RHÔNE VALLEY

DEPARTMENTS:  A. LOIRE   B. RHONE   C. AIN   D. ARDÈCHE   E. DRÔME.          

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* Marker A is located on the Loire River (Loire Department); marker B on the Rhone Rver (Rhnone Department); marker C on the Ain River (Ain Department); marker D on the Ardèche River (Ardèche Department); marker E on the Drôme River (Drôme Department).


T
he Rhone being one of the major rivers in Europe has affected the course of history the region has underwent. Its strategic location meant that it would be seen as a sine qua non for trade and transport through many centuries and Lyon would ultimately become the epicentre of its development.

Tracing the region back to antiquity, Lyon was once known as Colonia Copia Clauida Augusta Lugdunum or more conveniently (and less mind-boggling) as Lugdunum. The city was under the Roman Empire and an important part of Gaul. In this time period, Christianity was brought to the region by the Greeks from the Asia Minor and began to grow in importance. A group of Christians including the Bishop Ponthinus were persecuted and martyred but this did not halt the growth of the community and the population of Christians multiplied under the consequent leadership of Bishop Irenaeus

With the fall of the Roman Empire, Lyon continued to exist as the County of Lyon before it was handed over to the Kingdom of France in 1312. Prosperity blossomed in the 15th century when the region became the forefront in banking and publishing that in turn resulted in the social, intellectual and artistic elite arriving in large numbers. Growth persisted and the next major turning point was the approval of François I to accord the city with weaving privileges. The roots of a burgeoning silk industry were thus planted. During the following 17th and 18th century the architecture in Lyon flourished under the finesse of the likes of Soufflot, Perrache and Morand.

The development of the region was halted during the chaos of the French Revolution. In the preceding era under Napolean I, the decree for the widespread use of silk made in Lyon further expanded the silk trade and concretized the industry’s importance in the French economy. Napolean III heralded the change of an architectural landscape under the influence and guidance of Haussmann and led to a modernization of once medieval surroundings. The Lumiere family who settled down in Lyon in the 1870 created another milestone when sons Louis and Auguste created the first moving picture heralding the birth of the Cinema.

World War II saw Lyon as the hub of the French Resistance. Nazi death camps in Lyon were under the inhumane rule of Gestapo chief Klaus Barbie who was responsible for the deaths of up to 4,000 people. The end of Nazi rule in September 1944 threw Lyon into a phase of modernization and major urban developments were undertaken which fashioned the modern environment of Lyon that is seen today.


Writer:  Rachel Xu

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