In ancient times the original inhabitants of Lugdunum settled on the Fourvière hill and down on the banks of the Saône towards the end of the Roman Empire. The river, a source of water and supply, a waterway, promoted the development of the city in the Middle Ages and during the Renaissance.
In the Middle Ages, the cathedral Saint-Jean (12th-15th centuries) and its associated churches Saint-Georges and Saint-Paul, were at the city's political and religious heart. All around, tight, high and deep houses were built: space was limited! Alleyways ('traboules") allowed people to move from one street to another through the ground floor of buildings.
During the Renaissance (15th and 16th centuries) the area flourished thanks to permission of King Charles VII to hold four large fairs each year. Many foreign merchants and bankers moved to Lyon. Italians built mansions (Hotel Gadagne for instance, built by the Pierrevive family) and influenced both architecture and customs. Vieux Lyon became the economic and commercial centre of the city as evidenced by the trade centre where financial transactions took place.
Source: Lyon History Museum - Musées Gadagne • To learn more