The Place Bellecour is a large square in the centre of Lyon, France, to the north of the Ainay district. Measuring 312 m by 200 m (62,000 m²), it is the largest clear square (i.e., without any patches of greenery, trees or any other kind of obstacles) in Europe, and the third biggest square of France, behind the place des Quinconces in Bordeaux (126,000 m²) and the place de la Concorde in Paris (86,400 m²). It is also the largest pedestrian square of Europe, the places mentioned above can accommodate vehicles, as opposed to the Place Bellecour.
In the middle is a statue of king Louis XIV mounted on a horse, made by François-Frédéric Lemot in 1825. Another statue, representing the Petit Prince and Antoine de Saint-Exupery, is located at the west end of the square.
Two pavilions are also on the square. The first houses the tourist information office of Lyon, the second an art gallery.
The square belongs to the zone classified as World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
This square forms the central focus of the Presqu'île, between the Saône and the Rhône, in the 2nd arrondissement of Lyon. It links the major shopping streets, as well as hosting the Lyon tourist office, the Lyon central post office, and the intersection of two of the three main Lyon Metro lines. From Place Bellecour start three major streets of the Presqu'île, including two pedestrian ones : the rue de la République, leading to the Hôtel de Ville and the Opera Nouvel, the Rue Victor Hugo, which leads to Perrache, and the Rue du Président Édouard Herriot, with a concentration of luxury shops and leading to the Place des Terreaux. The quarter of Vieux Lyon and the Lyon Cathedral are in front over the Saône.
The Place Bellecour is the kilometre 0 of Lyon: all distances are counted from this point.
During the Gallo-Roman era, the quarter of Bellecour was an alluvial island. In Roman times, the quarter had military and commercial activities: remains of huts which served as warehouses for traders and Gallo-Roman boatmen, called Canabae, have been found in this area.
In the late 12th century, the archbishop of Lyon had a vitis vinifera called Bella curtis (Beau jardin, in French). Abandoned, the area became swampy.
In 1604, Henry IV forced the Lyon City Council to acquire what by then had become a pasture in order to create a public square, but the heirs of the Archbishop challenged this order in court, resulting in an interminable trial.
Many years later, in 1708, Louis XIV obtained the ownership of the square. In 1715, it became the Place Royale. Named Place Louis-le-Grand, it was adorned with a bronze statue of the king made by Martin Desjardins. Around the square, some buildings were then constructed whose facades were designed by Robert de Cotte, the first architect of Louis XIV.
During the French Revolution, an Altar dedicated to Liberty was erected on the square on 14 July 1790. The square changed its name and became the Place de la Fédération. A guillotine was installed here in 1792. The royal statue was destroyed in 1793, and the square was then named Place de l'Égalité.
On 21 June 1800, Napoleon I, after his victory at Marengo, laid the foundation stone for new buildings. The square was renamed Place Bonaparte, later Place Napoléon. During the Bourbon Restoration, in 1825, a new statue of Louis XIV was erected.
It was only under the French Third Republic that the square took its current name : Place Bellecour.
In the center of the square, there is an equestrian statue of Louis XIV by François-Frédéric Lemot. It is accompanied, at his feet, by two allegorical statues of the Saône and the Rhône, created by the brothers Nicolas and Guillaume Costou in 1720. The base came from a village in the Beaujolais: Le Perréon.
The first statue was created in 1713 and destroyed during the French Revolution, in 1793, to make cannon. In 1825, the current statue, sculpted in Paris by François-Frédéric Lemot, was installed in the square. It was transported to Lyon in twelve days on a coupling drawn by twenty-four horses. The entrance of the statue into the city was a festive occasion that attracted a big audience.
Throughout the years, a number of events took place on Place Bellecour :
- In winter, an ice rink is installed.
- There are sometimes concerts and events including a book fair or a distribution of the "Petit Paumé".
- It is also often the passage location of many students or trade union demonstrations.
- On the weekend of Pentecost, there is a contest of pétanque.
- Every Friday night, the square is the starting point of a roller ride .
- In winter, a 60-meters Ferris wheel is installed on the Place Antonin Poncet. Since 2006, due to extensive works, the wheel is located a few meters further, on the Place Bellecour. It is dismantled in early March.
- Virtual Tourist
- Jean Pelletier, Connaitre son arrondissement, le 2e, Lyonnaises d'art et d'histoire editions, p. 14
- Jean Pelletier, Connaître son arrondissement, le 2e, Lyonnaises d'art et d'histoire editions, p. 28
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Place Bellecour.|
- (French) Lyon Passionnément: the Place Bellecour
- (French) Aerial view of the square
- (French) History of the equestrian statue of Louis XIV
- (French) Embellishment of the place Bellecour