Saint Jean Baptiste Cathedral, more commonly referred to as simply the Lyon Cathedral, is the seat of the archbishop of Lyon as well as an exceedingly popular sacred destination and tourist attraction for people from around the world. It was at one time the main church of the city of Lyon until the construction of the Notre Dame Basilica on Fourviere Hill. The first two bishops of Lyon, Saint Pothinus and Saint Irenaeus founded the cathedral. It was constructed over the span of several centuries (from approximately 1160 to 1480). Although there are several key points of interest inside the cathedral, including the astronomical clock in Lyon, the medieval stained glass, and the Bourbon Chapel, the entire construct, including its austere and formidable exterior should be admired.
There were two churches and a baptistery that date to the sixth century that were located on the site where the Lyon Cathedral was ultimately constructed. These were the Church of St. Croix and the Church of Saint Etienne. You can still see remains from all three of these buildings in an archaeological garden adjacent to the cathedral. The Saint Jean Baptiste Cathedral is unique in Lyon, in that it predates the Notre Dame Basilica and employs the use of Gothic architecture much more than the minor basilica of Notre Dame. Whereas the Notre Dame Basilica combines Romanesque and Byzantine styles, the façade of the Lyon Cathedral is decidedly Gothic and gives an indication of just how long the archdiocese of Lyon has been around and affiliated with the Roman Empire. The apse and much of the rest of the interior of the church is Romanesque.
There are a variety of key sites that you should make a point of seeing when you visit this destination in Lyon. First are the two crosses that stand to the left and right of the altar in the main chapel. They remain from the council of 1274 to symbolize the unity of the Catholic churches at the time. Second, the east end and oldest part of the cathedral is where the apse is located. It is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of Lyonnaise Romanesque architecture. Third, the Gothic Bourbon Chapel is a must-see for anyone taking self-guided tours of the cathedral as well. Fourth, the visually stunning medieval stained glass windows. And last, but certainly not least, the astronomical clock in Lyon that sits inside the Saint Jean Baptiste Cathedral. It is truly an absolute marvel of innovation and technology for its time. It was originally built in the fourteenth century although it has been refurbished several times since.
The astronomical clock in Lyon is one of the oldest such clocks in all of Europe. It chimes at noon, 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m., and 4 p.m.everyday while the angels sing and a rooster crows. The ornate and elaborately designed clock is one of the top attractions at this amazing cathedral in the city of Lyon, and serves not only as an attractive site to see, but also a key touchstone for the history of the city. It is well worth a visit to see the fantastic interior styling and the impressive façade, as well as the clock, chapels, and stained glass. Admission, including the treasury, is free to the public.