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Lyon: ancient capital of Roman Gaul

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Lyon is an important city in France, located at the confluence of the Saone with the Rhone, between the Massif Central and the Alps. Capital of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, it is the second largest urban area of the country by population after Paris. In fact, the city has 470,000 inhabitants who, with the urban agglomeration, reach almost two million.


The city was founded in 43 BC. by the Romans, with the name of Lugdunum and it became the most important and richest city in Gaul. Two Roman emperors were born in Lyon: Claudius, the first Roman emperor born outside Italy, and Caracalla, who was born in Lyon in 188 AD. The latter was the son of the Roman governor of Gaul. The city was in fact the administrative seat of the province of Gaul Lugdunensis.

Lyon was the seat of an archbishopric that had the title of Primate of the Gauls. In the Middle Ages it was the capital of the kingdom of Provence. In the 14th century Lyon became part of the Kingdom of France. Lyon from the Middle Ages became an important mercantile city and a first-rate financial center. This importance also remained between the Renaissance and the end of the 19th century. The economic prosperity of the city was mainly due to the processing of silk and fabrics. Historically, the city is closely linked to canuts, that is, to silk weavers. Their job during the industrial revolution was the driving economic force that led to the development of the city at that time.


Lyon is today known for its historical and architectural heritage, which is why, in 1998, it was included by UNESCO in the list of World Heritage Sites. The city is in fact rich in Roman remains, and medieval, Renaissance and modern architecture. The districts of old Lyon (Vieux Lyon), the Fourvière hill, the Presqu’île and the Croix-Rousse are listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Among the many important buildings of worship in the city, the most important are the Cathedral (primatiale Saint-Jean-Baptiste-et-Saint-Étienne), built between the XII and XV century in Romanesque and Gothic style, and the Basilica of Notre- Dame de Fourvière, late 19th century. Both of these buildings are real landmarks of the city.

Lyon is home to dozens of museums. Among the most interesting, above all, the Museum of Fine Arts (Musée des beaux-arts) which exhibits one of the largest collections of French paintings, second only to the Louvre in Paris. The Archaeological Museum (Musée gallo-romain de Fourvière) is dedicated to the archeology and history of Roman Lyon. There are also museums dedicated to the press (Musée de l’Imprimerie), the history of the fabric (Musée des Tissus et des Arts décoratifs), Africa and African cultures (Musée africain), the history of Lyon (Musées Gadagne), to puppets (Musées Gadagne) and the brand new Musée des Confluences, a museum dedicated to science and society. The city also has an important museum of contemporary art (Musée d’art contemporain) and a large number of art galleries.



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