Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourviére

Lyon, France

The Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière was built with private funds between 1872 and 1884 in a dominant position overlooking the city of Lyon. The basilica, which offers guided tours and contains a Museum of Sacred Art, receives 2 million visitors annually. At certain times, members of the public may access the basilica's north tower for a spectacular 180-degree view of Lyon and its suburbs. On a clear day, Mont Blanc, the highest point in Europe, can be seen in the distance.

The site it occupies was once the Roman forum of Trajan. Fourvière is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, to whom is attributed the salvation of the city of Lyon from the bubonic plague, the Black Death, that swept Europe in 1643.

The design of the basilica, by Pierre Bossan, draws from both Romanesque and Byzantine architecture, two non-Gothic models that were unusual choices at the time. It has four main towers, and a belltower topped with a gilded statue of the Virgin Mary. It features fine mosaics, superb stained glass, and a crypt of Saint Joseph. Fourvière actually contains two churches, one on top of the other. The upper sanctuary is very ornate, while the lower is a much simpler design. Work on the triumphant basilica was begun in 1872 and finished in 1884. Finishing touches in the interior were not completed until as late as 1964.

Fourvière has always been a popular place of pilgrimage. There has been a shrine at Fourvière dedicated to Our Lady since 1170. The chapel and parts of the building have been rebuilt at different times over the centuries, the most recent major works being in 1852 when the former steeple was replaced by a tower surmounted by a golden statue of the Virgin Mary sculpted by Joseph-Hugues Fabisch (1812-1886).

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Place de Fourviére, Lyon, France
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Founded: 1872-1884
Category: Religious sites in France

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4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Caroline T. (2 years ago)
Nice for a quick visit if the cathedral and some restaurants close by. The place is very crowded and beware of pick pockets!! The locals tend to bring their own drinks and chill out (group of friends) by the hill while enjoying the view.
Kassandra Brandvold (2 years ago)
Beautiful, spectacular basilica. Free entry to see some of the most magnificent mosaics. You can also get a birds eye view of Lyon and the rivers below. A must see in Lyon!
Pippa Alldritt (2 years ago)
The walk up to The Basilica might be a good workout for some...but if it hasn’t killed you, then the reward of a view over Lyon is to die for. Do this on a good day and then take your time whilst you pour over the interiors of this gorgeous church.
Arthur Sneeden (2 years ago)
This is always worth the hike up, or you can take the tram up! 2 choices on direct to the Cathedral, or take the other route with 2 stops both are worthy of both stops. Best be known, it's a tall climb up, but very worthy of both routes down from the top.
Gemma Jordan Vlog (2 years ago)
This place blew my mind! I wasn't sure I was expecting it to be quite this beautiful! The exterior and the interior are stunning! There were signs telling us to not speak too loud which was nice because it added to the ambience the place was so peaceful! We weren't obliged to pay but you are advised to leave a donation at the end of the visit! Very beautiful if you are in Lyon I 100% recommend you visit here!
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Quimper Cathedral

From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.

The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.

At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.

The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.

The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.

Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).

The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.

At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».

The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.