Located in the Saint-Jean quarter of the Vieux Lyon district, the Hôtel Gadagne is host to the Musées Gadagne, which as its name would suggest, actually comprises two exceptional museums: The Museum of Lyon History (la Musée d’Histoire de Lyon) and the World Puppet Museum (la Musée des Marionnettes du monde).
Classified as a historic monument in 1920, the building had been acquired by the city of Lyon between 1902 and 1941. Following a closure in 1998 for major repairs, renovation and expansion, the Hôtel Gadagne in its current form was opened on the 12th June 2009.
The Hôtel Gadagne, was constructed from 1511-1527 by the Pierrevive brothers and in 1545 was significantly redesigned by the Gadagne brothers. The Gadagnes (or Gadagni) were a Florentine family of legendary wealth (indeed “riche comme Gadagne” or “rich as Gadagne”) is still a common Lyonnais expression today) who lived in Lyon at that time. The brothers famously had a story relationship, and as a result, they resided in two different halves of the hotel.
The hotel was divided further into smaller, evenly sized quarters in the 17th century and was partially purchased by the city of Lyon in 1902.
City authorities decided to close the museum on the 19th of January 1998 in order to undertake major expansion (from an area of 3500 m2 to 6300 m2 )and a somewhat controversial renovation. Following ten years of closure and a major project of archaeological excavations, the Musées Gadagne was reopened its doors in 2009.
The Museum of Lyon History
Since 1921, the Hôtel Gadagne has been the home of the Historical Museum of Lyon. It holds the collections that were previously (until 1857) on display in the city’s Hôtel de Ville. Some 80,000 objects throughout 30 rooms spread over four floors can be viewed. The theme of the visit is to trace the cultural history of Lyon from the Middle Ages until the 19th century. Archaeological remains, paintings, sculptures, furniture, and pottery all feature. Numerous maps, drawings and engravings which illustrate the development of the city and the construction of its most notable buildings form part of the exhibits.
Guignol: The World Puppet Museum
Since 1950, the World Puppet Museum which has a particular focus on Lyon’s own Guignol puppet, has also been housed in the Hotel Gadagne. Guignol is the main character in Lyonnais puppet show which came to bear his name. The characters represent the canuts, or silk workers of Lyon. Although often described as children’s entertainment, Guignol’s witticisms and sharp language are equally appreciated by adults.
Guignol’s creator, Laurent Mourguet, Guignol’s creator, was born in 1769 to a family of modest silk weavers. In 1797, he began to practice dentistry, which was a more basic (if not brutal!) profession in those days. His services were in fact free; he made his money from the pain killing medicines sold afterwards. A puppet show in front of his dentist’s chair was set up as a manner in which to attract patients. This ultimately proved more successful for Mourguet than dentistry itself.
Early shows featured Polichinelle, a character that originated in the Italian commedia dell’arte and who, in England, would become known as Punch. In 1804 he gave up dentistry altogether and became a professional puppeteer, other characters such as Gnafron, the wine-loving cobbler, and the protagonist Guignol were soon developed and Guignol’s wife Madelon and the gendarme Flageolet followed later.
A much celebrated Lyon tradition that is still enjoyed by young and old today, the World Puppet Museum celebrates Guignol’s legacy. Following extensive renovation in the 2000s, the museum’s collection can now be viewed throughout nine independent halls on the building’s first floor.
Theatre and Garden
There is a ramp that leads to the door of the first part of the building. Further on, there is a grand courtyard decorated with a sink, a gallery of passages at the bottom allows traffic between the two buildings on each floor. The small theater Gadagne which has a 150-seat capacity is found on the third floor, and access to the garden of the museum (some 700m2) is from the fourth floor.
Address: 1 place du petit Collège, 69005 Lyon
Transport: The museum is 550m from the Vieux Lyon – Cathédrale Saint-Jean metro station (line D). Turn left when leaving the station to walk past the Cathedral and then along rue Saint Jean, through the heart of the Vieux Lyon district.
Opening hours: Wednesday to Sunday from 11:00am to 6:30pm
Closed on the 1st of January, Easter Sunday, 1st May, 14th July and the 25th December.
The same ticket permits entry to both the Museum of Lyon History and the World Puppet Museum
- From 21st June until the 22nd November : Full price €6.00, reduced rate €4.00
- From 23rd November until the 20th June : Full price €8.00, reduced rate €6.00