The Lyon Gallo-Roman Tombs - History and Facts | History Hit

The Lyon Gallo-Roman Tombs

Lyon, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, France

The Lyon Gallo-Roman Tombs are a trio of reconstructed first century burial chambers.

Peta Stamper

16 Apr 2021

About The Lyon Gallo-Roman Tombs

The Lyon Gallo-Roman Tombs (Tombeaux Gallo-Romain) are 3 reconstructed ancient burial chambers displayed at Place Eugène-Wernert in Lyon, France.

Today, these ancient tombs remain a fascinating site which, in places, the original inscriptions giving details about the occupants of the tombs can be seen.

Lyon Gallo-Roman Tombs history

The ancient city of Lugdunum was the one of Roman Gaul’s most populated settlements, located at the beginning of the Aquitaine and Narbonnaise routes to the south. The Necropolis of Trion was situated on the outskirts of the once-inhabited city, as Roman custom forbade burying the dead within the city limits.

Placing the tombs along the principal roads entering and leaving Lyon preserves the memory of those buried there as their tombs were seen by all travelling through the busy Roman colony.

The monumental tombs were made with a soft and good quality limestone dating back to the 1st century AD. The impressive resting places reflected a funerary practice reserved for Gallo-Roman society’s most important figures, as their descendants would have to cover the costs of building such monuments. Several of the mausoleums enclosed urns.

In 1885, the 10 mausoleums were discovered at the corner of Place de Trion when the railway line was being constructed. Upon discovery, 5 tombs were dismantled and reassembled in Place Eugène Wernert to preserve them. The tombs were classified as Historical Monuments in 1905.

Lyon Gallo-Roman Tombs today

The remains of Lyon’s Gallo-Roman Tombs today reveal much about Roman burial practice, as well as telling us who was laid to rest here. Walk around the predominantly square-based tombs, decorated with friezes including ornate discs and even a bull’s head.

To the west of the square, you can see that 3 tombs are named: one for Julia with a sculpture representing a door with moulded leaves; another in the centre attributed to Quintus Valerius; the third for Julius Severianus.

The central oldest and best-preserved tomb is for Quintus Calvius Turpio. It is believed Turpio was part of the Augustus Seviri, a cult responsible for the worship of Rome and Augustus – the height of social climbing for a provincial freedman.

Even after several millennia of weathering, the tombs continue to serve their purpose as monuments to Lyon’s former Roman inhabitants. After visiting the tombs, explore Lyon’s Gallo-Roman history further at the nearby museum or Roman baths.

Getting to the Lyon Gallo-Roman Tombs

Located within central Lyon, the easiest way to reach the tombs is via public transport. Buses 55, C20 and C21 stop at St Alexandre, a 2 minute walk from the tombs. Alternately, get the inclined railway to Saint Just, a 10 minute walk.

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