Passage de l'Argue

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Passage de l'Argue
Passage de l'Argue.JPG
Passage de l'Argue
Location 2nd arrondissement of Lyon, Lyon, France
Postal code 69002
Coordinates 45°45′40″N 4°50′05″E / 45.761144°N 4.834762°E / 45.761144; 4.834762
Construction start 1825
Inauguration 1828

The Passage de l'Argue is a covered hall located in the Bellecour quarter, in the 2nd arrondissement of Lyon, which connects the rue de la République to the rue Édouard-Herriot and the rue de Brest.[1] This is one of the oldest arcades in the French provinces, built on the same model as the Parisian ones of which it is contemporary.[2] Famous and of wealthy repute in Lyon, it plays a significant role in the trade of the Presqu'île.[3] There is also the Petit Passage de l'Argue, which formed a part of the main Passage de l'Argue before the Rue de Brest intersected it. To access it, one need only cross the road.

The Passage de l'Argue, illuminated, in December 2009
The interior of the Passage de l'Argue, viewed from Place des Jacobins side


The word "argue" (from Greek arguros which means "silver" in English)[4] refers to the wire drawing machine for gold and silver bullions used for weaving. To prevent counterfeiting, there were two offices of silver, one in Paris, another in Lyon, located in the rue de la Monnaie, near the Passage de l'Argue.[3]

The passage was already mentioned on the city map made in 1740 by Claude Séraucourt,[5] but was then an unhealthy narrow street composed of fifteen workshops of weaving. There was also a monetary workshop which was abolished in the late 18th century, but restored by the French Directory in 1798.[6] The old houses were bought and demolished by M. Coste, Casati, Dugueyt, and Millon[7] to do rebuilt the passage in 1825 by architect Fargue and opened three years later.[8] In 1834, the Republicans were hidden in the passage[9] and this latter was completely ransacked: broken windows, destroyed stores and looted goods...[10][11] In November 1840, the passage was completely flooded after heavy rains.[12]

Although it was uncommon at the time, gas lighting was brought very quickly:[5] indeed, in October 1828, Delorme requested the installation of a gasometer in the passage[13] and the gas used to illuminate was prepared in the workshop located in the rue Tupin-Rompu.[14] Moreover, the lighting and maintenance of the paving stone of the passage was generously provided by the city of Lyon.[15] The auction sale was prohibited in the hall by an order of 1828.[16]

The passage housed many notable buildings. There was the Atelier de l'Argue, which was removed in the late sixteenth century and restored by a decree on 15 May 1798;[17] it was finally traded to the rue de la Savoie thereafter. On 2 March 1828, civil and military authorities participated in the inauguration of the Café-Théâtre owned by Seguin.[9] This theater had a circular room, two Corinthian and Ionic columns with two rich entablatures, and rich and elegant ceiling, chandelier and ornaments. However, despite a large attendance, the theater closed due to bankruptcy.[7] In 1836, a renowned restaurant, headed by Caillot, then in 1960, the Théâtre des Bouffes Lyonnaises, were opened.[5] In 1862, Louis Josserand and his wife Gabrielle Avocat opened a theater of Guignol[18] and, in 1899, this puppet gave shows in the Petit Passage de l'Argue, near the hall.[19]

Among famous people who lived in this passage, there were painters Julian Gubian (1834) and Perignon (1840).[9]

Architecture and monuments[edit]

In 1836, the passage had 96 arches with uniform closures. The northern part was composed of two high airy floors, and the southern part had only one floor until the rotunda. As for the entrance, it was formed by an arc whose archivolt is supported by Doric columns.[7]

This hall represents a particular style of architecture in Lyon[20] and resembles that of Italian galleries in Rome or Milan.[3] Although cut in two parts by the Rue Édouard-Herriot under the Second Empire, this passage retains its decorative and constructive authenticity.[21]

The four façades are decorated and the passage is covered by glass walls. In the interior, there are lanterns and shop signs are made of rounded metal the shops frames are in wood.[19]

The hall is composed of shops of all types in which mainly luxury items, including watches, pipes or bags, can be bought.

On the central rotunda, four small statues of the Roman god protector of merchants and travelers Mercury with winged feet, based on an Italian work of Renaissance style, were successively erected,[8] but not exactly at the same place.[22] The statue was first stolen in 1902, notably removed during the Second World War, stolen again three days after its inauguration in April 1995, and eventually reinstalled in October 1996. The third copy of the statue was the work of Giambologna.[8] Until 2011, the plinth lay empty before playing host to an unofficial installation of modern art-street graffiti from the creator of "Birdy Kidz", which was subsequently removed some months later.


The passage became very luxuous throughout years and achieved notability. Due to its architecture, it was immediately welcomed as proved by the fact that, according to some sources, the two-thirds of its stores were already rented before its opening.[2] Many laudatory statements were made about it; for example, it was described as "a place of refuge, walk for winter evenings and rainy days, and an embellissement as well as a convenience for the entire population of the city";[16] it was considered as a "regeneration" for the quarter,[23] and has the same "charm" as the Parisian passages.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Vanario, Maurice (2002). Rues de Lyon à travers les siècles (in French). Lyon: ELAH. p. 17. ISBN 2-84147-126-8. 
  2. ^ a b c Lemoine, Bertrand; Babelon, Jean-Pierre (1989). Les Passages couverts en France (in French). pp. 216–18. 
  3. ^ a b c Pelletier, Jean (1986). Lyon pas à pas — son histoire à travers ses rues — Presqu'île, rive gauche du Rhône, quais et ponts du Rhône (in French). Roanne / Le Coteau: Horvath. p. 19. ISBN 2-7171-0453-4. 
  4. ^ Bouchard, Gilbert (2000). L'histoire des rues de Lyon (in French). Grenoble: Glénat. p. 9. ISBN 2-7234-3442-7. 
  5. ^ a b c Béghain, Patrice; Bruno Benoit; Gérard Corneloup; Bruno Thévenon. Dictionnaire historique de Lyon (in French). Stéphane Bachès. pp. 970–71. ISBN 978-2-915266-65-8. 
  6. ^ Brun De La Valette, Robert (1969). Lyon et ses rues (in French). Paris: Le Fleuve. pp. 166–67. 
  7. ^ a b c Chambet, Charles Joseph (1836). Nouveau guide pittoresque de l'étranger à Lyon. Panorama de la ville et d'une partie de ses environs, suivi d’un tableau de ses places, quais et rues, de ses établissements utiles, industriels, etc... (in French) (6th ed.). pp. 181–83. 
  8. ^ a b c "Passage de l'Argue — le commerce et son dieu, Fiches Sépia" (in French). Histoire de Lyon. Retrieved 25 May 2009. 
  9. ^ a b c Maynard, Louis (1932). Dictionnaire des lyonnaiseries — Les hommes. Le sol. Les rues. Histoires et légendes (in French). 1 (1982 ed.). Lyon: Jean Honoré. pp. 75, 76. 
  10. ^ Blanc, Louis (1847). Révolution française: Histoire de dix ans 1830-1840 (in French). 2. p. 118. 
  11. ^ Genton, Léon; Greppo, Louis; Pater, Allerat (1834). La vérité sur les évènements de Lyon au mois d'avril 1834 (in French). p. 46. 
  12. ^ Monfalcon, Jean-Baptiste (1847). Histoire de la ville de Lyon (in French). 2. p. 1190. 
  13. ^ Cayez, Pierre (1978). Aux origines de l'industrie lyonnaise (in French). 1. p. 286. 
  14. ^ Rhone department (1831). Archives historiques et statistiques du département du Rhône (in French). 13. p. 384. 
  15. ^ Champdor, Albert (1974). Vieilles chroniques de Lyon (in French). 8. p. 103. 
  16. ^ a b Balaÿ, Olivier (2003). L'espace sonore de la ville au XIXe siècle (in French). pp. 63,135. 
  17. ^ Maynard, Louis (2009). Histoires, légendes et anecdotes à propos des rues de Lyon, avec indication de ce qu'on peut y remarquer en les parcourant (in French). Les Traboules. p. 27. ISBN 978-2-911491-57-3. 
  18. ^ Fournel, Paul (1995). Guignol: les Mourguet (in French). p. 177. 
  19. ^ a b "Passage de l'Argue" (in French). Rues de Lyon. Retrieved 25 May 2009. 
  20. ^ Grand-Carteret, John; Gustave Girrane (1999). L'enseigne à Lyon: son histoire, sa philosophie, ses particularités (in French). p. 237. 
  21. ^ Jacquet, Nicolas (2008). Façades lyonnaises — 2000 ans de créations architecturale et de confluence culturelles (in French). Paris: Les Beaux Jours. p. 128. ISBN 978-2-35179-026-7. 
  22. ^ Vachet, Adolphe (1902). À travers les rues de Lyon (in French) (1982, Marseille ed.). Lyon: Laffitte reprints. pp. 43–44. ISBN 2-7348-0062-4. 
  23. ^ Hodieu, A. (1866). Essais de nomenclatures lyonnaises, municipales et autres de 1800 à 1865 (in French). p. 84.