Lyon Gallo-Roman Museum - History and Facts | History Hit

Lyon Gallo-Roman Museum

Lyon, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, France

The Lyon Gallo-Roman Museum displays exhibits relating to the city’s time under the Roman Empire.

Peta Stamper

22 Apr 2021

About Lyon Gallo-Roman Museum

The Lyon Gallo-Roman Museum, known as “Musee Gallo-Romain” chronicles five centuries of the city’s history under Rome. From its founding as Lugdunum under Julius Caesar to how it flourished, becoming a thriving capital of the Empire, the Gallo-Roman Museum houses an extensive collection of archaeological finds from ancient Lyon.

Displaying artefacts ranging from statues and sculptures to mosaics and inscriptions, the Lyon Gallo-Roman Museum is also a great place to go either before or after visiting Lyon’s many archaeological sites.

Lyon Gallo-Roman Museum history

Lugdunum was an important Roman city in Gaul, founded in 43 BC by Lucius Munatius Plancus a Roman consul. In the period between 69 to 192 AD, the city flourished; its population possibly reaching up to 200,000 inhabitants. As a result, the area is populated with the ancient ruins of a Roman settlement.

The idea of bringing together the findings linked to Lyon’s ancient city in a museum was born in the 1930s, although it was not until the 1960s that the project gained traction. The municipal collection of Gallo-Roman artefacts from Lugdunum was first held at the Museum of Fine Arts before the collection was transferred to a purpose-built building.

In 1975, the new building designed by French architect Bernard Zehrfuss opened near the city’s Roman theatre and odeon, on a hill known as Fourvière – the heart of the former Roman city. The building was constructed from 1972 and features a concrete spiral ramp descending and branching out into the display rooms. Zehrfuss wanted to ‘bury’ the building so that it respectfully integrated into the ancient environment and so the museum is almost invisible from the outside.

Lyon Gallo-Roman Museum today

Today, Lyon’s Gallo-Roman Museum has a wealth of ancient and modern wonders to offer visitors. Masked by vegetation, descend into this concrete subterranean treasure chest to see artefacts tracing Lugdunum’s history from prehistoric times to the emergence of Christianity in Gaul. Highlights include a Gallic calendar and the Claudian Tablet found in 1528, which reproduces in bronze the speech the Lyonese emperor made in 48 AD.

There is a temporary exhibition (also available online virtually), ‘A salad, César?’, that revolves around a reconstructed Roman dwelling and highlights how Romans would have preserved their food and what they would have eaten. Additionally, there is a tour app that guides you around the museum’s displays, available in both French and English.

Getting to Lyon Gallo-Roman Museum

If using public transport, the closest best-connected transit stop is Vieux Lyon – Cathédrale Saint-Jean on subway line D and the Funicular F1 and F2, only a 14 minute walk from the museum. For those driving, there is car parking nearby at St Georges, a 20 minute walk away.

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