So I spent a few days in Lyon again in December and January, enjoying the weather, good food, and some well needed rest. On the brink of cabin fever (read: jesus I need to get out of the house) I decided to go for an evening walk through the neighbourhood of Vieux Lyon (“Old Lyon” – the large renaissance district) and the 1st arrondissement. I strolled past the old roman Amphitheatre and spotted the spire of an old Church. Feeling the need to investigate, I clambered up the hill and came across the Église du Bon-Pasteur (Church of the Good Shepherd). Straight off the bat I knew something wasnt right about this church, but I couldn’t put my finger on it….
*Warning – L’église du Bon-Pasteur Info*
“The parish was founded by Cardinal de Bonald in 1855. Then the priest Callot opened a little church on this place on 16 March 1856 as Napoleon III and his wife had said they will adopt as godparents all children born that day. Thus, Callot wrote them a letter asking them to adopt his church. On 29 March 1856, an imperial decree legally recognized the Parish of the Bon Pasteur.
In 1869, Emperor Napoleon III came to Lyon to start to build the church. The work, performed by Clair Tisseur, began on 25 August 1869, but the war interrupted his work.
The current church was built between 1875-1883 by Lyon architect Clair Tisseur. The City Council provided 400,000 francs for the construction. However, his plans were not fully respected, because the Father Durant, who presided over the church then, wanted a higher tower. The church was open to the faithful on 15 June 1879 and was completed and consecrated by Archbishop Caverot on 11 June 1883.”
So what makes this church so special? Well I guess it might be down to the fact that the main entrance portal is over 3 meters above the ground and there are no stairs to access it.
Yes, that totally makes no sense.
So why would you build a church with no real entrance? Well at the time of the Église du Bon-Pasteur construction, military barracks were situated across the street. For the church stairs to be built, these barracks would have had to be torn down, which would have never happened in the 3rd French Republic (because you know, they weren’t to keen on the whole idea of the church). So they had no alternative, but to use the side entrance.
Now all this aside – wouldn’t you plan/build the stairs relatively early on? Seems like someone didn’t really think this all the way through.
The Church held active services until 1984, when for reasons unknown to me, the Église du Bon-Pasteur was no longer assigned to the Catholic Church. The Lyon Academy of Arts (which is directly opposite of the church – where the military barracks once stood) moved in and used it for studios/exhibition spaces, but moved out in 2008. Since then, the Church has been closed off with no official use. At one point, squatters took hold of the property – but have been evicted since.
I’ve managed to find some pictures from someone who has been inside, and its a relatively familiar sight. regrettably there is the usual crap graffiti sprayed everywhere and extensive damage to the pulpit and statues.
The entrances were blocked off pretty good (didn’t really stop the vandals), and there was only a slightly precarious (read: dangerous) way to leading to the back of the church. Seeing as I was being accompanied by my other half – and not wanting to break my neck I decided against trying to venture inside. I’ll save that for next time. It seems like the neighbours keep a close eye to whats happening, and try to shout at suspicious “people”.
If you are ever walking through the 1st arrondissement, it’s definitely worth passing by the Église du Bon-Pasteur (there are quite a few other things to see in the area as well). Despite not being able to enter the church, it’s still rather pretty to look at – especially because of the missing stairs. If you walk up the stairs next to the church, you also have a fantastic view over Lyon (it gets better the higher up you go).
For more pictures of the Église du Bon-Pasteur – Check out this Flickr Album
L’église du Bon-Pasteur
8 Rue Neyret
69001 Lyon, France