An important borough during Gallo-Roman times
Located at the crossroad between Lyon and Geneva, Belley benefited from a strategical position throughout history.
Excavations carried out in 2008 uncovered a vast thermal complex built in the 2nd century and in operation until the 4th century.
This Roman origin can be found in the city’s emblem, the she-wolf. Belley’s etymology thus refers to Bellona, the Roman goddess of war, represented by this animal.
A representation of this she-wolf (passant, not rampant, unlike the one represented on the coat of arms) is displayed in the Grande Rue, a replica of the original sculpture by the artist Colette Sonzogni.
The influence of the Holy Roman Empire and the House of Savoy in the Middle Ages
During the first centuries of the Middle Ages, Bugey was part of several different kingdoms depanding on conquests or divisions.
In 1077, the Bugey was ceded by the Holy Roman Empire to the House of Savoy.
Bishops also played a major political role as they were lords of the city since Anthelme de Chignin, Bishop of Belley between 1163 and 1178, lord and patron saint of the city.
The ramparts were built in the 14th century, after the fire of 1385 that almost ravaged the entire city.
There is almost nothing left today, except a section of the wall on Boulevard du Mail (towards the parking lot of the pharmacy).
Gravure de Chastillon – Belley
1601 : the Treaty of Lyon reattached Bugey to France
Bugey was first annexed by France between 1536 and 1559.
It was Henry IV of France, by the Treaty of Lyon signed on 17 January 1601, who definitively integrated it into the Kingdom of France.
The city was therefore under the intendancy of the Province of Burgundy.
Belley then became, after Rossillon, the seat of the royal bailiwick.
To be seen: the inner courtyard of the Tourist Information Office, the former seat of the bailiwick, with its tower and arcaded galleries.
In the 17th century, several convents settled in Belley. And during the following century, the city acquired a new episcopal palace as well as a school and a hôtel-Dieu (English: hostel of God, a hospital for the poor and needy, run by the Catholic Church in French speaking countries).
Belley since the French Revolution
After the upheavals of the Revolution, Belley became a subprefecture under the Empire.
It was in 1823 that the city regained its episcopal seat.
A religious, middle class and commercial city, Belley is also a garrison town.
In 1874, the 133rd Infantry Regiment settled here and had a lasting impact on the local life.
A Thematic path of the poilu (French World War I soldier) is located in the Rothonne forest.
In 1948, the 1st colonial artillery regiment was replaced by a mobile gendarmerie squadron.
Belley has had a large industrial basin since the second half of the 20th century. Historically, companies have been established there, such as Le Tanneur (Hermès), Volvo, Comatel, Ugivis, Delachaux, Guilloteau etc.
Some of the city’s most emblematic monuments:
Guided tours of Belley are organised by the Tourist Information Centre, on scheduled dates in summer for individuals and all year round on request for groups of 10 or more people.
Bookings and information : online, by email at email@example.com or by phone: 04 79 81 29 06.
A historical route has been set up by the Société Savante du Bugey and the City of Belley, including 42 explanatory plaques on various buildings.
The city centre tour can be discovered in 1h30 to 2h and starts from the Tourist information office, at n°34 of the Grande Rue.
Download the booklet
Saint Jean-Baptiste cathedral:
Classified as a historical monument, the Neo-Gothic Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist of Belley was rebuilt in the 19th century, on the site of the 12th century cathedral, following the damage suffered over the centuries and the earthquake of 1822.
All that remains of the old building are the arches and sculptures of the north portal and the 15th century apse.
Discover the shrine offered by the Carthusian monks, which once contained the relics of Saint-Antelme.
The Episcopal Palace and Jean-Pierre Camus Park:
Classified as a historical monument since 1932, the former 18th century bishopric was bought by the City in 1978 and now houses the library.
Jean-Pierre Camus Park was completely renovated in 2010 by the City of Belley to be a relaxing place. It includes a sculpture by Charles Machet, « La paix qui s’éveille » (peace waking up).
The interior courtyards of Belley’s Grande Rue:
Numerous 15th century interior courtyards are located in Belley’s Grande Rue.
At No. 11, the courtyard of the Governor’s House is typical of Renaissance architecture.
House No. 62 is the the birthplace courtyard of Jean-Antelme Brillat-Savarin, a famous gastronome and author of the culinary science essay « La Physiologie du goût » (The physiology of taste).
Place des Terreaux:
In the past, the square, located outside the ramparts, was used as a backfill area.
The current stone halls date from the 19th century and have replaced the previous wooden halls built in the 12th century to house the markets.
La Vieille Porte (The Old Gate):
Despite a popular belief, the Old Gate of Belley is not a remnant of the 14th century ramparts. It was used as a covered passageway for the Visitation Sisters to get from their convent to their garden.
The female religious order of the Visitation was founded in 1610 in Annecy. It was in 1622 that the convent of the Visitation was created in Belley, on the site of a fortified gate.
To the west, it had a garden and to the east, the Visitation Sisters Fence, accessible via the Old Gate built in 1696 above the ditches.
Declared a national property during the Revolution, this convent was used as a subprefecture between 1842 and 1909, then as an elementary school and gendarmerie barracks. The school of the old doorway was demolished in 2016 to make way for another project, involving the construction of 70 housing units, commercial areas, an underground car park with 200 spaces and a multidisciplinary health centre.
House of the General Dallemagne:
This residence, located in the park behind the town hall, was built in the 18th century. Originally intended to house a cotton canvas factory, it was later transformed into a residential house and bought in 1799 by General Dallemagne, Baron of the Empire.
The building was purchased in 1997 by the City of Belley. It currently hosts the conservatory.
The Lamartine institution:
The school was built in the 18th century for boys secondary education and was run by various religious congregations.
The college has illustrious figures among its former students, such as Jean-Antelme Brillat-Savarin (author, lawyer and gastronome) or Alphonse de Lamartine (poet, writer and politician) who studied there between 1803 and 1808 and whose statue stands near the school entrance.
A 18th century chapel is located within the school.
– Guided tours: Tourist Information Centre Bugey Sud Grand Colombier – firstname.lastname@example.org – Phone: +334 79 81 29 06
– City of Belley: culture unit: email@example.com – Phone: +334 79 42 23 35. www.belley.fr
– Association ABIS (Association for the preservation of ancient and modern collections): n°37 rue Sainte-Marie in Belley (Maison Saint-Anthelme) open on Fridays, from 2 to 4 PM and upon request. firstname.lastname@example.org – http://abisbelley.blogspot.com/
– Société savante Le Bugey (scholar society) : on second and fourth Tuesdays of the month in the episcopal palace of Belley from 4 to 6 PM. Phone: +334 78 81 80 16 – email@example.com://lebugey.org/notre-societe
To visit in Belley: la Distillerie Kario (distillery)