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Construction work for the cathedral began in 1872 and it was inaugurated in 1896. However, the interior decoration works were not finished until after the Second World War. As local architect Pierre Bossan (1814-1888) passed away before the end of the construction works, his disciple, Louis Sainte-Marie-Perrin (1835-1917) supervised the end of the works.
This mysterious building is devoted to the Virgin Mary and the interior is richly decorated, in particular a series of mosaics that retrace her history in France and Christianity. The style of the crypt, which is devoted to Saint Joseph, is more sober than the church above. It is home to a statue of "Saint Joseph and Child" by sculptor Joseph-Hugues Fabisch and stained-glass windows by Lucien Bégule that feature symbols of the Holy Communion.
The basilica measures 86 metres in length and 35 metres in width. At the summit of its towers, it measures 48 metres in height. Its organ was built in 1896 by Michel Merklin and was restored in 1996.
A 3.05-metre bronze statue sculpted by Elisabeth Cibot represents Jean-Paul II blessing the town of Lyon during his visit in October of 1986. It was erected on the square in front of the basilica on the 4th of October, 2011.