Fourvière, Lyon : the hill that prays


Visit Notre-Dame de Fourvière, Lyon’s most iconic monument.

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Lyon, Fourvière

Lyon, Notre-Dame de Fourvière seen from Vieux-Lyon

More than Croix-Rousse, more than Vieux Lyon, more than Place Bellecour and its central statue of Louis XIV riding a horse, Notre-Dame de Fourvière is the most iconic monument of Lyon. It overhangs the city from the top of Fourvière hill, as if it were protecting it from above.

Although most tourists think it’s the main cathedral of Lyon, Notre-Dame de Fourvière is in fact only a basilica. Indeed, the cathedral of Lyon is Saint-Jean, which is located right at the foot of Fourvière hill on the banks of the Saone river, just under Notre-Dame de Fourvière, in Vieux Lyon.

Notre-Dame de Fourvière isn’t old either, it’s even quite young. It was built between 1872 and 1884, under the direction of Pierre Bossan and Louis Sainte-Marie Perrin, and even never finished (most of the ornaments have never been sculpted as Pierre Bossan had planned). Interestingly, the basilica doesn’t belong to the Catholic Church, but to the Commission de Fourvière, which gathers all the Lyonnais who funded its construction.

At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, the basilica had to overcome the hostility of Lyon’s socialist mayor, Victor Augagneur, who outright wanted to level this “temple of superstition”. Fortunately, the basilica survived, and in 2014, it was inscribed on the Monuments Historiques list, which protects the national heritage of France.

On the Southern side of the basilica, the chapel of Saint-Thomas, which was built in 1852 to replace the old chapel which was threatening to collapse, is particularly renowned for its golden statue of Saint-Mary, which protects Lyon from disasters with the help of Saint-Michael, whose statue stands at the top of Notre-Dame de Fourvière.

If you ever come to Lyon, make sure you visit this beautiful place : the inside of the basilica is breathtaking, and the view from the top of the towers, which you can visit, is the best you can find in Lyon. When in Saint-Jean, don’t hesitate to take the Ficelle, or Funiculaire, which will make your trip to the hilltop much more pleasant. And when you’re done, do not forget to visit the Jardin du Rosaire, which gently goes down to Vieux Lyon, the second most iconic place of Lyon.

Un ange sur la ville, Lyon vue depuis les toits de Fourvière

Saint-Michael, protecting Lyon

Lyon, la ficelle / funiculaire

La ficelle, Lyon

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