Friday, June 26, 2009

St-Martin-d'Ainay - Lyon

When you roam the quarters of the Presqu'ile district of old Lyon, you find a hidden historic gem in one of the narrow street. St-Martin-d'Ainay is a beautiful Romanesque basilica that has survived the centuries unscathed, left by the architect as it was when built over 1000 years ago.

St-Martin-d'Ainay is a sand coloured building with wonderful round arches decorated with red and yellow stones. The oldest part of the church goes back at least 1200 years. Most of the church was finished by 1100, the century when the gothic style took over as the predominant among church builders.

On the site there has been more churches, and a larger may go back to the first Christian era, when the martyr St. Blandine, according to Gregory of Tours, suffered a gruesome death after the lions of the Amphitheatre refused to eat her and her 48 fellow Christians.

It was consecrated by pope Paschal II in 1107. It is a massive building with thick walls and a dark, mysterious interior. Massive doors and deep windows reminds you that it may have served other purposes, to protect the members of the community from other domestic and international enemies. The once independent region of Savoy was just on the other side of the river and Italy was just behind it, so the international borders were not as far away as today.

The tower at the west part was also used to sound alarms to protect against enemies.

St-Martin-d'Ainay is a beautiful, and very different church from the others found in downtown Lyon. The other churches are not as original in style, and when I visited Lyon a year ago, they were in process of restoring the church back to its former glory. Whereas the other church buildings I saw during my long weekend in Lyon were dirty and in decay, the church of St-Martin-d'Ainay was standing, maybe as it did when it was consecrated over 900 years ago.

On St. Blandine:
More churches in Lyon

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