Founded in 43 BC as a Roman colony, ancient Lugdunum soon became the principal city of Gaul. There Christianity was first introduced into Gaul, and the importance of Lyons until c.1300 was chiefly religious. One of the earliest archiepiscopal sees in France, Lyons (which after the breakup of the Carolingian empire passed to the kingdom of Arles) was ruled by its archbishops until c.1307, when Philip IV incorporated the city and Lyonnais proper into the French crownlands. Of great importance were the emergence (12th cent.) of the Waldenses and the councils held there in 1245 and 1274.
Lyons became a silk center in the 15th cent. The industry was pre-eminent by the 17th cent., and reached its peak in the 19th cent. In 1793, Lyons was devastated by French Revolutionary troops after a counterrevolutionary insurrection, but it recovered quickly thanks to the invention of the Jacquard loom. During the German occupation in World War II (1940–44), Lyons was the capital of the French resistance movement. In 1987, Klaus Barbie (
The Butcher of Lyons), who was head of the Gestapo in Lyons from 1942 to 1944, was tried and sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity.
A handsome modern city, Lyons has preserved interesting old sections, notably around the primatial Cathedral of St. John (12th–14th cent.). Its 1831 opera house has undergone a renovation (completed 1993) that included the controversial addition of a glass dome to the original carved stone structure. The large glass, steel, and concrete Confluence Museum (2014), situated on the tip of the peninsula where the city's two rivers meet, features social and natural science exhibits. Annual international trade fairs are held at Lyons.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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