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What if history was told to us by the names of the streets of our cities? Old Lyon was the heart of the city from the end of Antiquity to the Renaissance. A glimpse of these ten centuries of history is given to us through the names of the streets of this emblematic district.

The story begins at the beginning of our era with the rise of the Gourguillon.

This name, probably the oldest of Lyon’s roads, comes from a deformation of the Latin gurgulio, “gorge”. It is, it is true, a Gallo-Roman way. It linked Fourvière (the heart of the city during Antiquity) to the bottom of the hill.

Se cultiver avec le Libre Lyon
Se cultiver avec le Libre Lyon

The beginnings of Christianity are evoked by the names referring to the first buildings with the rue Saint Etienne and the rue Sainte Croix: The church St Etienne is the oldest church of Lyon, it was founded by the bishop Alpinus at the end of the 4th century. The Ste Croix church was the parish church, it dates from the beginning of the 7th century.

By imagining the typography of the district thanks to the street Tramassac we understand better the medieval city.

The origin of the name of this street is Tres (or Trans) marsaut. This term refers to the Marsaut, an arm of water that flowed into the Saône. It should be noted that the rue Tramassac formed the heart of the city, at the foot of the hill, and not far from the Episcopal complex.

Is the humidity of the river the cause of the different collapses of the Fourvière hill ? Certainly, old manuscripts testify of catastrophes in 840 and in 1795. More recently, the landslide of 1930 caused thirty-nine victims and irreparable architectural losses.

Se cultiver avec le Libre Lyon
Se cultiver avec le Libre Lyon

Old Lyon lives on trade and commerce thanks to the presence of large waterways, as evidenced by the rue de la Baleine.

Since the Middle Ages, this street takes its name from a port on the Saône to which it led, which has now disappeared. Raw materials, fabrics, dyes… were unloaded on the quays. The traboules were the direct link between the quays and the workshops.

The Place du Gouvernement teaches us about the medieval political organization.

This square owes its name to the governors of Lyon. These governors represented the power of the king after the attachment of Lyon to the kingdom of France. This attachment took place under Philippe le Bel, in 1312.

Before this date, the city depended on the Holy Roman Empire. However, Lyon being far from Aachen, the emperors did not resist to the takeover of the king of France.

Se cultiver avec le Libre Lyon

Rue Juiverie tells us about the importance and prosperity of the Jewish community in Lyon in the Middle Ages.

This is evidenced by the case of the diamond that the alchemist Nicolas Flamel discovered behind one of the lion’s head sculptures on this street. The diamond waited three centuries before coming out of its hiding place. Indeed, following the disastrous decision of King Charles VI in 1394, the Jews had to leave France and, in this street, if it is not a legend, leave hidden treasures. Will more diamonds ever emerge?

In the 15th and 16th centuries, Lyon was a hub of European trade, hence the need for a Place du Change.

On this esplanade, first named “Place de la draperie”, there was a large fair, especially for fabrics. The exchange operations took place there until 1630, when a first lodge for trade and exchange was built. Then, in 1750, the architects Roche and Soufflot, the future builder of the Pantheon, rebuilt it.

Se cultiver avec le Libre Lyon
Se cultiver avec le Libre Lyon

The prosperity of Old Lyon owes much to two Italians, whom the impasse Turquet and the rue Gadagne honor.

First, the Gadagne family, a family of bankers from Florence, settled in 1464 and made the city prosper. Then, Turchetti, who came from Piedmont, established a silk factory in 1536 by privilege of King François I. Their fortunes were such that “rich as Gadagne” or “rich as Turquet” were common expressions at the time.

The rue de la Brèche reminds us of the 16th century and its wars of religion.

This breach is the one that the soldiers of the Baron des Adrets, then iconoclast Protestant, dug in the ramparts of the cloister of Saint-Jean to access the cathedral and sacked it.

Se cultiver avec le Libre Lyon