Colline de Fourvière – Colline de la Croix-Rousse

La Colline de Fourvière overlooks the city of Lyon and the confluence of the Saône and Rhône.

Notre-Dame de Fourvière Basilica
Notre-Dame de Fourvière Basilica

The Rhône Valley is a natural north-south axis used since ancient times for commercial exchanges between the northern countries and the Mediterranean ports.

The Gauls took advantage of Fourvière’s prime location to built their fort Lugudunon in the 4th century BC.

The Romans transformed the old Gaulish fortress in a military camp in 43BC.

Lugdunum was the base-camp from where their mercenaries set off to conquer Britain and Germany.

The settlement expanded and spread to a second hill known as Colline de la Croix-Rousse, and to La Presqu’île.

This 4,5 km long peninsula, then called Ile de Canabae, stretches between the Saône and Rhône and corresponds to the current 1st and 2nd districts.

The ghosts of Lugdunum

The Roman Forum left its name to the Colline de Fourvière.

The Forum Vetus – old forum/market in Latin – evolved into foro vetere (Middle-Ages Italian) and eventually into Fourvière.

Lugdunum on Colline de Fourvières

Nothing is left of it, as Notre-Dame de Fourvière Basilica was built on its site, but substantial other vestiges of Lugdunum still remain.

The theater dates from 14BC; it has a diameter of 108m and initially had 4500 seats; it was enlarged a century later in order to accommodate 10,000 spectators.

A major tourist landmark, it now serves as venue for the annual Nuits de Fourvière festival*.

The Odeon, is the second and more modest theatre; it has a diameter of 73m and could accommodate ‘only’ 3000 spectators.

It was built in the early 2nd century AD.

Sanctuary of the Three Gauls

You’ll find the vestiges of the Amphitheatre of the Three Gauls, in the Jardin des Plantes, at the foot of the Colline de la Croix Rousse.

Amphitheatre des Trois Gaules on Colline de Fourvière
Amphitheatre des Trois Gaules

Emperor Augustus divided Gaul into three imperial provinces (Gallia Lugdunensis, Gallia Aquitania and Gallia Bellica) and a senatorial province (Gallia Narbonensis).

He made Lugdunum the capital of the Three Gauls and their governors’ permanent seat.

The Trois Gaules represented 60 Gallic nations, whose delegates participated to the Council of Gaul, once a year, on August 1st.

The assembly exercised an administrative and political role in the Amphitheater of the Three Gauls.

The delegates also worshiped Augustus and the deities of the Empire and Rome in the Sanctuary of the Three Gauls built by Augustus’ nephew Drusus in 19BC.

Lyon seen from the Colline de Fourvière
Lyon seen from the Colline de Fourvière

August 1st was an important date, as it was the date the Romans captured Alexandria.

It also corresponded to the festival of Lugh, the Sun God the Gauls worshiped on Lugudunon Hill or Hill of Lugh.

The Sanctuaire des Trois Gaules doesn’t exist anymore.

However, a few vestiges of the amphitheater, which stood on its esplanade, survived the passing of time.

Converted into an arena in the 2nd century AD, it had a capacity of 20,000 spectators.

Table Claudienne – Lyon Tablet

The museum** founded next to the theater exhibits impressive collections of mosaics, sculptures and architectural vestiges uncovered during the various excavations.

Table Claudienne - Colline de Fourvière
Table Claudienne

However, the key exhibit is the Table Claudienne – Lyon Tablet, that was kept in the Sanctuary of the Three Gauls.

A draper discovered it in 1528, while attending the vineyard that grew on the site of the Sanctuary.

Two large segments of this 2,50 m x 1,93 m bronze tablet are engraved with a speech Emperor Claudius gave before the Senate in 48AD.

In that speech, the emperor granted the heads of the Gallic Nations eligibility for the posts of Roman magistrates and Senators; Claudius was indeed very pro-Gauls, as he was born in Lyon.

Amphitheater on Colline de Fourvière

Although of a pompous style, this speech is considered one of the finest examples of Roman oratory.

As you can see, Lugdunum – Colline de Fourvière played a key role in Gaul’s politics, culture and economy.

Antic Paris, or Lutetia as it was then known, was no more than a large town in Northern France, while Lugdunum was the capital of Three Gauls!

Modern day Lyon continues to showcase its historical, cultural and architectural heritage and illuminates some 100 sites every night.

Rhône Department – Lyon – Rhône-Alpes region
Coordinates: Lat 45.762024 – Long 4.821331

Photos Wikimedia Commons: Table Claudienne Model of LugdunumAmphitheatre des Trois Gaules
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