A battle for Bacchus

Sarcophagus of Bacchus, detail
Sarcophagus of Bacchus, detail Sarcophagus of Bacchus, detail © Lugdunum

Careful: you never know what you might discover. André Verméglio

Lyon, early nineteenth century The Saint-Irénée church has been in ruins for a long time. A large marble relic that seems to be very old is discovered while preparing for restoration by digging near the parvis. The parishioners quickly have it buried again. What's the problem?

A careful examination has revealed that this element in marble is part of a Roman sarcophagus. It seems to be decorated with delicate sculptures.

The parishioners are most certainly aware of this, and this is precisely why they want it buried again. They are afraid that the curator of the Lyon Museum of Fine Arts will take it! They prefer to keep people from enjoying this marvel rather than to see it become part of the museum's collections.

Twenty years later, another series of interventions provides an opportunity to unearth the sarcophagus. This time everyone agrees. When the earth is removed, an artistic masterpiece is revealed! Sculpted with great precision, it represents the scene of the triumph of Bacchus. Mingling with a series of mythological figures, we find exotic animals like elephants, panthers and even camels.

The little war between Saint-Irénée and the curators fortunately didn't last too long! Fortunately, too, for those who visit the Roman Museum of Lyon, where it was transferred in the nineteen-eighties. Their admiration is endless for this masterpiece of Antiquity: The sarcophagus of the Triumph of Bacchus.

By Artips