DU Wiki > Ã„mnen - Subjects > Tourism studies > KG3012 > Seminar 1 Cultural and natural World Heritage sites > France > Historic Site of Lyon by Adeline Danthon
Historic Site of Lyon by Adeline Danthon
The city center of Lyon became a World Heritage Site recognized by the UNESCO in 1998 . A perimeter of 5 km² was delimitated in order to protect and promote the high density of historical monuments inside of this area . The city center of Lyon is indeed the testimony of 2000 years of History, boasting monuments and urban dispositions of five different periods. Thanks to a careful city planning over the centuries, nothing was ever destroyed  and all these monuments coexist in harmony.
Founded in 43 BC, Lyon (or Lugdunum as it was called at that time) quickly became a strategic location in terms of international trade. Its position at a confluence between two major rivers, the Saône and the Rhône Rivers indeed made it the perfect spot to establish a city . Nowadays, the Ancient Theater of Fourvière and the Amphitheatre of the Three Gauls are still impressive testimonies of that time when Lyon was the capital city of the region of the Three Gauls, encompassing France, Belgium, Switzerland, Northern Italy, Luxembourg as well as parts of Germany and the Netherlands.
Even though Lyon lost its major political role in the Middle Ages, the city then became an important religious center for the whole region. The high concentration of churches, cathedrals and basilicas in the districts around the two rivers is a proof of the religious notoriety of the city . The Saint-Nizier Church, the Basilica of Saint-Martin d’Ainay or the Saint-Jean Cathedral for example are all boasting different features typical of the evolution of Christianity in Lyon.
Due to its proximity with Italy and its good location between two rivers, Lyon was a very dynamic center for business and trade. The wealth of the city attracted numerous doctors, artists or philosophers who contributed to the development of Lyon. In the 16th century, the population of the city increased by 50% in only fifty years, being home to 60 000 inhabitants .The well preserved Renaissance buildings in the old Lyon district still showcase the grandeur of the city at the time.
The 17th and 18th centuries marked an important era in the urban development of Lyon. The Presqu’île discrict became the new city center influenced by the strong industrialization of Lyon, which was the main working city of France. Modern and dynamic, Lyon stayed an important place in terms of economics and developed its role as a new financial center for the country . The majestic buildings and squares in the districts between the two rivers still show how powerful the city was during this modern era.
In the 19th century, the division between the religious class and the working class took a new turn. The two hills of the city, facing each other, became somehow rivals. With the construction of the impressive Basilica of Fourvière, the Fourvière hill was nicknamed “the hill that prays”. On the other hand, the Croix-Rousse hill which was home to the silk workers and factories became known as “the hill that works” . The numerous secret passages of this same district played an important role during the Second World War, turning Lyon into the French Capital of Resistance .
Taking into consideration all these aspects, the distinction awarded by the UNESCO recognizing its city center as World Heritage certified Lyon as a perfectly preserved example of city development and town planning through the ages .
No managerial issues were mentioned by the UNESCO itself regarding the Historic Site of Lyon. Nevertheless, it can be assumed that the World Heritage site must face challenges because of its nature itself. This UNESCO perimeter covers a great part of the city center of one of France’s biggest metropolitan area. Lyon is a dynamic city that is going under perpetual changes  and people do live and work within the delimited perimeter. As a whole part of the city itself, the historic site must face the same planning or even political challenges as the rest of the city . In terms of ownership, only 25% of the area belongs to national, regional and municipal governments. Thus 75% of the World Heritage Site is actually privately own . The local community that lives within the perimeter as well as all the stakeholders of the four administrative districts of the historic city center are expected to work together in order to preserve not just one monument but a whole 5 km² of the city .
Furthermore, as there is no legal protection status that is provided by the classification as a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO , the historic center of the city is dependant of several actions and plans developed by the municipality and the state in order to ensure its preservation .
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 UNESCO, 1997. Advisory Body Evaluation for the Historic Site of Lyon [Online] Available at http://whc.unesco.org/archive/advisory_body_evaluation/872.pdf [Accessed November 9]
 Municipality of Lyon, 2013. Périmètre UNESCO [Online] Available at http://www.lyon.fr/page/projets-urbains/perimetre-unesco.html [Accessed November 9]
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