Splendeur du Baroque

History of Saint Bruno's Church et of the Charterhouse

The Charterhouse in Lyon was built in the XVIIth and XVIIIth centuries on the west slopes of the Croix-Rousse. Its property spred from the fortifications, to-day "Boulevard de la Croix-Rousse" to the river Saçne. Of the Charterhouse remains the church Saint-Bruno, the small cloister, the monks cemetery and the building of the presbytery, "impasse des Charteux" including the chapter house, called "Chapelle des retraites" (chapel of retreats).


Plan de Lyon
Vue de l'ancienne chartreuse
Plan de l'ancienne chartreuse
Coupe longitudinale de l'Eglise St-Bruno
Vue au loin de l'Eglise St-Bruno


Some historical Landmarks :


The chapterhouse of the Carthusian monks, convened in Chambéry, decides the fondation of a house in Lyon.

1584 august

King Henry III, passing in Lyon, gives to the future house its name "Charterhouse of the Lis Holy Spirit" and promises a gift of 30 000 pounds which he will never give.

1584 october

The Cartusian monks buy the property "The Giroflée" on which will be built the monastery.

1590 april

Begining of the building following the plan of the architect Jean Magnan.


The building of the choir.


The elevation of the walls of the nave and the dome; the works will last because of lack of money and the works are even stopped during 15 years, from 1631 to 1646.


The plans of completion and enlargening of F. Delamonce. will be executed under his direction and after Soufflot 's direction. The Carthusian monks must resort to several loans for the financing.


The selling of the Charterhouse as national properties. Among 8 portions, only that of the church doesn't find a purchaser.
The closing of the Charterhouse and the explusion of the 17 Cartusian monks who still lived.


The parish " Saint-Bruno the Carthusian" is created and the church became parish church.


The transformation of the lateral chapels, the furniture of the church (pulpit, organs, way of Cross) and realisation of the present neo-baroque front under the direction of Tony Tony Desjardins and Sainte-Marie Perrin.


The whole church is listed as a " Monument Historique".


Location of the Charterhouse of Lyon

Scenographic plan of Lyon and the “La Giroflée” property


In the 17th century, the “La Giroflée” property spread from the Saone to the fortifications of the Croix-Rousse (today replaced by the boulevard of the same name). It was purchased in October 1585 by the Carthusians to establish the Charterhouse of Lyon under the name “Chartreuse du Lys Saint-Esprit” (“Charterhouse of the Lys of the Holy Spirit”).

Extract from "Plan scénographique de Lyon" about 1550
Archives municipales de Lyon, 7 S 8 , cliché J. Gastineau/AML 5 Ph 26760


The Charterhouse of Lyon in 18th century


Plan of the Charterhouse of Lyon in 18th century
(painting around 1730, collection of Museum of the Grande Chartreuse)

The construction works of the second campaign according to the plans of Delamonce were completed with the exception of the façade. The latter, not visible on the drawing, would only be undertaken much later in 1870-1871 by Sainte-Marie Perrin, in the spirit of the 18th century.

Today all that remains of the charterhouse are the church, the little cloister, and the presbytery building which shelters the chapter house (chapel of retreats). Some vestiges of the cells of the monks were included in civilian buildings subsequent to the sale of nationalized properties at the beginning of the French Revolution.

(photo studio Basset)


Plan of the Carthusian in 17th century

The charterhouses were, at the origin, situated in isolated places such as mountains or forests. Beginning in the 17th century, popes and princes established charterhouses in towns. But the principles of isolation, silence and contemplation were always respected in the choice of sites.

The general plan is approximately the same for all charterhouses :
- a large cloister around which are distributed the cells of the monks with a small garden,
- a little cloister which leads to the church, with the adjoining chapter house and dinning-room,
- the church,
- the Prior’s house,
- the converses’ house.



Cross-section of the Church as existed in 1736
(Archives départementales du Rhône)

The little door at the end of the choir opens on to the small cloister through which one could enter into the chapter house and the dinning-room.



Lyon, 2003, Croix-Rousse hill, looking the belfry of St-Bruno church on the left.
(photo Jean-Marc Berthier, laboratoire Gris souris Lyon)