Vienne is a commune in south-eastern France, located south of Lyon, on the river Rhône. It is the second largest city after Grenoble in the Isère department, of which it is a subprefecture. The city's population was of 29,400 as of the 2001 census.
Before the arrival of the Roman armies, Vienne was the capital city of the Allobroges, a Gallic people. Transformed into a Roman colony in 47 BCE under Julius Caesar, Vienne became a major urban center, ideally located along the Rhône river, then a major axis of communication. The town later became a Roman provincial capital. Numerous remains of Roman constructions are still visible in modern Vienne. The town was also an important early bishopric in Christian Gaul. Its most famous bishop was Avitus of Vienne. At the Council of Vienne, convened there in October 1311, Pope Clement V abolished the order of the Knights Templar. During the Middle Ages, Vienne was part of the kingdom of Provence, dependent on the Holy Roman Empire, while the opposite bank of the Rhône was French territory, thus making it a strategic position.
Today, the town is a regional commercial and industrial center specializing in the food industry. Tourism is also a major part of the town's economy. Indeed, there are many important historical monuments that draw the crowds, but the annual Jazz à Vienne festival in July also makes it a popular tourist destination.
The oppidum of the Allobroges became a Roman colony about 47 BCE under Julius Caesar, but the Allobroges managed to expel them; the exiles then founded the colony of Lugdunum (today's Lyon). Herod Archelaus was exiled here in 6 CE. During the early Empire, Vienna (as the Romans called it—not to be confused with today's Vienna) regained all its former privileges as a Roman colony. In 257 Postumus was proclaimed emperor here of a short-lived Gallo-Roman empire with its capital at Trier. Later it became a provincial capital of the Dioecesis Viennensis.
On the bank of the Gère are traces of the ramparts of the old Roman city, and on Mont Pipet (east of the town) are the remains of a Roman theatre, while the ruined thirteenth-century castle there was built on Roman footings. Several ancient aqueducts and traces of Roman roads can still be seen.
There are two important Roman monuments still standing at Vienne. One is the Early Imperial temple of Augustus and Livia, a rectangular peripteral building of the Corinthian order, erected by the emperor Claudius, which owes its survival, like the Maison Carrée at Nîmes, to being converted to a church soon after the Theodosian decrees and later rededicated as "Notre Dame de Vie." (During the Revolutionary Reign of Terror it was used for the local Festival of Reason.) The Roman monument is the Plan de l'Aiguille, a truncated pyramid resting on a portico with four arches, from the Roman circus. Many popular theories have been advanced as to the original intent of this structure; there is even a legend of Pontius Pilate making it his tomb.
The provincial capital was an important early seat of a bishop and the legendary first bishop said to have been Crescens, a disciple of Paul. There were Christians here in 177 when the churches of Vienne and Lyon addressed a letter to those of Asia and Phrygia and mention is made of the deacon of Vienne (Eusebius of Caesarea, Church History). The first historical bishop was Verus, who was present at the Council of Arles in 314. About 450 of Vienne's bishops became archbishops (dissolved in 1790) and its archbishops disputed with those of Lyon the title of "Primate of All the Gauls".
Vienne was a target during the Migrations Period: it was taken by the Burgundians in 438, re-taken by the Romans and held for 35 years, by the Franks in 534, sacked by the Lombards in 558, and by the Moors in 737.
Capital of ancient Burgundy
In the Kingdom of Provence
King Charles II the Bald assigned the district in 869 to Comte Boso of Provence, who in 879 proclaimed himself king of Provence and on his death in 887 was buried in the cathedral church of St Maurice. Vienne then continued to form part of the kingdom of Provence and then of Arles until in 1032, when it reverted to the Holy Roman Empire, but the real rulers were the archbishops of Vienne. Their rights were repeatedly recognized, but they had serious local rivals in the counts of Albon, and later Dauphins of the neighboring countship of the Viennois. In 1349, the reigning Dauphin sold his rights to the Dauphiné of France, but the archbishop stood firm and Vienne was not included in this sale. The archbishops finally surrendered their territorial powers to France in 1449. Gui de Bourgogne, who was archbishop 1090–1119, was pope from 1119 to 1124 as Callixtus II.