Article publié dans FR2DAY en 2010 (article published in FR2DAY in 2010)
Every year, in early December, millions of people descend on the streets of Lyon in east-central France for the city’s annual light festival, held in honor of the Virgin Mary. The event was initially organized on the 8th of December only but due to its popularity was extended into a four day spectacle of light and sound. In addition to being a time for celebration, the festival also acts as a forum to discuss the issue of light in urban planning and design with other cities in France and elsewhere in the world.
The origins of this visually spectacular festival date back over 150 years to 1852 when a statue of the Virgin Mary was expected to be inaugurated in the hilltop Fourvière basilica. The event had already been postponed several times because of a river flood, and almost did not happen as, on the day of the inauguration, a violent storm broke over the city and another flood was feared. It however quickly passed and come nightfall, the people of Lyon spontaneously lit candles as a sign of appreciation and joy before coming out into the streets to celebrate.
The Festival of Lights was born and the city’s inhabitants have continued the tradition to this day. However, if they still place candles on their windowsills, contemporary light installationsnow also illuminate the city. For fours days, visitors can admire the nearly eighty installations created by the most prestigious designers and conceptual artists from around the world that are scattered throughout Lyon’s streets and squares. The only requirement is that the works must have light and color as sole elements.
The festival is definitively an exceptional opportunity to visit the city, which is just a four to five hour drive away from the Riviera, and discover its main monuments for free and in a new light!