The hill of Fourviere

Even if traces of earlier human settlements have been found on the edge of the Saône river (10,000 years BC), it’s at Fourvière 43 BC where the original city of Lyons was established (Lugdunum). This imposing hill reaches a height of 300 metres; its situation enabled it to be the meeting point of four Roman roads coming from Aquitaine, the Channel, the Rhine and the Narbonnaise. Lugdunum quickly became the capital of the Gauls. The town then spread out towards the east after crossing the Saône and then the Rhône.

The top of the hill is divided into three main quarters: Fourvière, Saint-Just and Saint-Irénée, and Montauban. Monuments from the Roman period, at the archeological site and the Gallo-roman museum, can be found here as well as religious monuments of the XVI and XVIII centuries, several churches, a crucifix and a basilica. This is the reason why Fourvière is called ‘the hill that prays’.

Not to be missed: Fourvière basilica, the archeological park (theatre and Odeon), Gallo-roman museum, the ruins of the Gier aqueduct, Saint-Irénée church (with its crypt and crucifix), Saint-Just church, the mausoleums at Wernert place, the ruins of the Roman baths, Fourvière museum, the park des Hauteurs, Saint-Irénée Fort and the Institut Franco-Chinois.

The Hill of Fourvière, that is to say Saint-Irénée, Saint-Just, Fourvière and Montanban, contains antique ruins, the museum of the Gallo-roman civilisation, panoramic views across the city, religious establishments, ancient military buildings and fortifications.


In the year 43 BC the hill of Fourvière was the birthplace of a Roman colony which slowly evolved towards the Saône river and the Peninsula. Our interest is drawn to the remaining ancient monuments and the Gallo-Roman civilisation museum. After its foundation by Lucius Munatius Plancus Lugdunum was subsequently the Gaul capital, a religious centre from the second century onwards, and the settlement of the very first Christians, and capital of the Kingdom of the Burgundians under the reign of King Gondebaud who promulgated the Burgundian law, known as the “Gombette law".

There are still some medieval houses and narrow roads left over from the Middle Ages towards the top (west) of the rue des Macchabées.

Convent building from the XVI to XVIII centuries contributed to the interesting number of monuments that are part of the « hill that prays ». Of all the religious monuments, the most imposing is of course the Fourvière basilica (XIX century).

Other specific elements can be mentioned such as the Institut Franco-Chinois (XX century) within the Fort Saint-Irénée or the Tour Métallique (XIX century)and the montée Nicolas de Lange.



Some more history

Lugdunum was founded in 43 BC by one of Cesar’s officers, Lucius Munatius Plancus, who appreciated its central position and access to the two rivers. Fourvière had begun to develop from 27 BC onwards under the reign of Augustus: monuments, aqueducts, commerce, ... The city perfectly fitted the perimeters of the Fourvière plateau and the upper parts of the Saône slopes. It contained four aqueducts which provided the inhabitants with water, a forum where the Fourvière esplanade now is, an imperial palace in the north, a large sanctuary dedicated to the imperial cult, a theatre of more than 100 metres in diameter and able to hold 10,500 people, the impressive odeon with its diameter of 73 metres, the largest in the Empire, thermal baths and the very beautiful villas in the east.

During the I and II centuries, the city prospered until 197. The following century, the third, was a long period of troubles. In the IV century Saint-Jean became the centre of the City taking over from Fourvière. From the V century onwards basilicas were built: Saint-Laurent à la Quarantaine, Saint-Just rue des Macchabées. In the Middle Ages, and until the end of the XI century, the only important constructions on the top of the hill were to be found at Saint-Just and Saint-Irénée. The crypt of Saint-Irénée, which dates from the IX century, is a vestige. The plateau was an agricultural zone, the slopes were vineyards and the Roman edifices had become stone quarries.

From the second half of the XVI century until the end of the XVIII, several convents were built: Minimes, Capucins, Carmes Déchaussées, Bénédictines, Visitandines, Récollets, Ursulines, Lazaristes, hence the name “the hill that prays”. These convents disappeared just after the Revolution but many buildings, transformed, still exist today: Antiquaille, the Jean Moulin college, the Maison Diocésaine, ... The “religious » revival took place in the XIX century with the convents but also the schools (Maristes, Lazaristes) and hospitals (Antiquaille, Sainte-Croix). Then, on an initiative from the clergy, the town acquired the land to build the Loyasse cemetery where Lyons’ bourgeois are buried. And last but not least, the Fourvière basilica was built between 1891 and 1894.


Monuments and remarkable buildings

  • Basilica of Fourvière (Bossan and Sainte-Marie Perrin, 1872- 1896) which overlooks the town,
  • Museum of Fourvière, collection of religious works of art,
  • Museum of Gallo-Roman Civilisation, 5 rue Cléberg, built in 1976 by Zehrfuss,
  • Archeology Park, rue de l’Antiquaille,
  • Large Roman Theatre, built at the beginning of the Roman Empire, rue de l'Antiquaille,
  • Odeon, early second century, rue de l'Antiquaille,
  • Gier Aqueduct, rue Cdt Charcot, rue Roger Radisson and at the angle of the montée du Télégraphe,
  • Saint-Irénée church, 53 rue des Macchabées, XIX century for actual version, built on a X-XI century crypt,
  • Ancient tombs, place Wernert,
  • Ruins of Saint-Just, 13-15 rue des Macchabées, Lyon 5, built in three instalments over the V and XIII centuries,
  • Thermal baths and -I century-Antiquity residential neighbourhood, rue des Farges, terraced over several streets,
  • Antiquaille and the tomb of Saint-Pothin, rue de l’Antiquaille,
  • Loyasse Cemetery,
  • Saint-Irénée Fort and the Institut Franco-Chinois, rue Soeur Bouvier,
  • Métallic Tower, montée Nicolas de Lange