The French city of Lyon is literally lit up every December for the Festival of Light. The entire city becomes a kaleidoscope of colourful light displays. Almost every street or open space appears to have it’s own illuminated show almost vying for the most vibrant display of hues.
The tradition stretches back to 1643 when residents would light candles on December 8th and leave them in the windows of their homes. This date commemorates the installation of the statue of the Virgin Mary erected in 1852 next to the Basilica.
The Festival in its present 4 day form has been gathering in extent and popularity for around 20 years with approximately 80 different impressive, hi-tech lighting displays throughout the city. The original candle lighting tradition is still maintained on the 8th by many of the city residents.
Streets are draped in colourful illuminated decorations, there are some elaborate and imaginative designs or simple romantic hearts strung out overhead. Backlit flags flutter in the breeze on bridges such as Pont LaFayette over the Rhône . Statues throughout the city become fluorescent islands of colour, checkpoints on a trail of luminescence.
The most striking display appears on the façade of the Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Lyon) which has a choreographed lighting display lasting several minutes. A huge crowd watches in the square, enthralled as an imaginative and impressive display unfolds before them.
The façade changes appearance and colour countless times , in a dramatic display which includes a leaping lion and industrious angels. It becomes a mesmerising chameleon, constantly changing it’s appearance as large crowds stand transfixed, unable to move until the the entire show is finished.
It is a surprisingly long display taking at least 10 minutes. There is then a pause to allow the crowd to drift away and be replaced by another eager group braving the winter chill.
There is a difficult choice to make; between purchasing a warming and spiced vin chaud (warm wine) or taking some pictures. Fortunately by choosing the latter I have some images to accompany this post.
The group returns to Lyon after a day away. It will be the final day of the festival and hopefully will provide some additional pictures and further details about it’s history.