Explore Lugdunum’s Past: Gallo-Roman Museum

From Roman Theater to Museum: A Historic Journey

The archaeological museum is located in the hills of Fourvière and was built right next to the ancient theater of Fourvière. Lugdunum, an old Roman city, formerly had its center there, where the museum now stands. Currently, this magnificent archaeological museum features vases, mosaics, statues, coins, pottery, and tombstones from the Gol region during the Roman Empire. The antiquities found here are from the city of Lugdunum, as well as the nearby archaeological sites of ancient Rome, Saint-Romain-en-Gal – Vienne. The breadth and diversity of this collection are well known. Among the most prominent of these works, we can mention the memorable statue of Hercules, decorative marble works from the ancient baths, and 100 square meters of floor mosaic with images related to Poseidon (God of the seas).

The museum that wasn’t built in a day

Facing the morning sun and the Alps, high above the confluence of the Rhône and Saône, the Museum of Gallo-Roman Civilisation covers five centuries of Lyon’s history under Rome, when the city was known as the brilliant capital Lugdunum. The Gallo-Roman Museum of Lyon, located deep below Fourvière Hill in Lyon’s Fifth District, is analogous to a submarine that is designed to travel through the vegetation and ruins of this ancient civilization.

Gallo-Roman Museum
Gallo-Roman Museum

It has two enormous windows that gaze out upon the Amphitheatre and Odeon that are nearby. Step aboard and prepare to be subtly mesmerized by polychrome mosaics, the sarcophagus of Bacchus’ victory, the one-of-a-kind Gallic Coligny calendar, a plan-relied of the ancient town, a rare circus mosaic, not to mention the Tabla Claudiana, which depicts a speech by the emperor Claudius, all contained within an avant-garde architectural experience concocted by Bernard Zehrfuss.

This municipal submarine, which was first used in 1975, is operated by Savay-Guerraz in conjunction with the nearby and incredibly beautiful Saint-Romain-en-Gal ancient museum. The Lyon Gallo-Roman Museum hosts a number of temporary exhibitions every year in addition to its own permanent collections of Roman, Celtic, and pre-Roman artifacts (inscriptions, sculptures, jewelry, and daily things). Fans of archaeology and architecture will be delighted, without a doubt. The older children will really like it. For kids, it isn’t engaging enough.

Life and death

Visitors may tiptoe over a 100-meter mosaic while hearing tales of soap makers and barbaric aires—weavers of golden threads—two traditional trades that were active during the period. As tourists explore the enticing goods brought from the Mediterranean to the Rhône and then on to the north of the Empire, they will find fish sauce, wine, and olive oil — delights tightly sealed in amphoras.

Gallo-Roman Museum's View
Gallo-Roman Museum’s View

The museum’s section that examines the controversial topic of death is subsequently reached by descending a slope. But throughout the Roman era, graves were built beside highways. Life included death on a regular basis. You see several epitaphs as you descend, but one in particular. “Enjoy life to the fullest. Wherever I am, you will be, just as I was wherever you were.

The underground concrete cathedral, Bernard Zehrfuss

Archaeologist Amable Audin emphasized the significance of establishing a museum to hold the numerous Roman artifacts discovered in Lyon in the 1930s (the Claudiana table being the most impressive find). In the 1950s, Audin was successful in convincing renowned Lyon mayor Louis Pradel to construct a museum.

However, the General Council of Architects rejected the original idea that architect André Donzet had suggested since it was seen to be too neo-classical and took into account the presence of the Odeon. Then, Bernard Zehrfuss’ name was mentioned. Zehrfuss sought to put into practice his “homage to the invisible” notion of blending architecture into a pre-existing place to produce harmony and an eccentric co-existence. He had previously acquired a global following and a reputation for employing modern procedures.

View of Gallo-Roman Museum
View of Gallo-Roman Museum

The Gallo-Roman Museum was therefore formed by slicing into a natural hill, opening up an underground area, putting the skeleton with its concrete spiral ramp and floors within, and then burying it again with dirt and vegetation. Only the two square-ish tunnels – like two eyes – provide any indication that anything is hiding in the hillside foliage as viewed from the Roman amphitheater and Odeon.

Best tips to visit the museum

Check out the Roman baths in Rue des Farges, which were found in the 1970s and date back to the 2nd and 3rd century BC. Only the foundations remain, but the trek is worthwhile if only to view the contrast of old and new in the Saint Just neighborhood.

Wander around the rose garden, settle on a seat, and immerse yourself in an excellent thriller. Or even a Roman romance.

Snack at Lyon’s greatest bakery, La Boulangerie de St Just. What better way to snack on a favorite French confection than with big cushions, great design, and user-friendliness?

Gallo-Roman Museum, France
Gallo-Roman Museum, France


Vases, tombstones, mosaics, sculptures, coins, and clay from the Gallo-Roman era are shown in the Archaeology Museum of Gallo-Roman Civilization. The artifacts presented in the museum exhibits are from the excavations on site (from the city of Lugdonum) as well as the Roman archaeological sites near Saint-Romain-en-Gal – Vienne.

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