Bellecour: third bigger square in France, after the place des Quinconces (Bordeaux) and the place de la Concorde (Paris)! People from Lyon come here, dreaming, wandering, gathering here... And always, those nice trees, chestnut trees nowadays, which replaced lime trees...
Originally, we have here swamps and few houses which belonged to the abbey St-Martin d’Ainay. Since a long time, the place was called Belle Cour, Belle curia: "nice Court".
In 1562, during the war of Religion, the baron des Adrets transformed the place into a public square: they described it as a "vast and big place, a nice one like the huge champ de Mars in Rome". Is that all? In 1658, Lyon city owned the land in order to raise a square, a real one. Based on plans by Robert de Cotte, they built two Classical buildings on each side of the square.
They called it place Louis-le-Grand, dedicated to king Louis XIV. Of course, we had in the middle an equestrian statue of the king, made in 1701 by Keller brothers. In 1714, brothers Coustou added rivers Rhône and Saône’s allegories. Just before the Revolution, we could see two big fountains, destroyed in 1792.
Oh, other things were destroyed too... The façades of the two buildings were damaged, so Napoleon re-raised them from 1800. Because the statue of king Louis was melted in 1799, they raised a new one in 1825, made by Frédéric Lemot, from Lyon...