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The original Lyon was founded by the Romans on Fourviere Hill. At its height it was probably the major Roman city outside the Italian peninsula.
Julius Caesar conquered Gaul (present day France) between 58 and 53 BC. In 43 BC the Roman Senate ordered the foundation of a settlement at the confluence of the Rhone and Saone rivers. Initially the reason was to provide a settlement for Roman refugees. however the strategic value of its location may in fact have been the greater consideration. It was precisely this strategic importance that made the early settlement of Lugdunum grow into a major center. Eventually it became the administrative center for both Gaul (France) and Germany. It lied at the junction of the 4 major roman roads. Later on Lugdunum had its own mint. By the 2nd century the settlement had 4 aqueducts. The city prospered as it became a center of trade. As witnessed by the remains of shipwrecks this trade extended not only to Italy but also as far away as North Africa. One would guess that with that trade importance would also come the inevitable immigration from diverse parts of the Empire.
At the end of the 2nd Century Lugdunum was caught in the middle of a battle over who would succeed to the roman throne. It threw its lot with the ultimate loser (Clodius Albinus) who was finally defeated at the Battle of Lugdunum in February 197. Following this battle and the resulting sack of the city, Lyon gradually but steadily decreased in importance. Importance within the Roman Empire passed to other cities.
Significantly, several important sights in Lyon remain as testament to the important of Lyon. In particular the Amphitheater and the other Roman remains on Fourviere Hill. There are still important archeological research projects going on at these sites. There is a large museum of Gallo Roman civilization nearby as well.
- Historical Travel
The radio tower
One of the things you will see on Lyons skyline is the lovely Notre Dame de Fourviere. Right next to it is what looks like a replica of the Eiffel Tower.
It stands at 86 meters and is technically the highest point in Lyon. The tower, and up close i didn't think it was nearly as attractive as the Eiffel Tower, serves as a radio tower. It is not open to the public. If you want to see it close up just take a less than 5 minute walk from the entrance of the Basilica and there you are.
Panorama from Fourviere Hill
The high tower - "a pencil" sticks out in the center of the old city in which there is a central office of known the Lyons credit bank.
It is better to walk on narrow streets of the old city not hurrying up. It is possible to get acquainted with one more sight of Lyons - covered passes between houses which are named “Traboules Lyonnaises”. These passes connect the next streets and remind narrow and twisting passages. Under the legend, in the Middle Ages they were used to carry bales with silk imperceptibly.
You can watch my 56 sec Video Lion out of my Youtube channel.
- Historical Travel
View from Fourvière
Actually I do suggest that you go up to Fourvière, not for the obnoxious Basilica or the pathetic metal tower, but because you can get some good views of Lyon from up there, and then go for a scenic walk along the back side of the hill on the Promenade de la Sarra.
Fourvière, by the way, was where the Romans first settled in this area. They called it Lugdunum and first settled here in the year 43 BC. On the south side of Fourvière hill are the ruins of a Roman theater (which I only saw from a distance) and Roman baths.
Second photo: The opera house, Fine Arts Museum and City Hall from Fourvière.
Third photo: The Montée des Chazeaux, one of the stairways leading up to Fourvière from the Old Town, rue du Bœuf. This staircase is quite steep and used to be known as tire-cul meaning "drag-butt", because it was so tiring to drag your butt up the 228 steps. (If you don't feel like doing this you can also take the funicular, which is what I did.)
Fourth photo: Signs on the Montée des Chazeaux.
Cemetery of Loyasse
If you walk along the Promenade de la Sarra from the back side of Fourvière hill, starting near the Metallic Tower, you will eventually come to the oldest cemetery in Lyon, the cemetery of Loyasse, which has been in use since 1807.
The amazing thing for someone like me is that some of the burial plots contain the graves of up to seven generations of the same family.
Second photo: Allee in the cemetery.
Third photo: A family grave plot.
Fourth photo: Burial plot for seven generations of the same family, all of whom apparently lived in Lyon.
- Historical Travel
Imitation Eiffel Tower
This "Metallic tower of Fourvière" was built by a private investor between 1892 and 1894. It was originally intended as a tourist attraction for the Universal Exposition of Lyon in 1894, and was supported by the City Council because they wanted to have a secular monument on the hill to counter-balance to the religious Basilica nearby.
Originally the tower had a hydraulic elevator that could carry 22 people up to the top, where there was a restaurant and an observation deck.
In 1953 the tower was acquired by the French radio and television system for use as a transmission tower. Since then the tower has been closed to the public, and it no longer has an elevator.
- Historical Travel
The Tour Metallique on the Hill of Fourviere
Almost at the summit of the hill just north of the Basilica stand the quasi copy of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. However this truncated one is only like the third level of the original and was built between 1892-4. With the addition of television antennae the structures is 372 m above sea level and until the Alps this is the highest point in the region.
- Family Travel
Roman arenas in Fourviere
Two well preserved theatre arenas with sewer systems, bits of walls and quite a few columns. This Unesco World heritage site is free to vist, yes free! You can wonder a round and admire this beautiful site.
The museum next door is not free.
The roman theatres are still in use for cultural events so check whether there is a play/concert scheduled!
- Arts and Culture
Views of Lyon
The views of Lyon are stunning from Fourviere Hill, especially around the Basilica. There is a restaurant right next to the basilica, which has a glass wall facing the city. Eating dinner and watching the lights of Lyon slowly come on during the evening is a worth while experience and makes for a very romantic dinner.
Roman Era Theatres
There are two Roman theatres on the Fourviere hillside, both of which were built on the site where Lugdunum was founded in 43 BC. The larger one is the oldest of its kind in France. The vestiges of a district which housed artisans can also be seen.
Between July and August there is a concert series held at le Grand Theatre, which has featured the likes of David Bowie, Jamiroquai, Oasis and Lenny Kravitz.
Bottom-line: Doesn't merit a trip in and of itself, but worth stopping by on your way down from visiting the Fouviere Basilica
More Lyon from Fourviere
That pencil looking building is the Le Meridien Hotel. I considered staying there but changed my mind when I realized that it is in the business district. There wouldn't be much activity at night and it was too far from Vieux Lyon.
*Roman* amphitheaters and MUSEUM
There are two Roman amphitheaters on the Fourvière hill, right next to each other, one bigger and the other smaller. The big one is the oldest in France. That's where Lugdunum - the Roman name for Lyon - was founded, back in 43 B.C.
They were rehearsing a play when I was there. The big theater is still used today. That's where they sold water for €4,00.
View over Lyon
After you take the funicular up the Fourvière hill, see all of Lyon and maybe the Alps (on a sunny day) from behind the Basilique - it's gorgeous.
A travelogue will feature the 180° panorama (coming very soon...)
FOURVIÈRE This is where...
FOURVIÈRE This is where you will find you roman ruins as well as the Basilica, a neo-gothic church. On top of the Fourvière hill is where you can see Lyon shrink to 180 degree view.
Picture below is Fourvière Basilica perched up on the hill.
View of the city
The best view of Lyon comes from the Fourvier hill. It is also some good excercise as the hike takes a bit of time to go up to the top, where the church is located.
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