La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière is one of the most important symbols of the city of Lyon. While you are strolling through Old Town, it will be impossible not to see it, as the majestic structure sits in a prominent location. If you are visiting the city for a couple of days, stop by and check out its fine interior.
A historical landmark
Built between 1872 and 1884, the basilica is in a central spot on the Fourvière hill, known as "the hill that prays," and offers panoramic views of the city. The Fourvière area, together with the basilica, was listed in 1998 by UNESCO as a World Heritage site.
The basilica was built as a tribute to the Virgin Mary. It represents the strong devotion the citizens of Lyon have had to the Virgin Mary throughout the years.
The building and its interior
The design of the building was led by architects Pierre Bossan and Sainte-Marie Perrin, who combined byzantine, Gothic, and Romanesque styles, giving the structure an uncommon layout for the time.
The basilica is composed of two churches that are placed one above the other, measuring 86 meters long. It has eight chapels and four 48-meter towers which were built to represent the four main Christian virtues: prudence, temperance, force, and justice.
Inside, the basilica is decorated with grand mosaics, stained-glass windows illustrating the litanies of the Virgin Mary, and an assortment of striking stonework including white marble from Carrara, pink granite from northern Italy, and blue marble from Savoy.
The six impressive mosaics located on the side walls depict the relationship of Mary with the church and with France. The north side mosaics are titled Mary and the Church, while the south side mosaics are titled Mary in the history of France.
Gaze upon the majestic altar, which showcases a statue of Mary freeing Adam and Eve. Traverse the stairs of wisdom leading to the upper church and featuring a statue of the Wisdom of Dufraine at the top.
A shadowed crypt
Take a moment to admire the crypt of Saint Joseph. Along the marble walls, you’ll find the names of different parishes that across the years have made donations to the church as well as some engraved ex-votos.
When designing the crypt, Architect Bossan was inspired by the idea that a pilgrim had to go to Mary through Joseph. Therefore, when visiting the crypt, guests will go from the darkness of the crypt to the light of the basilica.
Good to know
Admission to the basilica is free of charge. Tour guides are available for hire, and leaflets with the full history of the basilica are available in ten different languages.