There are countless cathedrals and churches throughout France, but the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourviere is thought to be one of the most beautiful. This stunning church is built upon a tall hill in Lyon, France and provides visitors with an unrestricted view of the city. Lyon is located four hours south of Paris.

Construction of the Basilica began with private funding, and the construction site took place on top of ancient Roman ruins. Work on the Basilica started in 1872 and was finally completed in 1884. However, finishing touches in the interior were not completed until as late as 1964.

The church was built and dedicated to the Virgin Mary who is credited for saving Lyon from the Black Death plague that swept through Europe in 1643. Every year on the December 8, the town pays homage to the Virgin Mary by lighting candles throughout the city and illuminating walls and buildings of the Basilica in a LED extravaganza referred to as the Festival of Lights.

Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourviere contains two churches, one on top of the other. The upper sanctuary is very ornate, while the lower is a much simpler design. The basilica is often referred to by the locals as ‘the upside-down elephant’ because the building resembles the body of an elephant and the towers look like its legs.
These ‘legs’ are four large towers, each measuring 14 stories tall. The gilded Virgin Mary that sits at the top of the bell tower is said to continue to ward off any dangers posed to the city of Lyon.

The entrance to the basilica is ornate and leads into the nave that displays colorful, golden mosaics. The inside of the building is breathtaking and ornately detailed as well.

Adjoining the basilica is the ancient Chapel of the Virgin and a terrace that provides a panoramic view of the cathedral and city of Lyon. Climbing the 287 steps to the basilica observatory will provide a 180-degree view of Lyon and its suburbs. On a clear day, Mont Blanc, the highest point in Europe, can be seen in the distance.

Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourviere offers guided tours and contains a Museum of Sacred Art. More than two million people visit the basilica each year. For more information, visit

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Kelly Wise Valdes has been writing for the Osprey Observer since 2008. She graduated in 1989 from Florida Southern College with a B.S. in Communications and enjoys writing and traveling. She currently resides in northern Hillsborough County with her husband, David. When not traveling and writing, Kelly and her husband enjoy spending time with their five grown children (as well as their grandchildren) that still keep them very busy.