Fête des Lumières 2016

By Google Arts & Culture

La Fête des Lumières, Lyon, 2016

Fête des lumières since 1643

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. 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. 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 here this year 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, the most 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, the cathedral was built between 1150 and 1450. Each year it is a key feature of the Fête des Lumières due to the light installations which recount the story of its construction or display medieval themes.

The Cathedral's Façade

The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is multi-faceted and in a way alive: each new period of history has brought with it some modifications, as well as a new way of looking at and understanding it. During the festival, the stonework turns into pixels, and construction begins once again using new materials.


Creators Yann Nguema and EZ3kiel’s idea was to leave behind the cathedral built 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, all 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. This year the courtyard was home to an installation called ‘Platonium’, which brought a touch of modernity to a backdrop of classic architecture.


This light display was created by the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and represented the environmental challenges of space and time, from the infinitely small to the infinitely large, the material to the immaterial, and research to instinct, in 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

A very elegant square surrounded by important buildings featuring a fountain in the centre created by Bartholdi (the French sculptor who also designed the Statue of Liberty) along with some small square-shaped modern fountains. 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

The façade of this building runs along the long side of the square, accommodating monumental installations every year. This year a display called ‘Sens dessus-dessous’ or ‘Upside Down’ transported the public 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 through climate change combined light and projection with 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 2016 festival and was sponsored by EDF, the French electricity company.

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

This year a gigantic red heart installation was displayed in front of the theatre’s main façade in the middle of Place des Célestins, which lent its name to the light show titled ‘Coups de Cœur’, or ‘Heart-throbs’. For three evenings it allowed the city and its lovers their very own love heart.

The Concept

But this installation was not just for decoration: each couple was invited to lay their hands on a console which captured their heartbeats and, just as a jukebox would, played a love song which resounded in the heart of every member of the public. It was both interactive and romantic!

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