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Saint Pierre Palace

St. Peter's Palace (Palais Saint Pierre) can be found on the west side of Places des Terreaux in Lyon France's first arrondissement. 

From its foundation in the 6th century to its total reconstruction in the 17th, the abbey, one of the oldest in Gaul, underwent many transformations.
Starting off as an upper-class convent, it turned into a Royal Abbey, became a place of worship with the building of a Church, and was then extravagantly remodelled by Louis XIV.

The abbey was for centuries the home of Benedictine nuns of high aristocratic descent.  However, this came to an abrupt stop with the French Revolution. Thanks to its proximity to the Lyon City Hall, the abbey was neither sold nor destroyed, but instead was turned into a museum in 1801, to educate the public and “encourage art”, as well as to boost the local silk industry in Lyon.

The former convent of the nuns of St. Peter therefore became the Museum of Fine Arts in 1801. Inspired by Italian references, the building consists of four wings arranged around a cloister.  In 1792, the abbey became a conservation centre of paintings, medals and other art objects. Throughout the nineteenth century, the building served several functions: art and archeology museum, School of Fine Arts, City Library, Stock Exchange, Chamber of Commerce,etc.

This magnificent building features an attractive formal garden.

The palace is currently home to the city's Fine Arts Museum (Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon).

The Saint-Pierre Palace and surrounding buildings, constructed in the 17th century, served as a convent of the Dames de Saint-Pierre until 1792.  After the French Revolution, the complex became home to the "Palais du Commerce et des Arts", a museum of works confiscated from the nobility and the clergy, although other collections and works were added in subsequent years. In 1860, the palace was renamed the "Palais des Arts". 1875 marked the beginning of a significant expansion of the museum's collections and facilities; it was during this period that the staircase by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes was installed.
This 17 and 18C palace used to house the Abbey of the ladies of Saint-Pierre, which recruited from the highest nobility.  The buildings have retained some aspects of their Italian inspired original decoration (refectory, main staircase).  Disused during the Revolution, the building is today home to the Fine-Arts museum.  See the Sacred Wood by Puvis de Chavannes on the entrance staircase.
The "Dames de Saint Pierre", were Benedictine nuns. They lived there for centuries.  The building that we can see, was in fact built in 1689 by Paul de Royer de la Valfenière to replace the old convent.  In 1803, after the Revolution and a disrupt period when that building was even used as a jail, it became the Lyon fine arts museum.

The old cloister is nowadays a beautiful garden where you can saunter along the paths and admire the statues of Rodin, Carpeaux, Bourdelle.

The former chapel hosts the temporary exhibitions of the fine arts museum.

One of the oldest monasteries in Gaul

From its foundation around the 6th century to its total reconstruction in the 17th, the abbey underwent many transformations. In former times, the churches of St. Saturnin and St. Pierre were located next to the service quarters and houses of wealthy nuns inside an enclosed area. Because of its wealth and privileges, this monastery was always regarded as being the most important one in the city.


The Royal Abbey of the Sisters of St. Pierre

In 1659, under Louis XIV, the abbess Anne de Chaulnes obtained the necessary funds to construct the Royal Abbey. Royers de la Valfenière, an architect from Avignon, designed an imposing, Italian-inspired building composed of four wings around a cloister. Work was finished in 1685 under the direction of the abbess Antoinette de Chaulnes, Anne's sister.

In 1730, the abbey was home to over sixty Benedictine nuns of high aristocratic descent, were living there in 1792, when they were expelled. Decorated with beautiful pink marble columns, the private prayer chapel remains as a vestige of their living quarters. It now houses the Greek vase collection. In the 18th century, the abbey was among the wealthiest in France, in particular because of revenue obtained from store rentals on the ground level.

In the Middle Ages monasteries were often founded by the nobility.

The Benedictines, officially the Order of Saint Benedict (Latin: Ordo Sancti Benedicti, abbreviated as OSB), are a monastic Catholic religious order of monks and nuns that follow the Rule of Saint Benedict. They are also sometimes called the Black Monks, in reference to the colour of the members' religious habits.

By the ninth century, the Benedictine had become the standard form of monastic life throughout the whole of Western Europe, excepting Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, where the Celtic observance still prevailed for another century or two. Largely through the work of Benedict of Aniane, it became the rule of choice for monasteries throughout the Carolingian empire.

In France however, monasteries were among the institutions of the Catholic Church swept away during the French Revolution.  Monasteries were again allowed to form in the 19th century under the Bourbon Restoration.  Later that century, under the Third French Republic, laws were enacted preventing religious teaching.  The original intent was to allow secular schools.  Thus in 1880 and 1882, Benedictine teaching monks were effectively exiled; this was not completed until 1901.

Although Benedictines traditionally refer to Catholics, there are also some within the Anglican Communion and occasionally within other Christian denominations as well, for example, within the Lutheran Church, that claim adherence to the Rule of Saint Benedict. There are also some Eastern Orthodox Benedictines.


Church of St. Pierre

Founded in the 7th century, the church was rebuilt in the 12th century in the Romanesque style. The windows found in the interior passageway and the splendid porch date from this period. Side chapels were added in the 14th century. The current site was designed in the 18th century by the architect A. Degérando (active in Lyon from 1731 to 1773). He enlarged the choir, built the bell tower and decorated the arches and pilasters. Deconsecrated in 1907, the church was allotted to the museum.


Creation of the museum

Thanks to its proximity to the Lyon city hall, the abbey was not sold or destroyed during the French Revolution, while Terror was prevailing.  The nuthe nuns left the convent.  In 1792, the Municipal Council designated the building as a place to conserve medals, bronzes and other artistic monuments. 

On 14 Fructidor in the year IX (1801), the Chaptal decree to establish painting collections in fifteen French cities enabled the founding of the Lyon Museum of Fine Art. The institution also fulfilled local aspirations, such as recalling the city's prestigious Roman past and furnishing models for the silk industry, which was in crisis at that time.

In 1803, Napoleon decided to turn it into a museum.  Louvre Museum sent a total of 110 paintings (including The Adoration of the Magi by P.P. Rubens, The Circumcision by Le Guerchin and
Discovery of the Relics of St. Gervais and St. Protais by Philippe de Champaigne).

During the 19th century, the building was home to different institutions. The museums of painting, epigraphy, archeology and natural history shared the structure with the School of Fine Arts, the Municipal Library (Arts and Sciences section) and learned societies.

Since then, the “Musée Saint-Pierre” (Saint-Peter’s Museum) has been generally considered the most impressive of Lyon’s museums.  The magnificent Palace rooms house paintings and sculptures dating from the 15th century to modern times. Many famous French and European artists are represented: Veronese, El Greco, David, Delacroix, Renoir, Gauguin… A specific section is dedicated to ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman art.


The second largest medal collection in France

The Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon may house over 8000 antiquities, the big boaster being Egypt with its sarcophaguses and gates of Ptolemy, it may be home to 2500 mind-blowing painters – Picasso, Pérugin, Véronèse, Rubens, Géricault, Delacroix, Monet, Gauguin, Manet, Picasso ou Matisse -, 8000 works on paper, and 1300 sculptures, but the museum also has (drum-roll) the second largest collection of coins, medals and seals in the whole of France.
This 50000–strong collection began back in the 19th century and was topped up by recent discoveries of the Terreaux and Celestins treasures.


The Museum Garden

The main courtyard of the Palace is a peaceful garden, where you can have a rest far from the city’s bustle.  Located at the heart of a modern city, the garden of the Lyon Museum of Fine Arts is also a pleasant refuge of calm and harmony.
The walls of the former abbey protect visitors from the bustle of the city. In the shade of linden trees, birches and a giant oak, the garden pathways are filled with the joyous sounds of children and the conversations of leisurely strollers.
A circular fountain featuring an antique sarcophagus and crowned with a small statue of Apollo, the god of arts, adorns the center.



Among flower beds and under leafy branches, the museum garden offers a group of original sculptures in bronze.
Two major works of A. Rodin serve as an introduction to the artist's other sculptures inside the museum. The Age of Bronze (1876), with its proud young body, provides a contrast to The Shadow (1904-1905), with softer contours.
In his movement-filled portrait of Carpeaux at work (1909-1910), A. Bourdelle evokes the sculptor's act of creation. L. Cugnot (Drunken Faun, 1853), A. Delhomme (Democritus, 1868), J. Delorme (The Flute Player, 1861), F. Duret (Chactas Meditating over the Body of Atala, 1835) and J.F. Legendre-Héral (Giotto as a Child Drawing a Ram's Head, 1842) are also present.
Two monumental marble sculptures are found under the west gallery: E. Guillaume, Castalia or the Source of Poetry (1883) and J. Carlier, Gilliatt and the Octopus (1880-1890).
Moldings of celebrated antique statues decorate the niches of the exterior wall: Venus de Medici, Ephebe, Satyr, Diana of Gabies, the Capitoline Aphrodite, Discobolus at Rest, Venus Genitrix and the Capitoline Antinous.
Above the arcades and in no particular order, plaster moldings reproduce the frieze of the Panathenaic Procession from the Parthenon at Athens and the frieze of the Nereids at Xanthos.
At the center, the fountain features the body of an antique sarcophagus and a marble altar surmounted by a statue of Apollo (sculpted after the antique original) by C. Viety.




Place des Terreaux.



Free access, located on the first floor of the museum.

Open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (Fridays from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30), except Tuesdays and holidays.

At the heart of the museum, Les Terrasses Saint-Pierre café-restaurant offers light meals (savory pies, salads, etc.), pastries and hot or cold drinks to enable you to take full advantage of the time allotted for your visit or to spend a pleasant moment in a charming setting.



Open daily except Tuesdays and holidays from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Fridays from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Partial closing between 12:30 p.m. and 2:00 p.m.
In case of modification, hours are posted at the museum entrance. Telephone reception from 9:00 a.m.: 33(0) 47 21 017 40.
Ticket offices close at 5:30 p.m.
Evacuation of museum rooms starting at 5:50 p.m.
Sunday, December 8, 9, 10, 24 and 31, , the museum will close at 5:00 p.m. (end of ticket sales at 4:30 p.m. and evacuation of visitors starting at 4:50 p.m.).

The garden is open from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m exept on Fridays : open from 10:30 a.m to 6:00 p.m. Closed on Tuesdays.

Library/ Documentation
Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Open to all. Access for disabled persons.
Works may be consulted on site, with the possibility of making photocopies at the currently applied rate.