Basilica of Saint-Martin d'Ainay

Lyon, France

The Basilica of Saint-Martin d'Ainay is a Romanesque church in the historic centre of Lyon. Legendary origins of a remarkably large church, which may once have stood on this site, are noted by Gregory of Tours.

A Benedictine priory was founded on the Lyon peninsula in 859. When later it was raised to the rank of an abbey, major building works began: the abbey church was built at the end of the 11th century under Abbot Gaucerand, consecrated in 1107 and dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours. This church is today one of the Romanesque churches still extant in Lyon. The tiny building with its massive walls, watchtower, narrow window openings and spaces for heavy doors, was apparently built with defence in mind, and reflects the many dangers of warfare and violent incursions of the period of its construction.

During the Renaissance the monastery owned a port, the abbot lived in a palace and the monks had the use of substantial buildings, cloisters, a garden and a vineyard. Little by little, the life of the community ceased to be a monastic one, particularly once the abbots became commendatory and were nominated by the king. The abbey's temporal power continued, but its spiritual life evaporated.

In 1562, during the French Wars of Religion, the troops of the Baron des Adrets destroyed part of the buildings, including the cloister; the church was badly damaged. By the end of the 17th century the monastic community had ceased to exist. The church and remaining buildings were handed over to a secular chapter in 1685. The church became a parish church.

During the French Revolution the premises were confiscated and nationalised, and the abbots' palace destroyed. The church became a grain store, which saved it from being likewise destroyed. The church was returned to parish use in 1802. During the course of the 19th century was restored in a Romanesque Revival style by the architects Pollet and Benoôt, destroying the last remains of the cloister and enlarging it by the addition of side chapels.

The basilica at Ainay contains several architectural styles: the chapel of Saint Blandina is pre-Romanesque; the principal structure is Romanesque; the chapel of Saint Michael is Gothic; and the overall restoration and enlargement of the 19th century is Romanesque Revival.



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Founded: c. 1100
Category: Religious sites in France
Historical period: Birth of Capetian dynasty (France)


4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Pascal Lefalb (22 months ago)
Très beau et très priant
Jacques Bureau (2 years ago)
L'église de l'abbaye de Saint-Martin d'Ainay est la plus belle église de Lyon ! Malheureusement depuis la réorganisation paroissiale elle est très souvent fermée ! En particulier elle est fermée le dimanche après-midi, ce qui est inattendu pour une église ! En pratique il faut consulter le site Internet de la paroisse avant de prévoir une visite…
Pascal Du Crest (2 years ago)
Rasa Aleksaite (2 years ago)
Wonderful church! Must visit
Bastien Michelot (2 years ago)
Cette église est vraiment très belle. Elle a été bien conservée dans le temps comme vous pourriez le voir que ce soit à l exterieur ou à l'intérieur même de cet édifice. Le clocher est vraiment beau aussi il la rend culminante dans le ciel environnant. Ce monument est très spacieux à l intérieur et en faire le tour est très reposant et très émerveillant. Les alentours de cet édifice sont piétons et agréables pour ce promener c'est très plaisant. Je recommande donc à tout le monde d'y passer ne serait-ce qu'un instant, cela en vaut vraiment le détour
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