Saint-Bruno des Chartreux
Exterieur StBruno.JPG
Exterior of the church
denomination Roman Catholic

Saint-Bruno des Chartreux (Saint Bruno of the Carthusians) was the church of the chartreuse of Lyon in France until the French Revolution. It is dedicated to saint Bruno of Cologne and is the city's only Baroque church.


Lyon and the Carthusians

At the end of the 16th century, the royalty and the clergy set out on the reconquest of Catholicism with the creation of new convents and the extension of existing ones. The hill of La Croix-Rousse was thus to return to the religious usage it had had back in antiquity. From 1584 and in the course of the following century, its slopes would see 30 religious communities, giving rise to the nickname which is now used of the Fourvière hill - "the hill which prays".

The first communities set up here were by Carthusian monks from Grenoble, thanks to their good relations with the church in Lyon. In effect, they came to help the clergy of Lyon when pillaged by Forez Guy in the 12th century and had also obtained privileges such as an exemption from tolls on their journeys to Lyon. However, on a visit by king Henry III of France in August 1584, two Carthusian monks were presented to request that he grant permission to found a house of their order in the town of Lyon. They were successful, with the king even pledging 30,000 livres to its construction (though he never paid it) and choosing its name - Chartreuse du Lys St Esprit. In 1589, Henry III died and was succeeded by Henry IV of France who rushed to declare himself founder of Carthusian monastery and to confirm its exemptions and privileges. These exemptions and privileges were reconfirmed by Louis XIII then by Louis XIV.

The Carthusians thus began by acquiring the Giroflée estate on the banks of the Saône then extending their lands by purchasing those of their neighbours little by little, until they had a total property of 24 hectares. Contrary to what might be supposed, their extension of their property bore no relation to an expansion in their numbers (they remained at only 28 monks) and they instead related it to their monastic rule - they were eliminating all their neighbours so as to better live their life of solitary contemplation.

Construction of the church

It took six years after the king's gift for the first stone of the church to be laid. Its construction was carried out in two waves, the first (1590-1690) including the choir, small cloister, sacristy and a few cells, and the second (18th century) involved completing the nave, the transept and the side chapels. Finally, renovations and extensions occurred during the 19th century, mainly affecting the chapels and façade.



Choeur StBruno

Choir of the church of Saint-Bruno des Chartreux de Lyon

Vierge Fabisch

Virgin of the Carthusians, by Joseph-Hugues Fabisch, official sculptor to the Diocese of Lyon

The choir now has only 5 windows, several of which were blocked during the second wave of works by the architect Ferdinand-Sigismond Delamonce. The rocaille-style stalls found here show reveresed volutes and garlands of foliage as well as asymmetrical shells and garlands of flowers.

Typical of the 17th century Baroque style, the 1628 statues now located on the pilasters of the Munet arch were originally in the choir. They are by Sarrazin and show St Bruno and St John the Baptist. Giving an impression of movement via the folds of their drapery, they have pathetic expressions, thin faces and tense eyes.

Today the church's organ is also in the choir, but the church has only had one since 1890, when it became a parish church. It is now known as the best of the "deux claviers" in Lyon. Before 1890 the austerity of the Carthusian rule made for austere liturgy, not adorned with organ music.

The offices were celebrated in the choir until 1737, when it was separated from the rest of the church for building works by a partition. In the initial plan by the architect Delamonce for the second wave of works, the choir remained separated from the rest of the church but the abbot refused to authorise this plan, and so a second that kept the choir as part of the church was drawn up and accepted.

  • Pulpit

Built to hold the book of liturgical chants, it is made of a spread-winged eagle (symbol of the Word of God the Father) atop a column carved with the Eucharistic symbols of grapes and vine branches and rooted in a base with the image of a dove (symbol of the Holy Spirit). It thus unites the three persons of the Holy Trinity.

Transept and crossing

Arc Munet

The Munet arch between the choir and the crossing

Baldaquin 1

The baldachino by Servandoni

  • Munet arch

The transition between the choir and crossing is formed by the Munet arch, built by the architect of that name in the 18th century. It is supported by powerful deflecting pillars in the Baroque style. We also find here two nested pilasters in the Doric order, whose niches are now occupied by the Sarrazin statues.

  • Altar

Designed in the 18th century by Servandoni then modified very soon afterwards by Soufflot (known for his work at the Hôtel Dieu and the Panthéon de Paris), the altar is notable for being two-sided, meaning that the office could just as well be celebrated from the monks' side or from the peoples' side.

The Tabernacle (ie the small cabinet holding the consecrated wafers) was originally decorated with semi-precious stones, but these disappeared during the Revolution.

The 18th century baldachin is also by Servandoni. One of the most beautiful examples in France, it aims to magnify the presence of Christ in the Eucharist and in effect form a hyper-tabernacle around the Host. Its columns are of marble, whilst the capitals are wooden but stuccoed with powdered marble, limestone and powdered chalk to imitate marble. At the baldachin's top may be seen a globe and a cross, both in copper gilded in gold-leaf, and drapery made of textile dipped in liquid plaster and painted gold before it dried. We cannot be certain as to its decoration - it had long been thought that it had fleurs de lys all over it and that these were turned into clovers during the 19th century renovations. However, more recent renovations found that the trefoils had initially represented stemless clovers before the 19th century.

  • Dome

The crossing dome is made up of 8 oval windows, 5m high, separated by valuting and crowned with a polygonal decoration. It also has 4 pendetives whose decoration is inspired by the theme of the Four Evangelists - St Luke with his bull and saint John with his eagle on the nave side, and saint Matthew with his angel and saint Mark with his lion on the choir side.


Nef 1

Interior of the church of Saint-Bruno des Chartreux de Lyon

This area's decoration contrasts slightly with the rest of the church, being more sobre and thus more in keeping with the Carthusian spirit. It was finished in the 18th century.

Its ceiling is decorated with arched vaults and the transition between the walls and ceiling is via a dentelated cornice around the whole church (it was extended round the choir in the 18th century). Under this cornice is a frieze whose metopes alternate between a rose and a dove (the latter symbolising the Holy Spirit and thus the Carthusians). On either side of the nave are 4 arcades opening onto side chapels, separated from each other by Doric columns.

  • Side chapels

Renovations in the 19th century modified (among other things) the interior of the eight side chapels. Their altars were effectively reorientated to face the exterior walls rather than the east end, and the windows lighting each chapel were blocked (though traces of them can still be seen on the outside of the nave walls).


Facade StBruno

Façade of the church of Saint-Bruno des Chartreux

Before 1870, the façade was very sobre, made up of a flat wall pierced by just a window and a door. When the church became a parish one, Ste Marie Perrin was summoned to make a new plan for the façade. This was made up of three receding levels, centred around the middle part.

The first of these is the church's entrance porch, bordered by Ionic columns and Doric pilasters. Below the entrance door is a Latin inscription from the Gospel of St Matthew, referring to the subscription among the canuts to finance the works on the façade - "Come to me, all you who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest". The second level is a curvilinear balcony with a small terrace, above which is the window (the only surviving element of the original facade) surrounded by four fluted columns and surmounted by a triangular pediment with the symbol of the Holy Spirit. The third level contains a niche with a statue of Saint Bruno bordered by the initials S B.


On the dome can be seen 8 bays, each with one of the 8 interior windows below it. The dome's exterior is made of stone and serves to hide the internal structure of the dome far below it. Atop XD it is a lantern surmounted by a cross on a globe in lead, symbol of the Carthusians. In all the dome measures 10m high and 39m in diameter.

External links

Template:1st arrondissement of Lyon

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