Association Culturelle des sanctuaires de Saint-Irénée et Saint-Just
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St Irenaeus-St Just
The Patron Saint
St. Irenaeus (saint Irénée) was the 2nd bishop of Lyon and with St. Pothinus, whom he succeeded after the persecution of 177, one of the founders of the Church of Lyon. 
He was probably born near Smyrna in present-day Turkey between 130 and 140 A.D. As a child he was given religious instruction by Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna and a disciple of John the Apostle. A peacemaker, he was also a great theologian, who fought the sectarian deviations of his time. Two of his works are still extant : the Adversus Haereses and the Demonstration of Apostolic Preaching.  
He was long venerated as a martyr, but we have no historical proof of this martyrdom ; he may have disappeared on the occasion of the reprisals following Albinus’rebellion against Septimus Severus in 197. 
His body lay in the crypt of St. John’s basilica, later named St. Irenaeus’, as early as the beginning of the 6th century. Around the middle of the same century Gregorius Turonensis saw his grave flanked by those of the martyrs Alexander and Epipodius. All three bodies disappeared in 1562 at the time of the Wars of Religion, but their altars are still there. 

History of the site:
St. Irénée’s church and crypt were built in the 5th century on the site of an important Gallo-Roman cemetery where Alexander and Epipodius martyred in 178 had been buried ; their remains lay in the crypt together with those of Irenaeus. The North and South walls of the present church are those of this early church ; in the North wall a 5th-century arch can still be seen. The original crypt, remodelled in Carolingian times, was restored in 1863. The upper church was rebuilt between 1824 and 1830. 

The upper church, rebuilt between 1824 and 1830 in the Neoclassical style, contains a remarkable collection of windows showing the evolution of the stained-glass art in the 19th century (E. Lesourd before 1845 ; Maréchal de Metz 1850 ; J.P. Sarrasin 1879 ; L. Bégule 1883-1901). The statues are by Legendre-Héral (1828) ; E. Millefaut, and P. Vermare (beg. of the 20th century). 

The crypt : its Carolingian architecture was intelligently restored in 1863. A 5th-century sarcophagus as well as fragments of funeral inscriptions (4th-6th cent.) and Carolingian sculpture have been gathered in the passage leading to the crypt. The main altar dates from the Middle Ages (or late Antiquity ?), and the charnel-house from the 17th century. 

The Calvary, erected in 1687, ruined during the Revolution and rebuilt on a larger scale in 1817, was restored in 1868. It used to be the terminal station of a Way of the Cross through the streets of Lyon. It is one of the few calvaries still to be seen in a large town. 
Educational interest of the place
The crypt lends itself to an evocation of the beginnings of Christianity while laying stress on Irenaeus’ message. In the upper church the 8 windows in the nave illustrate the genealogy of the early Church in Lyon with John the Apostle, Polycarp, Pothinus, Irenaeus, Blandina, Biblis, Alexander and Epipodius.  

The four churches succeeding each other in the same place over 16 centuries also testify to the vitality of the Christian faith confronted with the vicissitudes of History. 
Musical interest
The church’s acoustics are remarkable and appreciated by all music-lovers : every year concerts of sacred music and choral singing are organized in it. Choir and orchestra can be easily accommodated in the vast chancel.
The organ built in 1855 has just been restored. It is composed of two manuals of 54 notes, a pedal of 30 notes, and 17 stops.
The Association « Orgues et Musique à Saint-Irénée- Saint-Just » is in charge of all musical events in the parish.
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