The Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière (known as Basilique de Fourvière in
French) is a minor basilica in Lyon. It was built with private funds between
1872 and 1884 in a dominating position in the city. The site it occupies was
once the Roman forum of Trajan, the forum vetus (old forum), thus its name (as
an inverted corruption of the French Vieux-Forum).
Fourvière is dedicated
to the Virgin Mary, who saved the city of Lyon from a cholera epidemic sweeping
Europe in 1823. Each year in early December (December 8, day of the Immaculate
Conception), Lyon thanks the Virgin for saving the city by lighting candles
throughout the city, in what is called the Fête des Lumières or the Festival of
The design of the basilica, by Pierre Bossan, draws from both
Romanesque and Byzantine architecture, two non-Gothic models that were unusual
choices at the time. It has four main towers, and a belltower topped with a
gilded statue of the Virgin Mary. It features fine mosaics, superb stained
glass, and a crypt of Saint Joseph.
Fourvière actually contains two
churches, one on top of the other. The upper sanctuary is very ornate, while the
lower is a much simpler design. Work on the triumphant basilica was begun in
1872 and finished in 1884. Finishing touches in the interior were not completed
Bossan's first sketches for the basilica seem to date from
1846. At the time he was in Palermo. The basilica has the somewhat irreverent
local nickname of "the upside-down elephant".