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Fourvière, the Basilica of Lyon

We will show you one of the most emblematic places in Lyon: the Fourvière basilica. An architectural gem not to be missed.

One of the indisputable symbols of Lyon: we are talking about the Basilica of Fourvière, a silhouette that can be seen on the heights from many points in the city. We are going to tell you what you can see on a visit to this, which is a must-see place when visiting Lyon.

How to get to the Basilica of Fourvière?

There are two options: take the funicular or take the stairs (ouch).

We opted for the first option, but perhaps it would not have been possible since a few weeks before the funicular was out of service for three weeks. This due to necessary work that forced the service to stop for so long.

But luckily it was already in operation when we were in the city, so here’s how to take it:

In Vieux Lyon we can take the funicular, which the locals call “ficelles” (something like the “rope”), which goes directly to Fourvière and runs quite regularly. The journey takes a few minutes and the ticket used is the same as the subway. For example, if you already have the Lyon City Card, you can hop on the funicular without any problem. If you need to buy the ticket, it costs 3 euros.

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Information for your visit

Visiting hours: the basilica is open every day from 7 AM to 8 PM. There are parts of the basilica complex that have different hours, for example, the crypt is open from 10 AM to 7 PM.

Cost: the visit to the basilica is free.

However, the Basilica makes available to visitors the possibility of taking a guided tour of some important points of the place, one of the most notable being the ceiling. Of course, you have to climb 345 stairs and be lucky enough to have good weather. That was not our case and the visit that day was cancelled. This has a cost of 10 euros but is included in the Lyon City Card.

A little history

The construction of the Basilica of Our Lady of Fourviere began in 1870 and 27 years later it became the most important monument, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, in Lyon.

It was built with private funds on a hill overlooking the city, making it part of the Lyon landscape. In it you can see elements of Romanesque and Byzantine architecture.

What was once on the site was a Roman forum of the city then-called Lugdunum. In fact, before the huge basilica was built, there was a small church in honor of the virgin, who was said to have saved the city from a plague. A golden statue was added to it in the mid-19th century.

That little church is still standing, although it had to be rebuilt, and the golden virgin is still there dominating the landscape.

Our visit to the Basilica of Fourvière

The exterior and its statues

As soon as we arrive, it forces us to be in front of the place, we don’t know where to look because of how rich it is. For example, we see a lion with wings, various little angels and decorations with leaves, flowers.

It is curious, since when viewing the basilica from the city below, we find ourselves looking at the rear, which is mostly smooth, as normally, and one might not expect such richness in the facade so the surprise is double, since it is a monument that we find ourselves seeing every so often during our visit of the city, and when we really see it in front of us it is impressive.

This richness in the facade has been known to exploit to the maximum during the festival of lights, which takes place on December 8 (the day of my birthday XD) and the facade is “painted” with colors millimetrically with light. We couldn’t see the show that day, but we were lucky enough to attend the rehearsals and we had a pretty good preview.

Here I leave the photo of the color squares, but this is not the good projection, I will put that on video.

The interior and its mosaics

Entering the Basilica, we continue to marvel at its beautiful interior. The richness was absolute, and being a fan of this type of architecture, I happily toured the place. The problem, again, is that we didn’t know where to turn, the ceiling, the altar, the walls with huge mosaics, six to be exact, 50 meters each. And what about the choice of colors: gold and turquoise blue, beautiful.

In the meantime, we kept seeing the six stained-glass windows, which did not receive much light that day since it was very cloudy, which represented the litanies of the Virgin Mary. The mosaics for their part represented the relations of Mary with the church and with France.

The crypt

In addition, we were surprised that the Basilica is not made up of one, but of two churches that are one on top of the other. We learned this thanks to a kind lady who was at the entrance, probably a volunteer from the temple, who told us that if we had any questions we should ask her with confidence. She was the one who told us not to leave without going down to the crypt. There we went.

To my great surprise, it is a place where not only Our Lady of Fourvière is celebrated, but also the Marys from all over the world and of course, ours could not be missing:

The chapel of the Virgin

Something similar to what happened with the Basilica of Guadalupe, the Basilica of Fourvière began with a small enclosure, although it was not a basilica at the time, which later gave way to a larger place.

The original chapel can still be visited, and it is indeed quite small. It was built in 1174.

Iconic place of Lyon

After this visit we can say that, in our opinion, this place is one of those that should not be missed when visiting Lyon. Of course, there was more to see in Fourvière, so we took a tour of its Roman monuments, which will come in a future article on our visit to Lyon.

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Olga Grijalva

Olga is a traveler and travel content creator with 17 years of experience. Her goal is to share useful information to help you plan your adventures. She has visited more than 40 countries and is excited to share her experience with you.