The Basilica at Fourvière is well focused. Too often we do things in broad brush strokes and generalities, diluting the message and covering too many bases at once. This is NOT the case with the Basilica high atop Lyon. Here the focus is Mary, the Virgin Mother, 100 percent. Her golden statue looks over Lyon from the Basilica’s adjacent chapel. She sits—Mother and Child—above the grand entrance that greets you as you exit the funicular that carries you—straight up—the hillside neighborhood Fourvière. But it is inside this grand church where Mary is fully revered. The interior design doesn’t stray. The walls, ceilings, stained glass windows and statues offer an artistic, biblical and historical French tribute to Mary.
This is a relatively young—19th century—church for an old Roman town that first nurtured (and suffered for) Christianity in France. While the Neo-Gothic/quasi-Byzantine architecture lacks the majesty and strength of the Gothic and Romanesque churches that make French cities and towns magnificent, it is huge, well situated, and, of course, there is Mary. Like Sacrè Coeur on Montmartre in Paris, the giant Christ the Redeemer at Corcovado, or even the Hollywood sign in LA, this basilica commands a hillside that defines its city.