Grand Roman Theatre of Lyon | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Grand Roman Theatre of Lyon

Lyon, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, France

Luke Tomes

24 Nov 2020
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Grand Roman Theatre of Lyon

Grand Roman Theatre of Lyon is an Ancient Roman theatre in Lyon, France. It was built on the hill of Fourvière, which is located in the center of the Roman city.

Grand Roman Theatre of Lyon history

The Grand Roman Theatre of Lyon, known as “Théâtre Romain” was constructed by Augustus in approximately 15BC and was able to seat up to around 10,000 people. The theatre was divided into 3 sections: the “cavea” (a vast shell with 25 stands leading to the pit) built on a gallery. In bad weather, a “velum” (awning) was stretched over the “cavea”, tied to the backstage wall. The “cavea” had several “vomitorias” (doors leading to the stands).

The “balteus” was the wall separating the Plebs from the Patricians. Finally the semi-circular pit was the most ornate part with multi-coloured geometric patterns. This was where the choir, dancers and actors performed. It is 27 m in diameter.

The stage supported by a wall, the “pulpitum”, has been fitted with floorboards to allow use of the theatre today. It is decorated with a few columns and the statue of a woman. Each column was there to commemorate an emperor, with his ashes stored in the base. The theatre was dedicated to tragedies and comedies.

Having been well restored in the early twentieth century, the Grand Roman Theatre of Lyon is one of the oldest structures of its kind and a reminder of Lugdunum, the Gallo-Roman city which would become Lyon. The site was generally abandoned by the third century AD.

Behind the theatre are further ruins, possibly the remains of the Temple of Cybele.

Grand Roman Theatre of Lyon today

Today the theatre is primarily a tourist site, but it is still used as a cultural venue. Each year, the Nuits de Fourvière festival takes place in the theatre, and the site is still used for performances.

Situated on Fourvière Hill near the Notre Dame Basilica, from the theater you can also see the grand remains of the Odeon of Lyon, with its beautiful inlaid floor of marble and porphyry. Forming a pair with the main theater, the Odeon was built early in the second century with space for 3,000 people.

Behind the Grand Roman Theatre of Lyon, you can also visit the remains of an ancient Roman temple, dedicated in 160 AD to goddess Cybele.

The Grand Roman Theatre is now part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Lyon.

Getting to the Grand Roman Theatre of Lyon

The address of the Grand Roman Theatre of Lyon is Rue de l’Antiquaille, 69005 Lyon, France.

To get to the ancient ruins on Street rue Cléberg, take the Fourvière funicular or the metro to Vieux Lyons on line D, from where it’s about a 15-minute walk to the theater. Entrance is free and the site is open Tuesday through to Sunday.

Featured In

France Historic Sites

Discover the best Historic Sites in France from the Palace of Versailles, to Mont Saint-Michel, Nimes Arena and more, includes an interactive map of French cultural landmarks and monuments.

Roman Sites France

Discover the best Roman Sites in France, from La Maison Carrée to Lapidaire Museum and more, includes an interactive map of ancient Roman ruins in France.