In 1954, ‘Vieux-Lyon’,the city’s oldest district, became the first site in France to be protected under the Malraux law. Covering an area of 24 hectares at the foot of the Fourvière hill, it is one of Europe’s most extensive Renaissance neighbourhoods. The Saint Jean section: in the Middle Ages, this was the focus of political and religious power.
The Saint Jean Cathedral, seat of the Primate of Gaul, a title still conferred upon the archbishop of Lyon, is a good example of Gothic architecture. The ‘Manécanterie’ adjoining the cathedral is one of Lyon’s few extant Romanesque buildings. Formerly a choir school, it now houses the museum of the cathedral’s treasures. Saint Jean is also home to the Museum of Miniatures and Film Sets, located in a building that was the Golden Cross Inn in the 15th century.
The Saint Paul section: in the 15th and 16 th centuries predominately Italian banker-merchants moved into sumptuous urban residences here called ‘hôtels particuliers’. The Hôtel Bullioud and the Hôtel de Gadagne are two magnificent examples and the latter now houses the Lyon Historical Museum and the International Puppet Museum. The Loge du Change stands as testimony to the period when trade fairs made the city wealthy. The Saint Paul church with its Romanesque lanterntower and its spectacular spire mark the section’s northern extremity.
The Saint Georges section: silk weavers settled here beginning inthe 16 th century before moving to the Croix Rousse hill inthe 19 th century. In 1844, the architect Pierre Bossan rebuilt the Saint Georges church on the banks of the Saône in a neo-Gothic style.
In the Middle Ages, when there were only a few parallel streets between the hill and the Saône, the first ‘traboules’ were built. Derived from the Latin trans-mabulare, meaning to pass through, traboules are corridors through buildings and their courtyards, connecting one street directly with another. Visitors are delighted to discover an architectural heritage of galleries and spiral staircases in these secret passageways, as unexpected as they are unique.
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