The Festival of Lights is the major annual event in the city of Lyon, and every year, tourists and Lyon residents alike look forward to it. The event attracts several million visitors to Lyon’s illuminated streets. In 2008, projection equipment was set up in 70 different locations, using all sorts of new technology and new processes to give the city’s historic buildings, streets and even hills a new dimension. It is a moment of pure joy for young and old, and an unparalleled spectacle on a citywide scale.
December 8th Tradition
In 1852, the old square bell-tower of the then-demolished Chapel of Fourvière was rebuilt and a decision was taken to crown it with a statue of the Virgin Mary. The job of making the statue was entrusted to the sculptor FABISCH, director of the Fine Arts School. The date for its inauguration had been set for September 8th, the Feast of the Nativity, but the masterpiece was not finished in time…
So, the Cardinal de Bonald decided to postpone the ceremony until December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (the dogma of which was to be announced two years later). In the morning, to the sound of bells and salvoes of artillery fire, the bell-tower and the statue received their solemn blessing from the hands of the Archbishop of Lyon and the programme of festivities was for the town to be lit up during the evening. But it rained heavily on the city all day long and the religious authorities thought it wiser to cancel the evening’s celebrations. However, the sky cleared at the beginning of the evening and, for the very first time, the people of Lyon spontaneously made the same gesture that they still make over a century later on every December 8th: they lined up thousands of small candles on their windowsills and balconies. At Fourvière, the expression of so much enthusiasm swept away any remaining hesitation and soon afterwards, the bell-tower and the Virgin Mary shined out in the night sky.
Since that time, the inhabitants of Lyon have spontaneously continued to light up their candles and put them on their windowsills at nightfall every December 8th.
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