Rue du Boeuf
One of Lyon’s most precious jewels is its Renaissance district, that has been left almost intact for centuries, even though its surviving has not always been as evident as it is nowadays.
Indeed, once one of the most prosperous urban areas in France, the old district of Lyon, or Le Vieux Lyon, as people from Lyon call it, had become such a poor, filthy and dangerous place in the XIXth and XXth century that in the beginning of the 60s, when modernity and hygiene were the two sacred words of urbanism in France, Louis Pradel, then the Mayor of Lyon, decided to raze it to the ground in order to replace it with a highway that, he thought, would let people coming from Paris and going to Southern France stop in Lyon and spend their money in the city, thus participating to its wealth. Fortunately, a group of inhabitants from the district gathered in an association, led the case to the office of the Culture Ministry of France, then presided by the famous French novelist André Malraux, and succeeded in preserving Le Vieux Lyon from being demolished : the district became the first “Secteur sauvegardé” (preserved sector) in France, which meant it was considered as a precious part of the French patrimony which had to be protected by the French State against any attempt to modify it, or jeopardise its integrity. Last, in 1998, the district was designated by UNESCO as part of the world heritage, which will ensure its preservation in the decades to come.
Walking today in the streets of Le Vieux Lyon is like going back in time : narrow cobbled streets, tiny stone doors next to massive stone carriage doors, hidden yards between buildings with hidden wells, spiral stairways, towers… At night, when the streets are empty, it has this gloomy look you think you could only find in films taking place in medieval times. One can only wonder how someone can ever have wanted to replace such a treasure with a highway.
If you ever go to France, this is a place you sure want to visit, and I hope my pictures will finish convincing you of it.
Rue des Trois-Marie