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Lyon in the spotlight

Belle Cour de Lion

Belle Cour de Lion

Estampe représentant la place Bellecour en 1663 in Topographia Gallioe de Zeiller, Inv. N 2304.6 © musées Gadagne

Inauguration de la statue de Louis XIV

Inauguration de la statue de Louis XIV

Cérémonie faite le jeudi 28 décembre 1713 place Bellecour. Huile sur toile de Charles Grandon. Inv 165 © musées Gadagne


Sprawling place Bellecour – right at the heart of Lyon. From where does it get its name ?

With its 6 hectares, place Bellecour is one of the biggest squares in Europe. In the late 12th century, the Archbishop of Lyon grew a vine known as Bella curtis – “beau jardin” meaning “beautiful garden” on this very spot. During the next century, it became a boggy area.

In 1562, when the religious wars were in full swing, Baron des Adrets set up his artillery camp there. At this time it was known as “pré Bellecour”, which belonged to the Le Viste family from the 14th century onwards.

In 1600, Henri IV cut the weeds and informed the Consulate in charge of the town of his desire to see them acquire the site in order to turn it into a square for the general public. In 1604, the Town purchased this vast quadrilateral area of 6 hectares. In 1609, 300 lime trees were planted in the southern part of the square.

In February 1643, the Consulate had a cross passage constructed, forming 2 practical pathways. In 1658, Louis XIV signed an order stating that no building was to be constructed on this site.

The site was already known as place Bellecour at this time but after the statue of Louis XIV was erected in September 1713, the square was renamed Place Louis-le-Grand. It went on to become the Place de la Fédération (1790), Place de l’Egalité (1792), then Place Bonaparte before reverting to its name of Place Louis-le-Grand in 1814. It was officially named place Bellecour in 1848 before being renamed once again, three years later, as Place Louis-le-Grand. Since 1871, it has been known as Place Bellecour.