Visit the Basilique of Saint-Martin d'Ainay - the Romanesque jewel of Lyon !
It can seem rather strange to come upon the Basilica Saint-Martin d’Ainay on the Lyon peninsula between Perrache railway station and the Place Bellcour. Archives show the first foundations of the building date back to the 9th century a long time before Lyon gained its present-day outline. Two centuries later, the building was renovated and given a more Romanesque style. It became the bastion of worshippers of the « Martyrs de Lyon » who had been tortured during the 2nd century under Marcus Aurelius. Despite the tribulations which marked the town during the Middle Ages and modern times, the basilica has held firm and today represents a first-hand account of the history of Lyon.
Because of the historical and architectural journey it represents, the basilica is a wonderful place for a family outing, particularly budding architects and archaeologists. It stands on the banks of the Saône in the wealthy 2nd ‘arrondissement’, not far from Quai Tilsitt, and has a range of architectural styles rarely found in the « Capital of the Gauls ».
The history of Lyon in one place
The Basilica of Saint-Martin d’Ainay is one of those religious buildings whose history covers several epochs. The oldest part of the building is the Pre-Romanesque chapel of Sainte-Blandine dating from the 9th century. The impressive belltower - porch was built in the 12th century from the remains of Roman buildings in Lyon. It is a fine example of Romanesque architecture with sculpted friezes of animals and a pyramid-shaped roof.
Finally, the church of Saint-Martin has vaulted naves decorated with hypnotising painted patterns, as are the main apse and the dome. The elegance and fascination of the Basilica Saint-Martin stem from its architectural and historical contrasts of Roman remains, medieval sections and more modern building methods.
A glorious heritage, a stone’s throw from old Lyon