Festival of Lights 2016, Lyon

Every year on the 8th December, the city of Lyon is bathed in light. All the monuments and iconic areas of the city are taken over by light shows. The Fête des Lumières, or festival of lights, began in 1643 when a plague spread through the south of France.

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Lyon’s municipal councillors and public figures promised to pay homage to the Virgin Mary should the city be spared from the plague, which it was. On the 8th December 1852 they unveiled a statue in her honour. 

Festival of Lights 2016, Lyon

Every year since then the people of Lyon have placed ‘lumignons’ (candles in glass holders) on their window sills.

Place Bellecour

Place Bellecour is situated in the centre of Lyon. It was once called the ‘Belle Cour’, or beautiful courtyard, of the Archbishop, and was his private garden. 

The show in 2016 was called ‘Un Songe Forain’, or ‘A Fairground Fantasy’, and was inspired by a range of fairground traditions, from the oldest to the most modern. 

One of the main light shows in Place Bellecour was to be seen on the Ferris wheel, a symbolic representation of the fairground theme. 

The Ferris Wheel

Images of the fairground world were projected onto a tarpaulin stretched across the middle of the wheel: carousels, sweet stalls, knife throwers, escape artists, and many more made up the tribute to this topsy-turvy world. 

The Creators

The colourful representation of such a merry and cheerful world brought back many memories of childhood. The project was created by Nathanaelle Picot and sponsored by several businesses, including MiniWorld Lyon, the miniature park in Lyon. 

The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist

One of the old town's iconic buildings, it was built between 1150 and 1450. Each year a key feature of the Festival of Lights is the installation that recounts the story of the cathedral’s construction or display medieval themes relating to the time the cathedral was built.

The Cathedral is multi-faceted: each new period of history has brought with it modifications to the structure. During the festival, the stonework turns into pixels, and construction begins again using light, creating a new way of seeing the building. 


Creators Yann Nguema and EZ3kiel’s idea was to abandon a building of stone, and resurrect it in paper, silk, steel, light and energy...several extremely poetic ‘evolutions’ were achieved by using a combination of projections, lights, and lasers, accompanied by music. 

The Inner Courtyard of the Hôtel de Ville

The Hôtel de Ville was built during the 17th century. Different parts of the building are arranged around an inner courtyard open to the public on certain occasions, including the Fête des Lumières. In 2016 the courtyard was home to an installation called ‘Platonium’, which brought a touch of modernity to a backdrop of classic architecture.


Created by the French National Centre for Scientific Research this represents environmental challenges of space and time. From the infinitely small to the infinitely large, the material to the immaterial, and research to instinct. It’s a combination of art and science.


Eric Michel and Akari-Lisa Ishii created a monumental chandelier using strips of luminous material. Light was reflected using a mirror on the ground, adding a further dimension to the piece. 

Place des Terreaux

An elegant square surrounded by important buildings featuring a fountain in the centre created by Bartholdi; the French sculptor who designed the Statue of Liberty. It is located between the Rhône and Saône rivers. 

A light display is located here every year during the Fête des Lumières, and it is very often the public’s favourite or the winner of the Lumières Prize, which is awarded each year to the most beautiful installation featured in that year’s festival. 

The Palais St Pierre

This building runs along the long side of the square, accommodating monumental installations every year. This display called ‘Upside Down’ took us to the fantastical world of Jules Verne, from the centre of the earth all the way to the North Pole! 

The Façade of the Hôtel de Ville

This imaginary journey of climate change tells the story of a mad scientist in charge of the climate and the oceans who chases after the owl who broke his machine. This was one of the main installations in the festival. 

The Théâtre des Célestins

This square takes its name from the Celestine order which had a convent here for over 400 years following the Templars (a religious military order) who were the original owners of the site. 

This space has been renovated many times over, and is currently home to an area containing both shops and housing, as well as the theatre it shares its name with, which opened its doors in 1792. 

The Heart

A gigantic red heart installation was displayed in front of the theatre’s main façade in the middle of Place des Célestins, The light show was titled ‘Heart-throbs’. For three evenings the city and its lovers had their own love heart. 

The Concept

This installation was not just for decoration: couples were invited to lay their hands on a console which captured their heartbeats and, like jukebox, played a love song which resounded in the heart of passers-by. It was both interactive and romantic! 

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