Learn about Lyon’s 2000 years of intriguing history with our Jewish Lyon Tour! This city played an important role throughout the history, from the capital of the Roman province Gallia Lugdunensis to one of the most important centres of the Jewish Resistance movement in the WW2.
We will start our Lyon Jewish tour by exploring Croix-Rousse, a major centre of France’s silk industry since the 19th century, and delve into Lyon’s heart between the Rhône and the Saône Rivers, the Presqu'île. Highlights of this area are Place Bellecourt, the neoclassical 1831-built Opéra de Lyon with its striking semi-cylindrical glass-domed roof, and the Grande synagogue de Lyon, a fascinating neo-Byzantine building erected in 1863, and the best place to dive into Lyon’s Jewish heritage.
Jewish life in Lyon - Beginning and Repression
Little is known about the earliest presence of Jewish population in the city, dating back to the 2nd century, however, there is plenty of evidence that exhibits the existence of a large and prosperous Lyon Jewish community in the 9th century. After they were expelled in 1250, the number of Jewish inhabitants in the city remained small for centuries, until the community became part of the consistory of Marseilles in 1808. On the eve of WW2 Lyon had 500-600 Jewish families. During the war, Lyon was a "free" city, thus becoming a refuge for Jews and Jewish organizations, particularly the Central Consistory and philanthropic and Zionist institutions, and a large centre of the Jewish Resistance Movement. Although generally operating in total isolation, this movement was occasionally supported by the Catholic and Protestant groups, as well as the civil and administrative authorities. The repression against the resistance peaked in 1944, when prisoners from the "Jewish Quarters" in the Monluc Fort Prison were taken to Bron Airfield to de-mine the area after a bombardment, resulting in 109 casualties.
Lyon´s UNESCO world heritage
The historic districts of Lyon, now UNESCO world heritage sites, host the vestiges of the Roman city Lugdunum, including two Roman theatres, built between the 1st century BCE and the 1st century CE.
The Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, one of Lyon’s symbols with its precious byzantine mosaics, overlooks the city.
“Vieux-Lyon”, the Old City, between Fourvière and the Saône River, has preserved the ancient charm of the Renaissance alleys with its XV and XVI century buildings, homes, back then, to rich Italian, German and Flemish banker and merchant families. A walk through the “traboules” (secret passages that connect two streets through a building) will throw you 500 years back in time.
With the economic expansion of the city and an influx of immigrants from North Africa, the Jewish population increased again to over 20,000 in 1969. Nowadays, the various communal bodies, Orthodox, Ashkenazi, Sephardi, and Consistorial, work closely together.
We strongly recommend a visit to the Resistance and Deportation History Centre to learn more about a fascinating and little known chapter of Lyon’s history and the role Jews played in it. After that, have a toast to France’s civic courage with a glass of delicious Beaujolais.
Discover Lyon's many thrilling facets with our Jewish Lyon Tour!