“A visionary statesman” who changed his life. On Wednesday November 29, Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to Gérard Collomb, the former mayor of Lyon who played a crucial role in his conquest of the Elysée, during his funeral at Saint-Jean Cathedral. Mr. Collomb died on Saturday at the age of 76.

In the heart of the historic district of Vieux-Lyon, several hundred residents, mostly elderly, elected officials from all sides, personalities, representatives of the economic and sporting world bid farewell to the man who has long embodied the capital of Gaules before being appointed Minister of the Interior in the first Macron government.

The coffin, covered with the French flag, was solemnly carried around 11 a.m. into the primatial, where two-thirds of the 1,400 places had been reserved for Lyonnais, a request made by Gérard Collomb himself before his death.

“Mayor builder, you have taken Lyon from the status of sleeping beauty to sublime awakening”, greeted the Head of State in the company of his wife, Brigitte Macron, before welcoming the brief passage within this support of the first hour, his analytical mind and his “frankness”. “You have also changed the lives of the French” and “you have, dear Gérard, changed my life”, he added, stressing that he had been among the first “to believe in the emergence of a central block” and to join the movement En marche! for a “fantasy epic.”

At the foot of the square, a small crowd followed the ceremony live on a giant screen. “He talked a lot with people, he wasn’t someone who ran away,” remembers a 63-year-old retiree from national education, moved to tears, recalling this “humane, for working-class neighborhoods” mayor. .

A “straight talker”

Born on June 20, 1947 in Chalon-sur-Saône (Saône-et-Loire) to a metalworker father and a housekeeper mother, this socialist activist was mayor of Lyon from 2001 to 2017, then from 2018 to 2020, after a brief stint at Place Beauvau in the government of Edouard Philippe. “I admired, even if I happened to pay the price for it, his ability to methodically and relentlessly re-examine everything that seemed to him to deserve a more in-depth examination,” underlined the former prime minister, during the ceremony, praising his “authentic sincerity” and “outspokenness.”

On the benches of the cathedral, politicians from all sides: the former socialist president François Hollande, the prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, and several ministers including Bruno Le Maire and Gérald Darmanin, the president of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region , Laurent Wauquiez (LR), or the environmentalist mayor of Lyon, Grégory Doucet. The former boss of Olympique Lyonnais Jean-Michel Aulas, the comedian Laurent Gerra, the basketball player Tony Parker also attended the celebration chaired by the Archbishop of Lyon, Olivier de Germay.

In a very literary tribute to this former professor of classics, academician Marc Lambron described Gérard Collomb as “the soul of this city, because he had become a city man in his image”. “He could be conversational or trenchant, friendly or consular, practicing politics as an imperious tactician, sentimental and sometimes betrayal,” he said. He was also a “man of pact and flavor”, a “builder” who had “the intrepidity of a modern and the wisdom of a city councilor of yesteryear”. Gérard Collomb will be buried in the Loyasse cemetery, near his predecessor at the Town Hall Edouard Herriot, to whom he had deep admiration.

A resounding resignation from the government in October 2018

Monday and Tuesday, the Lyonnais paraded in front of his coffin displayed at the Town Hall, where the flags had been lowered to half-mast. Elected at the head of Lyon in 2001 with the support of Raymond Barre, after two unsuccessful attempts, he left his office at town hall in 2017 to join Place Beauvau where he notably passed a contested law on security and one on immigration.

Then he left the government with a bang in October 2018, after pointing out the lack of humility of the executive. “Hubris is the curse of the gods. When at some point you become too confident,” he said.

Deprived of the investiture of La République en Marche, he failed to reconquer the metropolis in 2020, beaten by the Greens, despite joining the Republican camp. He had disappeared from the local political scene since he himself announced his cancer on social networks on September 16, 2022.