The site of the church is in charge of religious history and is attached to the memory of the first 48 martyrs of Lyon and Gaules, torture victims into 177, among whom holy Pothin and holy Blandine were. According to contemporary witnesses, their bodies were burned and thrown in the Rhone. Saint Gregoire of Turns (538-594) reports that later (probably at the beginning of the 5th century when the worship of the martyrs starts), as of the Christians were afflicted not to have their relics, those appeared to them and their corpses had been flarings. Having taken these remainders as relics, a basilica of an admirable size was built and one placed them under the furnace bridge.
The construction of this basilica is allotted by the Lyons ecclesiastical tradition to Eucher saint who became bishop in the middle of the 5th century. The new sanctuary was built on the site of a Roman monument, which one still sees the columns in front of the frontage on the plan of XVIeme century: can be a temple of Atis related to the Cybèle worship whose faithful ones would have played a part in persecution antichrétienne of 177. The basilica was initially devoted to the Saint-Apostles, Pierre and Paul. In IXème century, each June 2 (for the solemnity of Pothin saint and its companions martyrs, called “festival of the wonders”), a procession in the boats on the Saone, started in the Island Beard, was completed by a ess in the basilica of the Saint-Apostles, or were venerated the relics of the martyrs. In this basilica, surrounded as of the 5th century by an urban habitat, the bishops of Lyon, were made bury with the length of VIeme century: an inventory of XIIIeme century preserved the text of their epitaphs.
The body of Nizier saint, buried into 573, gave place immediately to many miracles and very quickly a worship of this saint bishop of Lyon it is developed so much so that the church ends up taking its name. Touched not its graces, certain Christians this devotes at that time in the celibacy and voluntary poverty, with the prayer of the divine office day and night. This kind of brotherhood basilicale, which A could comprise monastery, as to saint-Just of Lyon, is placed under the authority of the abbot of Saint Nizier of which most known is holy Austrégisile (or holy Outrille) which, after a score of year, became bishop of Bourges.
In first half of VIIIeme holy century Nizier, like the other Lyons churches is devastated by incursions of Sarassins going up the valley of the Rhone then by the brutal reconquests of Charles Martel. At the beginning of IXeme century it is rebuilt by the Carolingian bishop, Leidrade which installs a chapter of canon. It seems that in XIIeme century it had become an urban parish to which the merchant Pierre Valdo belonged who converts with a life of radical evangelic poverty. Its disciples, the of Vaud ones, shocked by the richness of Saint-Nizier, was proclaimed in the nave of this church.
The archbishop Louis de Villars undertakes the construction of the current church, with the assistance of the middle-class men. He melts in 1306 a collegial chapître, i.e. a college of canons intended to hold the church and to ensure the divine office it.
This blazing monument of Gothic style already announces by place the Rebirth. Construction took place by stages, of the chorus to the frontage, XIVeme century and XVIeme century for the whole of the central nave, of snefs side and their voûtements, as well as side chapels. The Northern bell-tower with its pink brick arrow is high in the middle of XVeme century. It is only the end of XVIeme century which the Benoit architect completes the frontage by the construction of the Gothic pinion above the central gate and the Southern bell-tower in 1856.
In spite of the serious depredations caused by the bands huguenots of the Baron of the Adrets in 1562 and by the Revolution at the end of the XVIIIeme century, the church Saint Nizier still has some elements of interesting furniture. It is initially necessary to announce, on a wall of the crypt, a fragment of the epitaph of Sacerdos saint, bishop of Lyon (549-552), buried in this church like Saint Nizier and other bishops of VIeme century, whose tombs were violated at the time of the Reform. always in the crypt one can admire a first statue of Notre-Dame de Grâce of XVIeme century. The crypt was restored and increased in 1883. Mosaics, drawn by Gaspard Poncet and carried out by the mosaïste Mora, represent in the apse the Mother of God surrounded by saint Jean the Evangelist and Pothin saint, on the walls of the nave the forty eight martyrs of Lyon. In the southern transept of the church, the Brotherhood of Notre-Dame de Grâce, which existed since 1562, made place in 1771 within the framework of a rétable of XVIIIeme very beautiful statue of the Virgin carved by Antoine de Coysevox (1640-1720). In the northern transept, a rétable of XIXeme contains a statue of saint Pothin, first bishop of Lyon, presenting at the veneration faithful image of the Virgin Mary; this statue was carved by Chinard (1756-1813).
Collegial and parish of XIVeme century to the Revolution, Saint Nizier was then, during a few years, the cathedral of the sworn in clergy; it was returned to the catholic worship in 1802. During the XIXeme century, all interior furniture was remakes; the furnace bridge, stalls, the pulpit, of the stained glasses, the organ, the furniture of the side chapels. The parish testified to the vitality of Lyons Catholicism by accomodating great spiritual figures of the time: happy Claudine Thévenet, founder of Congregation of Jesus and of Marie, worthy Pauline-Marie Jaricot, founder of Propagation of Faith (buried beside the furnace bridge of Notre-Dame de Grâce in front of which it was dedicated to God), Frederic Ozanam, founder of the Conference Saint-Vincent of Paul, the Querbes Father, founder of the Clerks of Saint Viateur, the Coindre Father, founder of the Brothers of Crowned Heart…
Since 1973 important work of restoration started. The totality of the building must be restored under the direction of the Historic buildings with a shared financing with share equal with the town of Lyon, owner of the building and the State. Gradually the lighting and the repairing of furniture are carried out so as to create a harmony between the architecture and the elements of furniture necessary to the liturgical worship.
In 1996, the Archbishop of Lyon entrusts the animation of the parish Saint Nizier to the community of Emmanuel.
See also the photographs of Saint-Nizier at the time of the festival of the lights 2006.