The basilica on the hill that prays

When in France, I wanted to go to Lyon to see the traboules. I had not researched what else to see and do as I had decided to take it easy on this holiday – I would wake up each morning and then chart a course. That’s how my entire trip to France was. Other than fixed dates to visit the different cities, I did not know how I would spend each day.

So on my first day in Lyon, I generally vagabonded in the 1st and 2nd arrondissements. I walked a bit along River Rhone, crisscrossed from one side to the other, and then walked along River Saone before making my way to Place Bellecour (Europe’s largest open square).

Place Bellecour
Place Bellecour

Walking along the Saone, you can see Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon) on the other side of the river, and the Basilica de Fourviere is unmissable.

River Saone, Vieux Lyon and the Basilica

On my second day in Lyon, I visited Le Mur des Canuts and a cute two-room museum La Maison des Canuts dedicated to the technique of silk-making and the weavers. This day also had me visit Vieux Lyon. In Vieux Lyon and overlooking the city, the Basilica de Notre Dame de Fourviere stands majestically on top of Fourviere Hill. The imposing church beckons.

La Maison des Canuts
La Maison des Canuts

Two of Lyon’s three districts are steep hills. Croix Rousse is called the ‘hill that works’ because canuts, the silk weavers, lived and worked there. Fourviere is called ‘the hill that prays’ because, as you might have guessed, there are many religious buildings on the hill.

I decided to walk up Fourviere Hill. I didn’t realise it would involve steps by the hundreds and a steep road. When I sent pics of the climb, my family was nervous about my older-than-me knee 😉 I quietly took the funicular metro back.

The church is of great religious importance as the citizens of Lyon believe that the three significant events, the bubonic plague of 1643, a cholera outbreak and the advancement of troops during the Franco-Prussian war, were averted because of prayers to Mary.

Notre Dame de Fourviere
The basilica

This two-level church was built entirely by donations made by the citizens. Fine stone columns, gold, silver, chapels, mosaic murals, romanesque, and byzantine design mix make the basilica ornate and opulent.

Bifurcated stairs lead down to the lower church dedicated to St. Joseph. On the walls along the way, you can see the ‘Hail Mary’ written in different languages. India is represented in Tamil 😉 The crypt’s decor is simple compared to the upper level, yet there is an air of dignity.

Notre Dame de Fourviere
Hail Mary in Tamil

Each place of interest is of interest for a particular reason. Take, for example, the Hoysala temples of Belur, Halebid and Somnathpur. One architectural element stands out in each of these temples. Similarly, in this basilica, the crypt (the lower level) felt special. The lower church is home to replicas of some important Virgin Marys from around the world, holding important places of reverence in their own countries and attracting pilgrims at all times. So you have Virgin Marys from Poland, Mexico and India, to name a few. I don’t know of any other church like this, do you?

Notre Dame de Fourviere
Notre Dame de Fourviere

Once I was down the hill, I tried to visit the traboules of Old Lyon without much luck. Instead, I saw two fantastic wall murals (besides the one I visited in the morning). From there, I went to the confluence of Lyon’s two rivers, Rhone and Saone and met the lion of Lyon 😉

Only Lyon lion at the confluence

With that I called it a day, a day with record-breaking number of steps and shoes starting to grow holes 🙂

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