Lyon – The Beautiful Basilica Church
Lyon has many churches, some of them very old, some beautiful and some ruins. But none are as beautiful or detailed as the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourviere. This magnificent church is built on top of the Fourviere hill (one of two big hills of Lyon) in the Old Lyon (“Vieux Lyon”) district and from there you have an unrestricted view of Lyon.
The Basilica was built in 1872 with private funds, and since the whole hill is where the Romans founded Lyon, it goes without saying that the church is built on ancient Roman ruins, in this case the old forum.
Since the church was built using private funds, it does not fall under the archbishop, but under a committee. But there’s a history here… in the 1600’s Lyon was hit several times by the plague. To beg the divine powers for mercy, a procession with candles was organised the church which dominated the hill before the arrival of the Basilica. This was a yearly event since the 1600’s, but due to bad weather in 1852, the yearly parade was pushed to the 8th of December which subsequently became the Festival of Light (Fete des Lumieres). Today, on the 8th of December every year, you can come to Lyon to take part in a city wide Festival of Light. Although the whole city is lit up (many private homes take part), the main part of the festival is at the Basilica.
The entrance of the Basilica is very ornate and made with great detail. The Basilica was the model for the Notre Dame des Victoires Church in San Francisco, USA.
Inside the church, the whole church is anything but low key; it’s worthy of being in Russia.
The nave is sumptuous, gold everywhere. Every bit of the walls, ceilings and even the floor is painted or laid in mosaic.
Beautiful marble columns on every side of the nave. All the stained glass windows are dedicated to Virgin Mary in Heaven.
The heart of the Basilica is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception and Mary’s divine motherhood.
There are six wall mosaics, on the Northern facade they are dedicated to The Virgin Mary in the universal Church and on the Southern facade to the Virgin Mary in the Church of France.
The three cupolas at the top show Mary united to the three persons of the Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The Basilica has four equal towers measuring 48 meters high. There was a lot of controversy (and still is) that the towers look too much as Arab-style towers found on Muslim mosque minarets.
Next to the Basilica church itself is the “Chapelle de la Vierge” (the Chapel of the Virgin).
It’s far more sober inside the chapel.
In between the chapel and the Basilica is the crypt, again very ornate.
The Basilica is definitely worth a visit, if not for the beauty of the church then for the incredible panoramic views of Lyon:
There are organised tours of the church and buildings. Click here for more information.
TIP: There are free downloadable audioguides on the site above that you can use if you don’t want a guide.
TIP: Take the Saint Jean funicular line, the one that goes to Fourviere (it’s close to the Cathedral in Old Lyon). Not only will it save you a long climb up a steep hill, but it is also a great ride in world’s oldest funicular line still in service.