the area destroyed the upper part of the street, creating a visible hole in the quarter. Some sections are currently exclusively pedestrian. The upper part was transformed with staircases, gardens, and an esplanade offering a view over the city. The part between the Rue des Tables Claudiennes and the Rue Burdeau is the only one to have kept its original width.
Place des Capucins.
The uphill street (montée) is characterized by a high elevation and is narrower at the bottom. The street urbanized in the 16th century and became a major axis of entry and exit from the Presqu'île by the north.
While the rest of the plateau and slopes of La Croix-Rousse were mainly composed of religious congregations, the Grand'Côte already hosted many canuts. The Grand'Côte became the crossing place of the workers who came down to Lyon, to the merchants' district.
It played a central role during the Revolt of Canuts on 21 November 1831 and 14 February 1834. In 1835, a cooperative store was established here by Michel Derrion and Joseph Reynier, the first of its kind in France. Today, the street provides a typical example of a canut street, although the upper part has been drastically altered.
The lower end of Montée de la Grande-Côte.
The Grand'Côte gave its name to the Littré de la Grand'Côte, a dictionary about the Lyon speaking written by Nizier of Puitspelu (aka Clair Tisseur).
"Littré de la Grand'Côte" and its author Nizier of Puitspelu.
The main entrance of Passage Thiaffait on Rue René Leynaud.
Thiaffait was a member of the Office of Charity (Bureau de Bienfaisance) and president of the Society of Primary Instruction (Société d'Instruction Élémentaire). Around 1827, Father Guerin installed in the traboule the orchestra he had founded to promote music.
From the late 1970s, the already neglected and gloomy buildings become almost ruined. The district of Rene Leynaud street acquired a bad reputation, and as a result, tenants and owners ran away.
The upper part of Passage Thiaffait
The successful renovation allowed the realization of an ambitious project of refurbishing the whole district of the Grand'Côte. New businesses were encouraged to settle in by providing them financial benefits. Today, most premises of the passage are used as studios and workshops, mainly for young fashion designers, and crime has almost disappeared.
In 2000, all shops/workshops of the passage took the collective name "The Village of creators" (Le village des créateurs), which achieved notability throughout France and Europe.
The exit of Passage Thiaffait on Rue René Leynaud (top left). The church Saint-Polycarpe (top right). The Passage Mermet (bottom left). "Rakwe" cafe (bottom right).
After ascending a couple of blocks in Montée de la Grande-Côte, turn right at Rue Burdeau. At No 30, there is a stairway going down. This is the northern entrance to Passage Thiaffait, a curved traboule with a spectacular entry by a portico on Rue René Leynaud.
The Passage Thiaffait was built in the early 19th century (in 1827) and was named after Mr. Thiaffait, who built the complex.
The shops of the Passage Thiaffait.
In the 1980s, the passage became a place of high crime, almost all apartments were occupied by various gangs, and some become clandestine brothels. Drugs, prostitution, trafficking, and criminal gangs profit from the network of traboules of the passage, resulting in the disappearance of almost all legal businesses in the area. After two decades of dilapidation and insecurity, the renovation of the Passage Thiaffait was decided in 1997 and completed in 2001.
The upper entrance to Passage Thiaffait, at No30 of Rue Burdeau.
Enjoy the shops of the passage and exit on Rue René Leynaud. Turn left, pass by the church Saint-Polycarpe, the oldest church of the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri, built in 1670, except for the façade that was built in 1756 by architect Toussaint Loyer (the church has a famous organ, built by Augustine Zeiger in 1841) and the Passage Mermet that leads up back to Rue Burdeau. There are many restaurants and little cafes in Rue René Leynaud. We were impressed by "Rakwe" at No26: a very nice little café with a good variety of coffees and teas.
La Mère Brazier restaurant.
At the lower part of the park, at the corner of Rue Royale and Rue Eugenie Brazier, one can enjoy an expensive dinner at the Michelin-starred La Mère Brazier restaurant.
Cour des Voraces
Exit Rue René Leynaud and turn uphill on Montée Saint-Sébastien. Leave behind Rue Burdeau and Rue des Tables Claudiennes, two very beautiful streets full of art galleries, as well as Rue Imbert-Colomès. Some meters before reaching Place Colbert, at number 14b of Montée Saint-Sébastien, you see the eastern entrance to one of the most visited sites of La Croix-Rousse: Cour des Voraces.
Placard placed at no 14bis of the Montée de Saint-Sébastien, indicating the entrance to "La Cour des Voraces".
Me at cafe "Rakwe".
At the end of Rue René Leynaud there is a small park (Place Croix-Paquet), that hosts the Croix-Paquet station of metro line C. This line is actually more a funicular than a metro as it is a high-slope line that goes directly up to the plateau. But we are still at the beginning of our walk… don’t tell me you are already tired?!
The Cour des Voraces (Court of the weavers), also called Maison de la République, is a building court famous for its enormous six-floor stairway visible from the court. It is a big traboule that links the number 9 of the Place Colbert, the number 14bis of the Montée de Saint-Sébastien, and the number 29 of the Rue Imbert-Colomès.
A commemorative plaque in Cour des Voraces.
The court took its name from a group of workers called the Voraces (weavers), who distinguished themselves during the uprisings of 1848 and 1849. According to sources, Cour des Voraces has served as a refuge for canuts during their revolts.
During the Second World War, traboules of Lyon, dark and secret places, little known to foreigners, whose configuration favored covert activities, enabled networks of resistance to escape from the surveillance of the German occupiers. Therefore, the Cour des Voraces remains often mentioned as a symbol of resistance.
In 1995, the Habitat et Humanisme Association led by Father Bernard Devers bought the place and launched the rehabilitation of the court that became a symbol of social housing.
Built in 1840, Cour des Voraces is a fine example of folk architecture of canuts, related to the silk industry, which deeply marked the neighborhood. It is also a place that symbolizes some great moments in the history of Lyon. A commemorative plaque here says: « Dans la cour des Voraces, ruche du travail de la soie, les canuts luttaient pour leurs conditions de vie et leur dignité » (In the Cour des Voraces, a hive of silk work, the canuts struggled for their lives and their dignity).
Cour des Voraces big staircase.
Cour des Voraces. The entrance at no 14b of Montée Saint-Sébastien (bottom left). The entrance at no 9 of the Place Colbert (top left).
Bastion Saint-Laurent, at the north-eastern part of the Place Bellevue.
Le Gros Caillou
Continue uphill by the stairs of the Gros Cailloux Garden, a park built on several levels that took its name from Le Gros Caillou ("big pebble"), a big rock whose mineralogical composition suggests it is a glacial erratic that has been transported from the nearby Alps by slowly moving glaciers. The discovery of Gros Caillou dates back to 1861 during the drilling of the tunnel of a funicular linking downtown Lyon to the Croix-Rousse plateau.
View from Place Bellevue.
The Gros Caillou at the beginning of the 20th century, still at its old place at Boulevard de la Croix-Rousse
Enjoy the courtyard and the huge staircase. Exit at Place Colbert and further up turn right to Rue Bodin, which leads to Place Bellevue, a terrace with great views of lower Lyon, as its name reveals. At the north-eastern part of the square stands Bastion Saint-Laurent, the easternmost part of the northern Lyon fortification connecting the two rivers. By the building, there is a narrow staircase that brings you down by the river banks.
Gros Cailloux Garden during the "Vogue des marrons", the chestnut fair that takes place in October and November every year.
The drilling had to be interrupted as the workers were blocked by a tough rock, which they could not break. After many attempts, Gros Caillou was eventually excavated, becoming a symbol of Croix-Rousse. Originally, Gros Caillou was located at the end of Boulevard de la Croix-Rousse and relocated to its present position at the beginning of our century. Café du Gros Caillou, located opposite the rock, offers a good place for rest and a drink.
Alternatively, cross the gardens and have your coffee or lunch at Brasserie des Ecoles, located at the corner of Place de la Croix-Rousse and Boulevard de la Croix-Rousse.
Children accused of stoning Paul Gignoux, interrogated at police station, West-Éclair, April 28, 1937 - source: RetroNews-BnF.
In the middle of Place de la Croix-Rousse stands the statue of Joseph Marie Jacquard. Jacquard was a Lyonnais weaver and merchant. He played an important role in the development of the earliest programmable loom (the "Jacquard loom" in the early 1800s), which in turn played an important role in the development of other programmable machines, such as an early version of the digital compiler used by IBM to develop the modern-day computer.
The beautiful Place de la Croix-Rousse is unfortunately remembered as the place where Paul Gignoux was lynched at the age of nine by other children in 1937. This lynching may be due to the political positioning of his father adherent to the French Social Party and, more generally, to a chasm between the "privileged" origin of Paul Gignoux and the "humbler" origin of its aggressors. This assassination is perceived as one example of the political tension existing in France during the first government of Léon Blum.
The statue of Joseph Marie Jacquard at Place de la Croix-Rousse.
The Jacquard loom revolutionized the silk weaver industry, and its name became a household soon as jacquard fabric made lots of difference in the clothing industry. Although Jacquard's invention was fiercely opposed by the silk-weavers, who feared that its introduction, owing to the saving of labor, would deprive them of their livelihood.
Sébastien Bouillet patisserie
A bit further up on Place de la Croix-Rousse, I discovered the best cakes and chocolates at Sébastien Bouillet patisserie. Founded in 1977 by Henri and Ginette Bouillet, the shop is actually 3 shops, not just one: a patisserie shop (called Sebastien Bouillet) next to a bakery shop (called Goûter) and a chocolate shop (called “Chokola”, a bit further away at the beautiful street Rue d'Austerlitz).
La Maison des Canuts
Walk on Rue du Mail for two blocks and turn right on Rue d'Ivry. On number 10 stands La Maison des Canuts, a museum dedicated to the silk industry, which is so much associated with the history and development of La Croix-Rousse. The small museum presents collections related to Canuts particularly looms still functional.
Inside La Maison des Canuts.
Mur des Canuts
Walk Rue d'Ivry back and at Grande Rue de la Croix-Rousse, the main commercial street of the area, turn right and then left at Rue Calas. Continue on Rue Pelletier to the Boulevard des Canuts. At a building located at one side of a triangular open space, the visitor will be astonished by the huge fresco Mur des Canuts. It is the largest fresco in Europe. It extends over approximately 1200 m².
Sébastien Bouillet patisserie and Goûter.
The smell of freshly baked, rich in butter croissant and madeleines that comes from the bakery and the mouth-watering window displays will lure you inside.
Which is my favorite of all three? Boutique [Goûter] of course, because I have a weakness for viennoiseries, brioches, and cakes. The only drawback is that you will have the desire to taste everything… is this bad? No! Plunge into the sensational world of Haute patisserie with no guilt or shame.
La Maison des Canuts.
The exhibition halls trace the origins of silk, from its discovery in China through the cycle of the silkworm, the origin of the word Canut, their organization and their revolts, the manufacture of gold and silver threads, and the invention of the Jacquard loom. A shop selling 100% made in France products related to silk is located in the museum. The entrance fee (without a guided tour) is 2€ (1€ for students and seniors).
Mur des Canuts.
Mur des Canuts was created in 1987 and partly redone in 1997. Sit at the benches positioned at the triangular square for the visitor to admire the fresco and take lots of pictures.
Mur des Canuts - details.
Jardin des Plantes & Amphithéâtre des Trois Gaules
Walk down the Boulevard des Canuts towards Boulevard de la Croix-Rousse and line C subway station named Croix-Rousse. Continue south on Rue des Pierres Plantées and descent through Jardin de l'esplanade de la Grande-Côte and the upper part of Montée de la Grande-Côte.
Excavation in the park revealed the Amphithéâtre des Trois Gaules, which today occupies the eastern part of the park. The Amphitheatre of the Three Gauls of Lugdunum was part of the Federal Sanctuary of the Three Gauls dedicated to the Imperial cult of ancient Rome and Augustus celebrated by the 60 Gallic tribes when they gathered at Lugdunum. It was built around 19 AD.
Amphithéâtre des Trois Gaules.
Turn right at Rue des Tables Claudiennes to the Jardin des Plantes archeological park. This public garden/park was the botanical garden of Lyon from 1820 till 1857 when the small size of the garden resulted in the transfer of 4000 plants to the current botanical garden of Lyon located at the Tête-d'Or Park.
Amphithéâtre des Trois Gaules.
Excavations have revealed a basement of three elliptical walls linked by cross-walls and a channel surrounding the oval central arena. The arena was slightly sloped, with the building's south part supported by a now-vanished vault. The arena's dimensions are 67.6m by 42m, analogous to those at the arenas at Nîmes and Arles, though with a smaller number of rows of seats (probably only 4 levels) that gave the amphitheater external dimensions of 81m by 60m only.
This phase of the amphitheater housed games that accompanied the imperial cult, with its low capacity (1,800 seats) enough for delegations from the 60 Gallic tribes.
The amphitheater was expanded at the start of the 2nd century, when two more galleries were added around the old amphitheater, raising its capacity to about 20,000 seats. Doing this made the theater a building open to the whole population of Lugdunum and its environs. Historians identify the building as the site of Saints Blandina and Pothinus's martyrdoms as part of the persecution in 177. A post in the middle of the arena commemorates this event and Pope John-Paul II's visit to Lyon in 1986.
The Imperial Cult of ancient Rome
The Imperial Cult of ancient Rome identified emperors and some members of their families with the divinely sanctioned authority (auctoritas) of the Roman State. Its framework was based on Roman and Greek precedents and was formulated during the early Principate of Augustus.
Temple of Augustus and Livia in Vienne. Originally dedicated to Augustus and Roma. Augustus was deified on his death in 14 AD and his widow Livia was deified in 42 AD by Claudius.
The Sanctuary of the Three Gauls (artistic representation).
The Sanctuary of the Three Gauls
The Sanctuary of the Three Gauls (Tres Galliae) was the focal structure within an administrative and religious complex established by Rome in the late 1st century BC at Lugdunum. Its institution served to federalize and Romanise Gallia Comata as an Imperial province under Augustus, following the Gallic Wars of his predecessor Julius Caesar.
The distinctively Gallo-Roman development of the Imperial sanctuary and its surrounding complex is well attested by literary, epigraphic, numismatic, and archaeological evidence.
The AD 177 persecution was a persecution of Christians in Lugdunum during the reign of Marcus Aurelius (161-180). The sole account of this persecution is a letter preserved in Eusebius's Ecclesiastical History. The first known Christian community established in Lugdunum sometime in the 2nd century was led by a bishop named Pothinus from Asia Minor.
"The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer". Jean-Léon Gérôme (1883).
The 177 persecution in Lyon
In the first two centuries of the Christian era, local Roman officials were largely responsible for persecutions. In the second century, the Caesars were largely content to treat Christianity as a local problem and leave it to their subordinates to deal with. For Roman governors being a Christian was a subversive act because it entailed a refusal to sacrifice to the gods of Rome, including the deified emperor.
Before the actual outbreak of violence, Christians were forbidden from the marketplace, the forum, the baths, or to appear in any public places. If they did appear in public, they were subject to being mocked, beaten, and robbed by the mob. The homes of Christians were vandalized. The martyrs of Lyons were accused of "Thyestean banquets and Oedipean intercourse," a reference to cannibalism and incest. In 177, the authorities seized the Christians and questioned them in the forum in front of the populace.
These Christians endured torture while the authorities continued to apprehend others. What followed was the torture of the captive Christians by various means. In the end, all were killed, some of whom had recanted but later returned to the faith. There were 48 victims at Lugdunum; half of them were of Greek origin, half Gallo-Roman. The elderly Bishop Pothinus, first Bishop of Lugdunum, was beaten and scourged and died shortly after in prison. A slave, Blandina was subjected to extreme torture. She was initially exposed, hung on a stake, to be the food of the beasts let loose upon her. As none of the beasts at that time touched her, she was brought back again to the prison before being cast in a net and thrown before a bull. Sainte Blandine is the patron saint of the city of Lyon and the church of Saint Blandina (Eglise Sainte Blandine) is located at Place de l’Hippodrome, at the lower part of Presqu’île.
Eglise Sainte Blandine is located at Place de l’Hippodrome, at the lower part of Presqu’île.
Saint Pothinus' martyrdom is associated with the Amphithéâtre des Trois Gaules.
They were then imprisoned until the arrival of the governor. When the governor arrived at Lugdunum, he interrogated them in front of the populace again, mistreating them to such a degree that Vettius Epagathus, a Christian and man of high social standing, requested permission to testify on behalf of the accused. This request was refused, and instead, the governor arrested Vettius Epagathus when he confessed to being a Christian himself.
Eglise Sainte Blandine, Lyon (Presqu’île).
Decent Montée de l’Amphithéâtre in front of Fontaine Burdeau to Jardin de la Place Sathonay, a beautiful square named after Nicolas-Marie-Jean-Claude Fay de Sathonay, mayor of Lyon from 1805 to 1812, as a tribute for all the important works undertaken under his presidency. The square is one of the most interesting squares of Lyon because of its harmonious proportions, its boundaries composed of buildings with beautiful 1920s facades, and its plantations, which brings a charm tinged with poetry and gives it the appearance of a village square.
To the north, the square is opened by the staircase of the Montée de l'Amphithéâtre and flanked by two identical buildings, the one on the left built between 1819 and 1823 houses the City Hall of the 1st arrondissement.
The Fontaine Burdeau is located just south of the Botanical Garden. It was built in 1903 in memory of Auguste BURDEAU, a Lyonnais politician of the second half of the nineteenth century.
The staircase of the Montée de l'Amphithéâtre (now and then).
On both sides of the staircase, two fountains are adorned with bronze lions erected in 1823, which are replicas of the lions adorning the Acqua Felice Fountain in Rome. The side streets were built around 1820-1821. At the east and west, there are four buildings of four floors.
The statue of Jean Pierre Hippolyte Blandan in the middle of Place Sathonay, (now and then).
The facades of the buildings around the square are opulent, decorated with wrought iron railings, large doorways in wood, stone, pilasters, and pediments for most openings of the first floors. The windows are high up to the third floor, then smaller with openings sometimes replaced by a mansard on the last floor.
In the 19th century, the square was decorated with a fountain topped by a bronze statue portraying inventor Joseph Marie Jacquard inaugurated in 1840. However, the statue was later removed. The site was successfully planted with chestnut trees at the same time. At the center of the square, there is currently a statue of Jean Pierre Hippolyte Blandan, born in the neighborhood and killed during the conquest of Algeria in 1842. The original 2.8m statue in bronze was made by Thomas Lamotte and was raised on a stone plinth by architect Joseph. It was inaugurated in 1900, but it disappeared during the Second World War and was replaced by a new statue in stone after the war, which we see today.
The area around Place Sathonay is known for its cafes, its bohemian atmosphere and its Boules (Jeu de boules) players.
At this beautiful part of the city finishes your walk in La Croix-Rousse neighborhood and in Lyon in general.