The Renaissance District of Old Lyon


A renaissance old district
Three districts that make up the Old Lyon neighborhood were built mostly during the Renaissance. Saint-Paul to the North was home to the bourgeoisie, the financial and business centre of the district. Saint-Jean in the center was home to the clergy and aristocracy. Saint-Georges in the South was home to artisans and tradesmen. Old Lyon became the first site in France to be protected by law in 1964, and it is an integral part of the UNESCO World Heritage site created in Lyon in 1998.
Montée du Gourguillon: For a long time, this uphill street was the only road linking Old Lyon to the Fourvière district and the vestiges of the ancient city of Lugdunum. Today it is a picturesque ascent lined with colorful houses, gardens and supporting walls.


This square is the backdrop for the local puppet show featuring the character Guignol, a silkweaver and champion of social justice. Today, theaters in Lyon and throughout France continue giving Guignol puppet shows to the delight of adults and children.

Mullion Windows

Some windows have conserved their mullions, the vertical stone element that divides a window in two. After a tax was imposed on doors and windows in 1798, many mullions were destroyed as they meant a significant increase for window owners.

St Jean Cathedral
St. Jean Cathedral was completed in the 14th century. It is the seat of the Primate of the Gauls, a title given to the Archbishop of Lyon since 1079. It was here that France’s King Henry IV celebrated his marriage with Marie de’ Medici here with balls, festivities and fireworks.

The Cathedral Façade

The façade has a classic gothic structure with its three processional doors. Original elements include the narrative medallions decorating the pillars beside the doors. More statues used to line the façade, but these were destroyed during the French Wars of Religion.

The St. John the Baptiste Fountain

This fountain was erected in 1844 by the Lyonnais architect René Dardel. It represents a small antique temple in the Neorenaissance style, and it houses a sculpture of St. Jean the Baptist baptizing Christ.

The Chamarier House
This house is one of the rare buildings from the 14th century to have been preserved in Old Lyon. It was home to the Chamarier, who was the superintendent in charge of security, justice and town planning. He also possessed the keys to the town and collected taxes during local fairs.

The courtyard

Here is both the gothic style of the tower and the Renaissance style of the vaulted arches, demonstrating the changes to the building over the years. Gothic style is asymmetrical and has pointed arches and towers. Renaissance is more symmetrical, using rounded forms.

Visit from Mme de Sévigné

This pastry shop sells local specialities, called “La Marquise.” The name refers to the Marquise de Sévigné, a French aristocrat and famous figure of French literature, who stayed here in 1672-73 on her way to visit her daughter in a nearby village.

The Well

The well in the courtyard is said to have been designed by the famous Lyonnais architect Philibert de l’Orme. It features several Renaissance motifs, including shells, columns, capitals and sculpted panels.

Place de la Basoche
This inn, dating from 1516, was frequented by members of the Basoche brotherhood, former legal clerks in the court system. In 1979, the law society renovated the building. It was sold in 2004 and now houses the Museum of Miniatures and Film Sets. Another building that once stood here was demolished, allowing us to admire the inner courtyard of the former inn. The building features twelve basket arches resting on flat-based columns arranged on three levels.

Attorneys’ House

The “Maison des Avocats,” or Attorney’s House, is a fine example of Renaissance architecture in the St. Jean district. It is composed of several buildings and has a Tuscan-style g


This lion statue is one of several that appear around Lyon. It was initially created for the “Biennale des Lions,” an event held every two years in which lion statues are created and sold to fund charity works.

A Traboule
From the Latin “transambulare,” meaning “to pass through,” a traboule is a closed pedestrian passageway that cuts through buildings and courtyards, connecting one street to another. In its most simple form, a traboule is composed of a ribbed, vaulted corridor. In this panorama, traboules lead off to the left of the stairway and to the left of the window. There are around 200 such passageways in Old Lyon.


In every courtyard there are two essentials: a source of water and a stairway. This is an Italian-style spiral staircase, which ascends to a network of loggias, open porches or balconies, enabling all the buildings on the courtyard to be connected.


This traboule, connecting St. Jean Street and the Three Marys Street, is one of the most elegant of Old Lyon. Spiral staircase, loggia, corner turrets, mullioned windows . . . all these are features of Italian Renaissance architecture.


The presence in the basket arches of yellow stone, taken from the hills of the nearby Beaujolais region, testifies to a French adaptation of the Italian style.

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