Le Figaro Lyon
You have changed my life." With a lump in his throat, Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to Gérard Collomb on Wednesday. The man who died on Saturday at the age of 76 and was considered "the first of the marchers" and was buried in his final resting place, a French flag covering his coffin.
In front of the Saint-Jean cathedral where hundreds of Lyonnais came to pay their last respects to their former mayor, the first "grognards" of Macronia - Richard Ferrand, Christophe Castaner, François Bayrou, Gerald Darmanin, Bruno Le Maire and Alexis Kohler - said goodbye to the man "who accompanied the fantastic epic of 2016 and 2017". "I know, Gerard, what I owe you. Not for a single moment do I forget that without having crossed paths with you on my way, without your fortitude, your taste for dialogue and your sense of friendship, I would not be where I am," the Head of State said.
Read alsoLyon mourns Gérard Collomb, "a great mayor"
A "builder" mayor
It was an opportunity for him to talk about this meeting in June 2016 in the halls of the Lyon City Hall with the local economic world. It was one of the first stones of a movement that would become En Marche!. A reception, which for a time led us to think (at a time when his presidential ambition seemed improbable although not very disguised) that the man who was still François Hollande's finance minister could perhaps succeed Gérard Collomb as mayor of Lyon. "As a builder mayor, you have transformed Lyon from the status of a sleeping beauty to a sublime awakened city," Macron said.
On the pews of the cathedral, elected officials of all stripes gathered for this last tribute. Former Socialist President François Hollande, Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne, President of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region Laurent Wauquiez (LR), Mayor of Lyon Grégory Doucet (EELV), Mayor of Nice Christian Estrosi. But also the former president of Olympique Lyonnais Jean-Michel Aulas, the comedian Laurent Gerra and the basketball player Tony Parker.
Édouard Philippe's "two Collombs"
Édouard Philippe, whose minister he was, spoke of "two Gérard Collombs": "It is rare that you meet someone twice for the first time." First of all, the Minister of the Interior, with his "relentless sense of work and immense awareness of his responsibilities". A minister "who contrasted with those who were younger (...) so much did he have something of the great figures who marked the Third Republic. A sedimentation of human and political experiences, a literary culture that refers to the most fertile roots of our nation, and an unparalleled power of embodiment."
Quoting one of Jean Jaurès' last speeches – "Every people appears through the streets of Europe with its little torch in its hand. And now here is the fire" - pronounced in Vaise (Lyon 9th), the land of Collomb's first electoral successes in Lyon, the mayor of Le Havre described a "Gérard Collomb who all his life fought to extinguish fires that he knew how much risk we run by letting them flare up to the point of forming fires that we will not be able to extinguish". A reference to the sentence uttered by the former minister when he left the Interior in October 2018: "Today we live side by side... I'm afraid that tomorrow we'll be living face to face."
A resignation that did not keep them away for long despite the coolness of the handover ceremony organized on the steps of Place Beauvau. "That's where I really met Gérard Collomb." Since then, the two men have seen and called each other often. "An epoch after battle, conquest, responsibilities and honours, when he was more alone and less influential, he could reflect even more freely on what he had done and what should still be done." Passing through Lyon less than a month ago, Édouard Philippe had once again wanted to visit the former mayor before giving up, the latter being too weak to receive him.
Read also"He was smiling, talking, stopping": Gérard Collomb, a politician close to his neighborhood in Lyon
"You have turned Lyon into a Florence"
Many Lyonnais gathered in front of Saint-Jean Cathedral to pay their last respects to their former mayor. JB/Le Figaro
The Lyon academician Marc Lambron, a graduate of the Ecole Normale Supérieure and Saint-Simonian like Gérard Collomb, paid a literary tribute to the former mayor "in circumstances that are both irremediable and saddening, in which he leaves a city that will not leave him". Describing him as "a smiling demiurge with a slightly titillous accent who transformed his vision into beauty" and made Lyon, "the city of [his] childhood that resembled Prague, a Florence".
At the end of the religious ceremony, his coffin was presented, to loud applause, to the crowd of Lyonnais gathered under an autumn sun on the square in front of the cathedral. Gérard Collomb will be buried in the Loyasse cemetery, not far from another illustrious mayor of Lyon, Édouard Herriot, whose bust he has always kept near his desk.