A Guided Tour of the Saint-Just and Saint-Irénée Neighborhoods in Lyon

Guided tour in Saint-Just and Saint-Irénée neighborhoods within the Fourvière hill, western part of the Unesco sector of Lyon, France

Lyon St-Just St-Irénée, Plan de Visite by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


The top of the hill is divided into three main quarters: Fourvière, Saint-Just and Saint-Irénée, and Montauban. Monuments from the Roman period, at the archeological site and the Gallo-roman museum, can be found here as well as religious monuments of the XVI and XVIII centuries, several churches, a crucifix and a basilica. This is the reason why Fourvière is called ‘the hill that prays’.

In the year 43 BC the hill of Fourvière was the birthplace of a Roman colony which slowly evolved towards the Saône river and the Peninsula.

There are still some medieval houses and narrow roads left over from the Middle Ages towards the top (west) of the rue des Macchabées.

Convent building from the XVI to XVIII centuries contributed to the interesting number of monuments that are part of the “hill that prays”.


After having taken the funicular from the Vieux Lyon station, you arrive at the station Saint-Just; begin the tour by going down Rue de Trion, left pavement, towards its extension on to Rue des Farges. This is the second 'high street' of Saint-Just and was thus named in 1763. It undoubtedly follows a Gallo-Roman track.

This road has been called Carriera de Trionz, Charrière des Hautes Vercheres, Charrière du pont-Levis. The current name comes from the location of three Roman fountains in the area. Now go straight to the fountain at the Montée du Télégraphe.

Lyon St-Just St-Irénée, Fontaine rue de Trion by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


The limestone fountain of Gallo-Roman inspiration called Trion or Farges street pump, at 8 rue de Trion, was installed in 1836 to provide water for the neighbourhood. It was designed by the architect René Darel who also created the fountain in the Place Saint-Jean.

Lyon St-Just St-Irénée, Vestiges des Fortifications montée du Télégraphe by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


At the bottom of the Montée du Télégraphe, on the left, are the remains of the Retraite rampart which dates back to the fourteenth and nineteenth centuries.

There are also ruins of the fortified wall built between 1842 and 1848 during the fortifications of Lyon by the General Rohault de Fleury. Now go up the Montée du Télégraphe in the north-west direction.


This mount links Rue des Farges to Rue Roger Radisson. It is part of the “Retraite” walkway that ran along the Lyon enclosure walls between Porte Saint-Georges and Pierre-Scize castle.

The name of this mount comes from the Chappe telegraph that passed optical messages between Paris and Lyon from 1807 to 1852. Further up, a door to the right gives access to a staircase that leads up to the gardens of the Visitation.

Lyon St-Just St-Irénée, Jardins de la Visitation (2017-05-21) by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


You are in the gardens of the Visitation which were designed following a regular pattern and form the image of typical small French gardens. They are linked to the sites of the Roman amphitheatres by a wooded path. Turn right to go to the old convent of the Visitation.

Lyon St-Just St-Irénée, Ancien Monastère de la Visitation by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


The Sisters of the Order of the Visitation, created in 1610 by François de Sales, moved to Lyon in 1615. They acquired their plot of land in 1850 from the Carmelite community and chose the architect Pierre Bossan for the convent. The buildings’ foundations were laid in 1854; the community moved in in 1856 although the buildings were not completed until two years later.

The site is now part of a beautiful realization that keeps the building and integrates the Fourviere Hotel. To continue the tour, exit north through the portal on Rue Radisson and take Rue Pauline Jaricot just opposite.


You are now on Rue Pauline-Marie Jaricot (1799-1862). Jaricot was the founder of the order of the Propogation de la Foi (Propagation of the Faith), the “Rosaire Vivant” (Living Rosary) and the “Oeuvre des Ouvriers” (Work of the Workers).

Her name actually replaced the previous appropriate designation: the road of the four winds. Move along and stop at the trompe l'oeil painted facades of the Sarra residence on your right in the east.

Lyon St-Just St-Irénée, Mur Peint de la Sarra by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


As you move along Rue Pauline-Marie Jaricot, you can see in the middle, on the east side of the Sarra residence – built by SACVEL (City of Lyon Construction Public Limited Company) – the three main U facades which combined show a painted wall of 3,000 square metres: the largest trompe l'oeil in Europe painted in 2003 by the world's leading painted walls company, a Lyon company: CitéCréation.

You can now resume Rue Jaricot northbound. Continue to the end of the street where you will find on your right, in the east, the access to the Parc des Hauteurs which leads to Fourvière.


Towards the end of Rue Jaricot, facing east, you will find yourself in front of one of the entrances to the Parc des Hauteurs leading towards Fourvière on a pathway known as the Chemin du Viaduc. To continue the tour, turn around towards the north-east and follow the Loyasse cemetery wall which will bring you to the cemetery entrance on your right.


In front of the Loyasse cemetery entrance, you can see the arcades that once housed the terminus for the tram that circulated between Loyasse, Fourvière (at the foot of the metal tower) and Saint-Paul in service from 1900 to 1937. You will notice on the street corner a white stone building: this building was originally a funeral chapel but had never functioned as such. It is currently a temporary vault.

Its construction date could be the beginning of the twentieth century. Turn further to your left, towards the northwest, to come to the Loyasse cemetery entrance.

Lyon St-Just St-Irénée, Cimetière de Loyasse by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


You are now in front of the Loyasse cemetery, the oldest in Lyon which, opened in 1808, replaced the old parish cemeteries of before the Revolution. For over a century, this was the cemetery for the Lyon bourgeoisie and even today it retains this aura. You will not find a lot of sculptures.

The impression of simplicity is emphasised by the importance of the neo-antique architecture and the ornamentation that accompanies it: temples, pyramids, tomb stones demonstrate the importance of classical art in Napoleonic France and in Lyon in particular. The trail continues to Rue Cardinal Gerlier in the southwest.


You are at Rue Cardinal Gerlier. It was at Saint-Just where a new railway line was installed from the funicular station to the Montée de Loyasse. In 1996 the entire area – the new street, parts of the old Loyasse mount and the Loyasse path – took the name Rue Cardinal Gerlier, Archbishop of Lyon from 1937 until his death in 1965.

In 1993, the lower end of the street was renamed after the writer and resistant, Jean Prévost. Only the lower part of the old Loyasse mount remains. Go to the junction with Rue Roger Radisson: from here you can see the ruins of the Gier aqueduct.

Lyon St-Just St-Irénée, Vestiges de l'Aqueduc du Gier, Fourvière by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


At the beginning of Rue Radisson you can see the remains of the Gier aqueduct. It stretched along 86 km, through 11 tunnels, over 50 bridges and rows of arches that carried the channel and it had four traps, a unique feature. The aqueduct begun at the Gier dam in Saint-Chamond (Loire), 400 m above sea level and, after various topographic difficulties at its start, it could carry 15,000 cube metres of tap water a day to the highest point of the city (Fourvière).

It was the longest of the four city aqueducts and the one whose structures are best preserved. It has been a historical monument since March 1912. As you continue the tour you will see the old fortifications of Lyon.


As you continue down Rue Cardinal Gerlier, you will see in the upper part some of the remains of the Lyon’s old fortifications. Indeed, a ringed wall would have protected this whole area. The privilege of having an enclosure had been granted to Lyon by rights of its status as a Roman colony.

This part of the wall had probably been built between 1842 and 1848 as part of the fortification of Lyon by the General Rohault Fleury. Slightly below and in front of these fortifications is the Montée Loyasse which you should go down, westward.


The Loyasse path, rapidly colonised by marble-cutters and horticulturists, has communicated since the late 1830s with both Rue and Place de la Trion by a ‘lace path’, logically baptised ‘Montée de Loyasse.

The city of Lyon created this single-loop mount that connects Chemin de Loyasse to Rue du Juge de Paix via the Fourvière fortifications’ gate after the War Ministry granted permission to cross the moat here. Now continue to visit Rue and Place de la Trion in the northwest.


Turn right onto Rue de Trion. This road undoubtedly goes back to the Gallo-Roman era: waterfront properties have delivered sarcophagi and various monuments, evidence that the necropolis was indeed present. Next stop is Place de Trion.


Place de Trion is located northwest of the Saint-Just district. Rue de Trion, Chemin de Choulans, Rue des Fossés de Trion, Rue de la Favorite and Avenue Barthélémy Buyer all meet up here at Place de Trion. This square, established at the Trion gate that was demolished shortly after the Revolution, was also called Place de la Croix Trion en pierre.

In 1845 the City traced the exact contours of the Trion square that until then was only a crossroads. We will visit the square: stop first in front of the Cafe de la Terrasse, at the beginning of Rue de la Favorite.

Lyon St-Just St-Irénée, Le Café de la Terrasse by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


The Café de la Terrasse, still active, has been known by this name since the early nineteenth century. Originally it had a private terrace which was later reduced by road works. Some argue that in the early twentieth century Chinese lessons were given here but this café has no link with the Franco-Chinese shop / restaurant that existed on Place Saint-Irénée at that time.

Now go to the Fountaine de Claude on the mound in the middle of the square.

Lyon St-Just St-Irénée, Fontaine de Claude by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


Re-installed here in 1992, the fountain consists of a rectangular bowl that measures three metres by three and is formed of large slabs of Bugey limestone and a pillar surmounted by a capital with the inscription CLAVD(ius) AVG(ustus) which designates the emperor Claudius born in Lyon in 10 BC. Now take Chemin de Choulans in the south.


You are now on the south-east slope of the hill in the Choulans district. Only the lower part has delivered signs of occupation during the Gallo-Roman period. A necropolis was probably already present along the path of Narbonne, as evidenced by sarcophagi and funerary inscriptions found during the centuries.

To continue the visit, turn right at Rue des Anges and stop at the old Trion-Saint-Just hospital.

Lyon St-Just St-Irénée, Ancien hôpital de Saint-Just by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


At the corner of Chemin de Choulans and Rue des Anges stands the old TrionSaint-Just hospital, now used as a school. Throughout the medieval period, this hospital served the Choulans district; in 1740 it became a city toll office which was suppressed by the mayor Augagneur in 1905. Now continue the tour on Rue des Anges up to the house Cercle Saint-Irénée on your right.


You are currently on Rue des Anges which connects Rue de Trion and Rue des Chevauchers. Its name comes from domus angelorum or house of angels as mentioned in the Basses Verchères territory registers.

Lyon St-Just St-Irénée, Maison du Cercle by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


This old house was acquired in 1766 by an association of artisans of religious inspiration, the ‘Brothers’ League of Tailors of clothes for the men of the city of Lyon’. After the dissolution of the association in 1777 the house had different owners and was donated in 1824 to the ‘Brothers of the Christian Schools’.

Already present since 1873, the ‘Catholic Circle of St. Irenaeus’ is the present owner since 1884. Continue the tour towards Rue des Chevaucheurs.


You are now at Rue des Chevaucheurs. This street used to be longer and started from the well at Basses-Verchères which is now part of the Place Saint-Alexandre. Note the dissymmetry of the street: it is more densely populated on the even side, more bourgeois on the odd side with two large properties at Nos. 7 and 19, respectively occupied in the early nineteenth century by notaries Ducruet and Sautemouche. Now go straight and take the Rue Trouvée.


You are now standing in Rue Trouvée. This road has always been called thus (first mentioned in 1450) and goes from the Ruelle wells to the city walls. To continue the tour, go straight then at the end take Rue des Fosses de Trion on your left.


You're in the very old Rue des Fossés de Trion and, as its name indicates, it skirted the moat protecting the city wall of Saint-Just on the side of St. Irenaeus between the two gates of Trion and St. Irenaeus. Up until the revolution it was called the 'street going from the Trion gate to the Saint Irenaeus gate’.

Note the Madonna in a niche dated 1830 at No. 1 ter and, at No. 15, the house where Benoist-Mary (real name Benoît Renard born 1864 at Rue de Trion), lived from 1883 to 1944, the year of his death. At the end of this street turn right onto Rue Commandant Charcot.


Here you are in Rue Commandant Charcot: this 'Francheville path’ (former route of Auvergne) can be considered as the twin brother of the path of the ‘Bridge of Alai’. This same path inherited a section: the Place Saint-Irénée-Croix-Blanche. It was named Rue Commandant Charcot on 12 July 1937 after the physician and explorer of the arctic seas who died at sea in 1936 when his boat named ‘Why Not' sunk.

A few meters after the great building of Fort Saint-Irénée on your left, take the small path up between the trees which leads to the remains of the Gier aqueduct.

Lyon St-Just St-Irénée, Vestiges de l'aqueduc du Gier, St-Irénée by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


Here are the remains of the Gier aqueduct (86 km, 11 tunnels, 50 bridges and arches which comes from Saint-Chamond in the Loire). Continue walking in the student residence where you are until you come to the Franco-Chinese Institute Museum.

Lyon St-Just St-Irénée, Institut Franco-Chinois by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


You are now at the Franco-Chinese Institute Museum. In 1920 Lyon opened the only Chinese university outside China: from 1920 to 1946 the Franco-Chinese Institute of Lyon hosted 473 Chinese students including 11% of women.

To visit the exhibition at the Institute, with its archival photos (text in French and Chinese) : open from Tuesday to aturday from 10 am to 6 pm. Now retrace your tracks back towards the gate of Fort Saint-Irénée.

Lyon St-Just St-Irénée, Fort Saint-Irénée by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


Fort Saint-Irénée, built 1831-1841, was made available to the University of Lyon which set up the Franco-Chinese Institute; between 1921 and 1946 it prepared 473 Chinese students for graduate studies in Lyon of whom 118 defended doctoral theses.

Above the entrance porch of the fort, you will see an inscription in French with its translation in Chinese ideograms, a testimony of this unique educational experience in the West. On leaving the fort, turn left and cross the intersection to get to the old Chinese shop-restaurant at the corner of the street.

Lyon St-Just St-Irénée, Ancien restaurant comptoir chinois by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


You are now in front of the former Chinese shop-restaurant, a popular place at the time of the Franco-Chinese Institute. Continue the tour straight on to Place Saint-Irénée.


You are at Place Saint-Irenee, a vagabond square whose situation has changed over the centuries. Note the Génovéfains priory built in the second half of the eighteenth century, the harmonious neo-classical façade of the Saint-Michel Refuge chapel (1825-1829) with the Virgin and Child 'Queen of Martyrs', a statue of St. Joseph on the side of the neighbouring house (No. 6a), a fragment of a Gallo-Roman inscription on the south-east corner of the Cabut house. For the rest of the visit of the square, go to the Diocesan house.

Lyon St-Just St-Irénée, Maison Diocésaine by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


You are in the south-east of the Place Saint-Irénée in front of the Diocesan House. The esplanade offers a beautiful view of the classical façade of this big house that the Génovéfains canons had built for them in 1748 by the architect Loyer and according to Soufflot’s plans.

This house, sold in 1791 as a national asset, was bought back in 1813 by the Sisters of Refuge in order to establish a home for needy girls. The house is now occupied by the Diocese and RCF (Christian Radios of France). To continue the tour, go to the Saint-Irénée church next to the Diocesan House.

Lyon St-Just St-Irénée, église Saint-Irénée by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


The Saint-Irénée church is open daily from 8:30 am to 6:00 pm.: illustrated panels allow for auto-visits. The crypt is open every Saturday, except in August, from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm. Guided group tours are available on request.

The church is built on an important Gallo-Roman necropolis where the two martyrs, Alexander and Epipode, were buried in 178 according to tradition. The crypt housed their remains and those of St. Irénée, second Bishop of Lyon after the martyrdom of Pothin in 177. Access to Calvary is on the left of the church.

Lyon St-Just St-Irénée, Calvaire by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


This calvary looking over the gardens of the Diocesan House has dominated the city for three centuries. Under the Ancien Régime it constituted the final stage of an urban pathway of holy crosses that started at the Sainte-Croix church, near St. John's Cathedral, and was a reference point for the various places of worship along the way.

This is a very rare specimen of a city calvary in the world. For the rest of the tour, take the Rue Vide-Bourse out of the enclosure.


Rue des Machabées is one of the oldest streets in the neighbourhood and is named after the seven Machabées brothers, Jewish martyrs of the second century BC. It has officially been called thus since 1854 but the name is much older. Now continue the visit to the calvary behind the Saint-Irénée church.


Here you are in Rue Vide-Bourse which is a concentration of puzzles. Until the mid-nineteenth century this name was also applied to the present Rue Saint-Irénée. It is said that its name comes from the fact that people used to gamble here. Notice No. 12 (the house which communicates with No. 7 at Rue des Chevaucheurs) where the work of the Calvary Ladies was founded here in 1843.

Lyon St-Just St-Irénée, Maisons 48 rue des Macchabées by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


When you go back to Rue des Machabées on your left (northeast) you will find a first group of small and very well preserved medieval houses. In this part of the street hostels and shops were numerous. The tour continues down the street.

Lyon St-Just St-Irénée, Maisons 40 rue des Macchabées by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


Continuing down Rue des Machabées, you will find on the left again a second group of small remarkable medieval houses. In this area, in the late seventeenth century, stalls and inns took the name of '(crowned) Beef', 'Golden Lion', 'The Fountain of Gold', '(red) Apple', 'The Dolphin' or 'The Ecu’. Continue until you cross the Chemin de Choulans.


You are currently in the Choulans neighbourhood. Only the lower part has supplied evidence of occupation during the Gallo-Roman times: the 'Fountain of Cyclops' and the 'Dolphin mosaic', found at the entrance of the Fourvière motorway tunnel in 1967 and now in the Gallo-Roman Museum.

A necropolis was probably already present along the path of Narbonne, as evidenced by the sarcophagi and funerary inscriptions found over the centuries in the area. Less than 50 meters from the crossroads with Rue des Machabées turn right and go towards Place Wernert.


This square is inseparable from the Choulans path. Note the statue of the Good Shepherd in the house at the angle of No. 1: the base is dated 5 October, 1868, and carries the letter B, initial of Louis Léopold Bécoulet, paper merchant at Place Saint-Alexandre.

In the wall of this same house, on the corner of the Choulans path and square, under the double plate, are juxtaposed two funerary inscriptions that were found when digging up the foundations of the house. In the middle of this square you will find the Mausoleums.

Lyon St-Just St-Irénée, Mausolées de Trion by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


The three mausoleums now installed on the Eugene Wernert square are part of a set of ten tombs that were discovered during the construction of the Vaugneray railway in 1885 at Trion square, at the foot of the slope of the bastion.

Among the three shrines, that were dismantled and rebuilt at the time, the most interesting one is undoubtedly that of harsh Quintus Calvius Turpio. Now go up the Choulans path until you cross Rue des Machabées on your right.


Take Rue des Machabées towards the northeast. It is lined with old houses, a painted wall and the location of the old Saint-Just church. Stop in front of the house at No. 19.

Lyon St-Just St-Irénée, Maison 19 rue des Macchabées by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


You are at the home of Obéancier, the oldest house in Saint-Just, which spreads from No. 17 to ter 21. It became an inn, Boeuf Couronné, in the early seventeenth century and has a Bellièvre tower hidden away inside No. 19b.

Lyon St-Just St-Irénée, Fontaine du Taurobole by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


Beside the Obéancier House is the Taurobole fountain which was in fact the old well of the cloister of Saint-Just in the thirteenth century and was transformed into a fountain in the nineteenth century by Flacheron. It was raised in 1828 on the site of the old Chapter well.

The marble base depicting the head of a bull adorned for sacrifice has long been considered the reuse of an ancient tauroboly altar from the Cybele cult. Now go straight to discover the painted wall and the remains of the cloister of Saint-Just.

Lyon St-Just St-Irénée, Mur peint basilique Saint-Just by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


Enjoy the painted wall which reproduces a scenography from 1550 representing the Chapter buildings where the Pope Innocent IV lodged in 1245. Towards the bottom of the hill are the remains of the old Saint-Just church, visible in part by sets of stones on the surface. Now go straight then turn left at the crossroads of Rue de Trion / Rue des Farges.


You are back at Rue de Trion and to end the visit go left to the funicular.

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