An emblematic basilica
The basilica Notre-Dame of Fourvière is the work of the architects Pierre Bossan and Sainte-Marie Perrin. It was built thanks to a public subscription in 1872 and consecrated in 1896.
The basilica is at the top of “the hill which prays”. It is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is listed as a historical monument, registered to the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today, considered as the emblem of the city of Lyon, the basilica welcomes over 2.5 million pilgrims and visitors each year.
The basilica is, as children and all those who keep a child’s heart say, The Home of Mary.Cardinal Philippe Barbarin
An outstanding building
The basilica Notre-Dame of Fourvière is 86 meters long and 35 meters wide. It offers a unique architecture with a byzantine, gothic and romanesque inspiration. It has got 4 towers, 48 meters high, which represent the cardinal virtues :
- Prudence (North-East tower) and Temperance (South-East tower) facing the city of Lyon.
- Force (North-West tower) and Justice (South-West tower) dominating the square.
A majestic decor
The inside of Notre-Dame of Fourvière Basilica is composed of 2 churches one upon the other, with extraordinary volumes, accessible from the square. The higher Church is dominated by 3 domes and lit by 6 stained-glass windows offering a light emphasizing a rich decor. The materials used for the building and the decoration rival in quality and beauty, white marble from Carrara, pink granite from the North of Italy, blue marble from Savoy, green onyx, silver and gold pieces, union of ebony and ivory.
Composed of 3 big naves and 3 vaulted spans, gothic arches, the whole of the higher church is supported by 16 columns. There are 8 chapels and the apse is lit thanks to 7 high stained- glass windows. On the side walls 6 large mosaics of 50 square metres, by Charles Lameire et Georges Décote, show, on the left, the link of Mary to the Church and on the right the relationship of Mary with France.
The House of Mary
The sanctuary Notre-Dame de Fourviere is “the Marian soul of Lyon”. For centuries, it has attracted more than tens of thousands of pilgrims from all around the world. Countless Christians, both inside and outside of France, have recognized the sanctuary as a sacred place of veneration for the Virgin Mary. Rather quickly, in the early churches, Mary’s position became significant.
She is the mother of Jesus who said ‘yes’ to God and welcomed his power and the Holy Spirit.
For the basilica, the art used by the architect Pierre Bossan is combined with the faith, to form a poem to the glory of Mary. His sources of mystical inspiration are the Apocalypse of St. John and the writings of a Spanish nun, Mary of Agreda.
The major spots
The altar presents Mary releasing Adam and Eve from their chains and setting them free from Hell. In its erected position, it gives a throne to the statue of Mary, sculpted by Millefaut.
THE STAINED-GLASS WINDOWS
The 6 main stained-glass windows were designed by Lameire and Décote. They illustrate the litanies of the Virgin Mary (Queen of the Prophets, Queen of the Patriarchs, Queen of the Martyrs, Queen of the Confessors, Queen of the Angels and Queen of the Apostles).
The themes of the 6 wonderful mural mosaics designed after Bossan’s death are: ” Mary and the Church” (on the Northern side ) and “Mary in the history of France” (on the Southern side).
The Virgin by Millefaut
As for the ciborium offered by Cardinal Caverot, housing the main altar, Sainte-Marie Perrin got his inspiration from the one at the Val-de-Grace and brought a baroque souvenir. Millefaut was in charge of sculpting a Virgin in order to give this place all its majesty.
Eight chapels, so many works designed to represent Mary’s life from Nativity to the Assumption and so many different decor and masterpieces to discover. Works by Larrivé, Castex, Millefaut, Puech, Dufraine, Belloni and Guillaume, made between 1899 and 1943, show a great diversity of inspiration.
THE STAIRS OF WISDOM
This monumental staircase leads to the high church. A masterpiece of Sainte-Marie Perrin carved out of red marble, it develops with a double revolution. At the top of the stairs, the statue of the Wisdom of Dufraine, welcomes you with these words: “I am present to the learned thoughts, to me is the Justice, to me is the Prudence, to me is the Force”.