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Vienne, France

Vienne is a commune in southeastern France, located 35 kilometres (22 mi) south of Lyon, on the river Rhône. It is only the fourth largest city in the Isère department, of which it is a subprefecture, but was a major center of the Roman Empire.
The stop here was day # 5 on our River Rhône cruise (click here to view our Trip Overview Page), and it was very chilly made even chillier due to the early arrival of the ship at it's dock. It is also Easter Sunday, so we weren't certain what would be open in the village.

Vienne is a regional commercial and industrial center specializing in the food industry. Tourism is also a major part of the town's economy. Indeed, there are many important historical monuments that draw the crowds, but the annual Jazz à Vienne festival in July also makes it a popular tourist destination.

Quick Vienne History Overview: Vienne was a major centre of the Roman Empire under the Latin name Vienna, however, before the arrival of the Roman armies, Vienne was the capital city of the Allobroges, a Gallic people. Transformed into a Roman colony in 47 BC under Julius Caesar, Vienne became a major urban centre, ideally located along the Rhône, then a major axis of communication. Emperor Augustus banished Herod the Great's son, the ethnarch Herod Archelaus to Vienne in 6 AD.

Vienne became a Roman provincial capital and remains of Roman constructions are everywhere in modern Vienne. The town was also an important early bishopric in Christian Gaul. Its most famous bishop was Avitus of Vienne. At the Council of Vienne, convened there in October 1311, Pope Clement V abolished the order of the Knights Templar. During the Middle Ages, Vienne was part of the Kingdom of Provence, dependent on the Holy Roman Empire, while the opposite bank of the Rhône was French territory, thus making it a strategic position. Vienne was subsequently one of the most important towns of Gaul until Roman rule of the area ended in 275 CE. Late in the 9th century the town became part of the Holy Roman Empire, and it was transferred to French sovereignty in 1450.

To read the entire Wikipedia article about Vienne (where the above text came from), click here.

Travel Tile

Vienne coat of armsImage is the property of Heraldry of the World
Vienne France  Map

Vienne sits astride the River Rhône with most of the city on the eastern side of the river. These images were taken as we crossed a pedestrian bridge (La Passerelle) from the western side of the river where the ship was docked, to the eastern side on a quest to see what we can discover in the village. We had the good fortune of finding that the bridge brought us directly to the Saint Maurice Cathedral of Vienne.

The Roman influence is evident throughout the town, with stone-paved streets and architectural remnants that transport visitors back in time. The Temple of Augustus and Livia, a striking Roman temple, stands as a testament to the enduring craftsmanship of the era.

Cathedral Saint Maurice   Map

This is a medieval Roman Catholic church in the city of Vienne, France. Dedicated to Saint Maurice, it was the episcopal see of the primate of the ancient Septem Provinciae and of the Archdiocese of Vienne until its abolition confirmed by the Concordat of 1801.

The cathedral's façade is adorned with intricate sculptures and decorative elements, while its soaring nave features stunning stained glass windows that illuminate the interior with a kaleidoscope of colors. The exquisite 16th-century choir stalls, meticulously carved with biblical scenes and intricate detailing, are a testament to the craftsmanship of the era.

The cathedral's history is closely intertwined with the town's rich past, and it has played a significant role in both religious and secular events. The annual "Jazz à Vienne" festival often hosts concerts within the cathedral's hallowed walls, creating a harmonious union of music and history.

Temple of Augustus and Livia Vienne   Map

As we continued our Vienne exploration, we discovered this amazing building. It was built near the end of the first century and was originally dedicated to Emperor Augustus, then rededicated to his wife Livia in AD 41 by her grandson Claudius, the Roman emperor. The columns are scarred by remains of wall fastenings when the temple was used in prior centuries as a storehouse and museum. Yet, the main reason for the great state of preservation of the structure is that it was incorporated into a church perhaps as early as the fifth century and restored in the nineteenth century.

The temple, which once served as a place of worship, is characterized by its classical Roman design, featuring impressive Corinthian columns and intricate decorative reliefs on its friezes and pediments. These detailed carvings depict mythological scenes and symbolic motifs, offering insights into the religious beliefs of the time.

Remarkably, the Temple of Augustus and Livia has endured over two millennia, and its structure and artistic detailing are a striking reminder of the enduring impact of Roman civilization on the town of Vienne. Visitors to this historic site can explore the temple's awe-inspiring architecture, soak in its historical significance, and gain a deeper appreciation for the rich Roman heritage that still echoes through the charming streets of Vienne.

Chapelle Notre Dame de la Salette     Map

Also known as "la Chapelle du Mont Pipet", it is located on top of Mont Pipet above the town of Vienne, France - la Chapelle du Mont Pipet, 1873, by local architect Abel Jouffray. Built over Roman ruins. Dedicated to Notre-Dame-de-la-Salette and also known as the Chapel of the Virgin Mary (a statue of Mary overlooks the town from a brick pedestal).

The chapel itself is a masterpiece of neo-Gothic architecture, with its intricate stonework, pointed arches, and graceful spires. It sits atop a hill, offering panoramic views of Vienne and the surrounding landscape.

The interior of the chapel is equally captivating, with beautiful stained glass windows, religious frescoes, and a serene atmosphere conducive to prayer and reflection. Pilgrims and visitors alike come to the Chapelle Notre Dame de la Salette to pay their respects and experience a sense of tranquility and spiritual connection.

As we hiked up Rue Pipet to arrive at the Roman Amphitheater, we walked by this Chapel and Statue of the Virgin Mary. You have to make a sharp right turn to enter the road to the amphitheater, so you will walk right by this chapel. This area is also known as the Belvédère de Pipet, which was originally a fortress, long since destroyed.

The Gallo-Roman theater of Vienne   Map

Originally constructed during the Roman occupation era, it is an 8,000 seat Roman Amphitheatre on Mont Pipet overlooking Vienne. It has a modern outdoor stage but the seating is the ancient stone benches!

The theater's design is a stunning blend of practicality and artistic finesse, with the capacity to hold approximately 13,000 spectators. The semi-circular arrangement of seats provides a panoramic view of the stage, which was used for performances, including plays, music, and athletic competitions during the Roman period.

The theater's ornate facade is adorned with decorative elements, and the stage area features intricate carvings and statues, providing a glimpse into the opulent tastes of the time.

This theater continues as an entertainment facility today, click here to see their website.


Above image is the property of Sebleouf using the CC BY-SA 4.0 license

Views from the Roman Amphitheater
Looking South from the Roman Amphitheater

The Roman Theater sits on a hill high above Vienne, which provided us with a great view of the village and the River below.

Looking West from the Roman Amphitheater

In the upper center of this picture, you can see the Viking Heimdal docked on the western side of the river.

Looking North from the Roman Amphitheater

Ruins of the medieval fortified castle of la Batie. It was built in the 13th century by Archbishop Jean de Bernin. The building was listed as a historic monument in 1926 and is the only element remaining of the town's medieval fortifications.

Cirque Romain de Vienne   Map

Located on Boulevard Fernand-Point, this is a monument which was once the center piece of Vienne’s Roman Circus and was modelled after one of the monuments in Rome’s Circus Maximus.

Built during the 1st century AD, the Cirque Romain de Vienne was a grand entertainment venue used for chariot races, gladiatorial contests, and other spectacles popular in Roman times. With a seating capacity of up to 20,000 spectators, it was one of the largest circuses in the Roman Empire.

NOTE: This image is the property of Daniel Culsan via Wikimedia Commons.

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  • Vienne History on the 'Britannica' site
  • Vienne things to see & do from the 'Crazy Tourist' site
  • Vienne things to see & do from the 'Lonely Planet' site
  • Google Search Results list for "Restaurants in Vienne"
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