Lyons (city, France)

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.
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Lyons (city, France)

Lyons, Fr. Lyon (both: lyôN´), city (1990 pop. 422,444), capital of Rhône dept., E central France, at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône rivers. As an economic center and a densely populated metropolis it is second only to Paris. It leads Europe in silk and rayon production; it has important metal, machine, clothing, and chemical industries; a river port; a stock exchange (founded 1506, the oldest in France); a university (founded 1808); and several fine museums. It is a popular year-round tourist center, and it is linked to Paris by a TGV rail line. Founded in 43 BC as a Roman colony, ancient Lugdunum soon became the principal city of Gaul. There Christianity was first introduced into Gaul, and the importance of Lyons until c.1300 was chiefly religious. One of the earliest archiepiscopal sees in France, Lyons (which after the breakup of the Carolingian empire passed to the kingdom of Arles) was ruled by its archbishops until c.1307, when Philip IV incorporated the city and Lyonnais proper into the French crownlands. Of great importance were the emergence (12th cent.) of the Waldenses and the councils held there in 1245 and 1274. Lyons became a silk center in the 15th cent.; at first the silkworms raised in SE France sufficed the needs of the industry, but in recent times Lyons has become increasingly dependent on East Asian imports of raw material. In 1793, Lyons was devastated by French Revolutionary troops after a counterrevolutionary insurrection, but it recovered quickly thanks to the invention of the Jacquard loom. During the German occupation in World War II (1940–44), Lyons was the capital of the French resistance movement. In 1987, Klaus Barbie ( "The Butcher of Lyon" ), who was head of the Gestapo in Lyon from 1942 to 1944, was tried and sentenced to life imprisonment for "crimes against humanity." He was extradited from Bolivia in 1983, where he had lived since 1951. A handsome modern city, Lyons has preserved interesting old sections, notably around the primatial Cathedral of St. John (12th–14th cent.). Its 1831 opera house has undergone a renovation (completed 1993) that included the controversial addition of a glass dome to the original carved stone structure. Annual international trade fairs are held at Lyons.

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