Museum of Gallo-Roman Civilization

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The Museum of Gallo-Roman Civilization was inaugurated on November 15, 1975. The idea of constructing an archeological museum dates back to 1957 when a large part of the Gallo-Roman collection, previously housed at Palais Saint Pierre (Fine Arts Museum), was transferred to a small building on the site of the antique theaters of Fourvière. Louis Pradel, then Mayor of Lyon, decided to construct a new building, upon the advice of Amable Audin, curator of the Gallo-Roman collection and staunch proponent of the project, with the encouragement of Pierre Quoniam, Inspector General of Designated Museums. In 1967, the project was handed over to B.H. Zehrfuss, an internationally famous architect. Construction work on the museum began in 1970. Upon completion of the work and after several months of arranging the collection, the museum was inaugurated in 1975. Originally a municipal museum, it has been managed by the Rhône District Council since 1991. The museum is organized according to three main functions: the permanent exhibit, research, activities. Half of the museum's space is reserved for thematic presentations of the collection, from regional pre-history to the 7th century A.D.. The other half is occupied by offices, a specialized library open to the public and researchers, the reserve lapidary and small object collections and, finally, an activities department that organizes guided tours and workshops.

Located on the exceptional site of the Roman theater and odeon, the Museum of Gallo-Roman Civilization offers a panorama of private and public life in Lyon, capital of Gaul, from its foundation in 43 B.C. to the early Christian era.

The design of the Museum of Gallo-Roman Civilization was entrusted to B.H. Zehrfuss, Chief Architect of the Civil Buildings and National Palaces Agency, a laureate of the Institut de France's "Grand Prix de Rome" who is also the designer of the CNIT and the UNESCO Hall in Paris. From the beginning, it was decided to build an on-site museum, i.e. to nestle the building in amongst the antique theaters of the archeological park. The original and audacious design put the building almost completely underground, against the side of the hill and exposing only the upper level and two lateral skylights, visible from the archeological site. The interior architecture, both powerful and transparent, punctuated by a series of pillars, remind us of a snail shell. The visitor plunges progressively downward through the rooms until reaching the lower level of the theaters.

The museum's collections come primarily from discoveries made in Lyon and throughout the region (Ain, Isère districts). They are thought to be among the most beautiful in France, after those in the National Museum of Antiquities in Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Of special interest are the extraordinary series of inscriptions, statues, mosaics, sarcophagi, objects of daily life (ceramics, glass, jewelry). The collections are presented in 17 rooms or areas corresponding to the 17 themes focusing on different aspects of Gallo-Roman life in Lugdunum (Lyon), capital of Gaul. One of the first rooms contains an exhibit on the subject of pre-history and protohistory of the Lyon region. Each theme is organized around a central object to which the other pieces in the room refer.

Lyon's archeological collection began all the way back in the 16th century with the 1528 discovery of two fragments of the Claudius Tablet, on the slopes of Croix Rousse hill. This inscribed bronze tablet is one of the museum's prized possessions. It transcribes a speech given by the Emperor Claudius in the year 48 A.C., before the Roman Senate, in which he requests the right for the heads of the Gallic nations to participate in Roman magistrature. The request having been accepted, the Gauls decided to engrave the imperial speech and put it on display. Unfortunately, only the bottom half of the tablet was found but it is one of the loveliest left by antiquity.

Uncovered in 1806 on the peninsula, the circus mosaic is one of the very rare representations of the circus to be found in antique art. In addition to the theater, the odeon and the amphitheater, Lugdunum indeed possessed a circus with tiered seating and wooden galleries. The layout of the building is known thanks to this mosaic. Instead of the long wall around which the chariots usually raced, we see here water-filled basins with a decoration of dolphins and balls which are moved to mark the end of each race. Eight 4-horse chariots belonging to a different faction and bearing different colors participate in the race. Dating from the first half of the 2nd century A.D., the circus mosaic is one of the most prestigious pieces in the museum collection..

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address:17 rue Cléberg - 69005 LYON
tel:(33) 4 72 38 81 90

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