From devotion to Our Lady to the magic of technology, the festival of lights in Lyon

Patron of the city since 1643, when the inhabitants made a promise to ward off an epidemic of plague, the Virgin Mary was honored in Lyon with a solemn event.

festival of lights in Lyon

Every September 8th, a popular procession leaves from the Cathedral Saint Jean to the religious buildings on the hill, on the eve of the inauguration of a new statue of the “Golden Virgin of Fourvière” , a strong flooding of the River Saone forced the Archbishop of Lyon (and Cardinal Primate of Gaul) to postpone the event to December 8th, the day of the Immaculate Conception .

Following the proclamation of the Second French Empire, the party became an even more exceptional event. The Church and the authorities in Lyon wanted to increase popular participation by asking all Lyonnais people to light their homes with candles and tapers. Thousands of “lumignons” were placed in the windows of homes and public buildings, in the streets and on the piers of the two rivers that surround the city. The Feast of Lights had been born.

This event of faith, Catholic and popular, took a new impulse from 1989 when the new mayor decided to reinforce it with an profane artistic party, handing over the city’s buildings to artists and lighting technicians for four days. Today the Festival of Lights, “Fêtes des Lumières” , has become a world reference, a great spectacle seen by millions of tourists coming to admire the achievements of artists who compete in beauty and creativity in the city’s lighting. This year several works of art will catch the attention of visitors. Saint Jean Cathedral will be transformed with a multicolored play of lights by Yves Moreaux. In the famous Place des Terreaux, the façade of the Saint-Pierre Palace, home of the Museum of Fine Arts, will become a giant exhibition of works of art animated by the dancers of the Paris Opera, the creation of Gilbert Coudène.

The Feast of Lights in France

In Jacobins square, the fountain monument will be transformed into a giant lamp, designed by the artist Christophe Mayer, while the trees in Sathonay square, thanks to the magic of white lights by Antoine Le Gougouectao, will have the appearance of a group of dancers.

In these four days, every nook and cranny of Lyon, the French bourgeois capital of gastronomy, will be invaded by the creative frenzy of these artists of light. The virtual works are shown at the Saint-Paul Station, the Teatro des Célestins, the Galias amphitheater, the Rhone quays or Bellecour square, where a tribute to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is also paid. New technologies have pushed innovations in colors, images and costumes to infinity.