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a city in SE central France, capital of Rh?ne department, at the confluence of the Rivers Rh?ne and Sa?ne: the third largest city in France; a major industrial centre and river port. Pop.: 445 452 (1999)



a city in France, located at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône rivers.

Lyon is the capital of the department of Rhône and the principal city in the historical province of Lyonnais. It is the third largest city in the country. Lyon is the center of a rapidly growing conurbation, which accounts for the growth of Greater Lyon. Lyon’s population is 527,800; there are 1,083,000 residents in Greater Lyon (1968). Of the economically active population (327,000), 50 percent is employed in industry, 10 percent in construction, 18 percent in trade, and 20 percent in services. Lyon is a major transportation junction and a river port (the freight turnover was 1.6 million tons in 1968). There is an airport at Bron (east of Lyon). A major highway and a north-south high-speed railroad line pass through the city (a tunnel has been constructed under the city). Lyon is the center of the Rhone-Alps economic region.

Lyon and the surrounding area form an important industrial complex. The manufacture of silk, which has existed in the city since the 15th century and supplied the European market with its production for centuries, has lost its former significance, giving way to the production of artificial and synthetic fibers (first place in the country). There are 55,000 workers employed in the textile industry (including knitwear). The industries which are currently experiencing the greatest development in Lyon are machine building (90,000 employed), including electrical-engineering and textile machine building; machine-tool and automobile construction (in the southern suburb of Vénissieux there is a factory producing Berliet trucks); and the chemical industry (22,000 employed), including the production of fertilizers, paints, pharmaceuticals, synthetic rubber, plastics, photographic materials, and others. In 1964 a petroleum refinery was constructed in the suburb of Faisen, where petroleum enters from the Lavera-Strasbourg pipeline. Lyon is an important commercial and banking center. A university is located in the city.


Lyon was a Gallic settlement in antiquity. In 43 B.C., Lyon became a Roman colony (Lugdunum), and in 16 B.C., the capital of the province of Gallia Lugdunensis. In the second century the city grew into an important commercial center. In the second half of the fifth century Lyon became the capital of the kingdom of Burgundy (which was then conquered in the sixth century by the Franks). In the 11th to 13th centuries Lyon was part of the Holy Roman Empire and the center of the county of Lyonnais. In the second half of the 12th century the archbishops became the seigneurs of Lyon. The heresy of the Waldenses arose in Lyon in the late 12th century. Ecumenical councils were held in Lyon in 1245 and 1274. In 1312, Lyon was annexed to the domain of the French king. The city received the status of a commune in the 14th century.

Fairs, first organized in Lyon in 1420, turned the city into a center of European trade and credit by the 16th century. Silk weaving and the printing and selling of books have been developing in Lyon since the 15th century. In 1793 the big bourgeoisie initiated a counterrevolutionary mutiny, during which the leader of the Jacobins, M. J. Chalier, was killed. In 1831 and 1834 the first uprisings of the proletariat in France occurred in Lyon. In March 1871 the revolutionary commune of Lyon existed for several days. During World War II (1939–45) the fascist German forces occupied Lyon in November 1942. The city was the principal center of the Resistance Movement in the southern part of the country. Lyon was liberated in early September 1944. From 1905 to 1957 (with an interruption during World War II), E. Herriot was the mayor of Lyon.

The historical nucleus of the city arose on the right bank of the Saône River next to two Roman theaters. The area around the confluence of the Rhone and Saône has been covered with buildings since the Roman period; they include the Romanesque-Gothic Cathedral of St. Jean (12th to 15th centuries), the Romanesque Church of St. Martin d’Ainay (sixth to 13th centuries), the Gothic churches of St. Paul and St. Bonaventure, and the baroque mayor’s residence and the classical Hôtel Dieu (a hospital; 1741–1842, begun by the architect J. G. Soufflot). On the left bank of the Rhône there are new residential districts and the park of La Tête d’Or. The buildings constructed in the 20th century include slaughterhouses and the cattle market, the stadium, and the Grange Blanche hospital (all built between 1910 and 1920 by architect T. Gamier); the Palace of Congresses (1960; architects R. and M. Salagnac); and the Duchère residential district (1960–66; architect F. R. Cottin and others). Lyon’s museums include the Museum of Fine Arts, the Guimet Museum, and the Museum of Gallo-Roman Civilization.


Deniau, J. Lyon et ses environs. [Paris, 1963.]
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