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The illuminations of December 8 at Lyon,
or the "celebrates of lights"


Each year, December 8 at the evening, Lyon is light up and become the "City of Light". It is one feast day for all the Lyoneses: they illuminate their windows, balconies and terraces; the tradesmen compete of imagination to decorate their windows; the districts put in scene multiple street spectacles; and the town of Lyon offers as best spectacle a large sound and light show on one of its rivers.

This tradition was born from one century and half. December 8, 1852, is the inauguration day of the statue of the Virgin Mary, set up on the hill of Fourvière. One important moment for all believing of the city, because this event had been deferred due to a rising of the Saône. It should have been held on September 8, feast day of the Virgin Nativity, and birthday date of the vow of the aldermen of 1643. However in this evening of December 8, 1852, whereas the Festival prepares and that the notable Lyons Catholics propose to illuminate the enontages of their houses like this is traditionally done for this great events, a storm falls down on Lyon and threat once more the ceremony. But fortunately the weather becomes again lenient. Then the population which had so much awaited this demonstration illuminates spontaneously its windows and goes down in the streets.

It will preserve this habit until our days. See also the history has the end of this page.


Sight of the city from the Rhone...

The opera on the left, the town hall on the bottom.

Arrival on the street Edouard Herriot, after walking in enont of the town hall.

Sound and light show in of the "Place des terreaux"...

The street Edouart Herriot.

The Church St-Nizier.

Still on the street Edouart Herriot, a little further...

The centre town.

The statue of Louis XIV on the Bellecour place, with some projectors...

The cathedral St Jean, in enont of the Saône...

Law courts of Lyon.

Perhaps the street of Brest...

The Palate of the Stock Exchange.


from 1564 to 1643, the city is devastated ten times by the plague.

March 12, 1643, the mayor and the Aldermen put the Lyons city under the protection of the Virgin Mary so that she save the interests of the city, in particular that she defends the inhabitants against the plague: they promise to carry out, December 8 of each year, a pilgrimage at Fourvière and offer the quantity of 7 pound of white wax in candles and torches for the divine service... and an ECU of gold to the sun. And this to prepared the virgin Mary to receive the city under its protection. Since then, the plague never reappeared: one speaks about "the miraculous virgin of Fourvière", and much families place her effigy on the enontage or at the angle of their house.

Between 1832 and 1835, whereas the cholera devastates enance, the municipal officials renew the public vow to the virgin, and Lyon is saved.

In 1851, one decides the construction of a new steeple, on three floors, surmounted of a new statue of the virgin Mary in gilded bronze. The inauguration is scheduled for September 8 of the following year, celebrates birth of Marie. But a rising of the Saône invades the workshops, where the metal of the statue is melt, and makes defer the ceremony to December 8, that become the celebrating of Immaculate Conception of Marie, according to the definition which will be given by it in 1854.

December 8, 1852, after the blessing of the statue by the Cardinal Of Bonald, a violent rain obliges to give the illumination of the church and the procession the next Sunday. But, at the falling night, the storm calms down. The people of Lyon spontaneously decide to celebrate the event. A multitude of candles and torches appear on the windows and the inhabitants go down in the streets, a lampion in the hand. The city is transformed soon into an immense scintillating tablecloth and, the top of her steeple, the gilded Virgin is adorn with a majestic clearness. Symbolising the triumph of the light on the darkness, as well as wanted its author, F FABISCH, professor from the Art schools in Lyon, the Virgin projects on the city, by reverberation, the rays of the raising sun. Since then, the habit of the illuminations was established in Lyon and in the neighbouring area. The inhabitants continue to go down in the streets to admire the enchantment of the light and to be delighted together.

In 1870, the archbishop of Lyon makes the vow to build, beside the old church of Fourvière, a large basilica to contain the many pilgrims, if the Virgin Mary preserves the city against the Prussian invasion: however, in spite of the order that they had received to go on the city, the invaders stop their offensive close to the city of Dijon.

In 1872, December 7, the first stone of the basilica is posed; the building will not be devoted 24 years later, in 1893. The illuminations from December 8 in Lyon, effects of this antique collective memory, renew each year this environment of profane and religious festival, the light against the night, the hope against the moroseness, that will reinforce the end of year holidays, with gift and eniendship.

Plan of town center...


Photo of the 8 December at Lyon - photo illumination December 8 to Lyon.  - photo illumination at Lyon - photo palaces of the stock market to Lyon - photo palaces of justice à Lyon - photo King Louis 14 to Lyon – rue Edouard Herriot at Lyon – Town hall of Lyon - photo of the rue de Brest at Lyon - Photo of the place des Terreaux at Lyon - Photo of the church Saint-Nizier at Lyon - Photo of the place Bellecour at Lyon - Photo of the Cathedral Saint-Jean at Lyon - Photo of the centre of Lyon - Show sound and light at Lyon

To create it: June 01, 2004.
Last modification it: April 01, 2006.

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