The Festival of Lights is a Lyonnaise tradition which includes activities based on light and usually lasts four days, from the 6th Dec to the 9th. The peak of activity occurs on the 8th. The festival opens with a beautiful firework display over the river and the two main focal points of activity are typically the Basilica of Fourvière which is lit up in different colours, and the Place des Terreaux, which hosts a different light show each year
FROM AN AGE-OLD TRADITION TO A UNIQUE URBAN EVENT
On the 8 September 1852, as the city was preparing to celebrate the installation of a statue of the Virgin Mary in the Chapel on the Fourvière Hill, the ceremony had to be abandoned as the River Saône was overflowing. The festivities were put back to December 8 of the same year. But the climate did not favour the organisers – a violent storm broke out during the day, and the event had to be abandoned. Then seeing the weather improving as night fell, the population spontaneously lit their homes with candles and Bengal lights and hurried down into the street.
THE TRADITION OF THE LITTLE LIGHTS
Since then the ritual has been repeated every year – the people of Lyon decorate their windows and balconies with thousands of little lights – candles protected by little glass shades whose flames wreathe the city in a warm and gentle light, as winter draws near. While continuing to respect this age-old tradition, the festival has over the last ten years mutated into an outstanding urban event, born of the wish to create a festival that would unite all of the people of Lyon and continue to celebrate the lighting of the city begun in 1889. Since then every year, for four nights around the 8 December Lyon becomes the centre of light show design with artists from around the world, performances and light shows creating unique designs that attract millions of visitors.
Based on this tradition, the Festival of Lights has since become the world’s principal event for creative light displays, showcasing the work of top artists and offering an open-air laboratory for up-and-coming talent.
Text taken from wikipedia and the fete des lumières official website.
Visiting Lyon has been one of my favourite moments of my year abroad as it’s such a beautiful city with a rich cultural heritage.
The first picture in this post shows ‘la fresque des lyonnais’. An iconic mural painting which pays hommage to the 31 figures notable in Lyons history. The famous lumiére brothers, the duo who invented the first film, were one of the many personnalities featured on this iconic wall.
The second and seventh pictures show Lyon’s famous Traboules. During the 16th century Lyon was a major leading force in the production of silk in France and it was these Traboules, covered passageways, that allowed the transporation of silk between buildings to protect it from being damaged by the weather. The Traboules connect the Vieux Lyon area with La Croix Rousse Hill also known as ‘the hill that works’. This district is where one of the very first worker revolts, the canut revolts, occured due to poor working conditions.
In pictures 4 and 5 you can see the beautiful Basilica of Lyon sitting on top of the Fouvière hill, also known as ‘the hill that prays’.
The last picture for me qualifies Lyon’s superb gastronomy. Lyon is known for its good food and this tart did not disappoint. Even though it was from a high street chain bakery it was one of the best tarts I have eaten putting us Brits to shame. Both flavour and texture was impeccable and hard to fault. The pastry was crisp and buttery, the creme patissier was lucisous and the fresh raspberries were just wonderful. It was the perfect recovery after a rather chilly visit around the town admiring all it’s famous landmarks.
Finally, picture 9 shows the inside of a church during La fete des lumières which I’ll talk about in more detail in the next post
Roubaix is a town not far from Lille and many students I worked with travelled from here everyday to get to the sixthform. One of the gems of Roubaix is La musée de la Piscine. As the name suggests it was a former swimming baths which has now been renovated into a museum. There’s a lovely feel to the museum, it’s very light and I love the water feature in the middle paying hommage to the museum’s former state as a swimming baths. As an industrial town, Roubaix was a huge textile manufacturer in the past so the museum also has lots of information about this too, with a section showing all the different material samples.
In terms of the art, this one painting in particular really caught my attention. It’s called Marat Assasiné- The Assasination of Marat and was painted in 1880 by Jean-Joseph Weerts.
Initially I had no idea what this painting was about. I was curious to know the story behind this painting and why this woman had killed this seemingly inncoent man. I thought this may have been about love, maybe he had been unfaithful to her and she ended up killing him but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. In fact the context of this picture is political. During the French Revolution, two prominent radical groups fought for power: the Girondins and the Jacobins. Marat was a member of the jacobins. He is represented in this picture as a sort of martyr of the revolution. In fact we can’t tell from the picture but he actually suffered from a debilitating skin condition. Instead he is painted in a style reminiscent of a Christian martyr, with the positioning of the body and the body bathed in a soft, glowing light. There’s also no bathtub and we know he was killed while bathing. Did the painter decide not to paint this to preserve his honour? Who knows.
So why did Charlotte Corday kill Marat?
In short it was in response to the September massacre in Paris and across various other cities in France . Emma says that Charlotte Corday was a courageously self-sacrificing but politically naive young lady. She held Jean-Paul Marat responsible for the Reign of Terror in the French Revolution. She hoped that his assassination would end the Terror and help guide the Revolution toward the more moderate course that she and her Girondist friends favoured. But Charlotte Corday’s assassination of Jean-Paul Marat was invoked to justify
escalating the Terror, which was a consequence opposite what she had hoped for.
I thoroughly enjoyed discovering the story behind this painting and am really glad to have been exposed to this wonderful piece of art which was so engaging and dramatic!
So the days are fast approaching for the grand départ to France and I cannot wait. Although I knew that this day would arrive I didn’t believe it was actually going to happen. I cannot believe that God is blessing me this wonderful opportunity and am looking forward to discovering what lies in store for me.I will miss my family and friends and I’ve been really touched by all the gifts and efforts made by each and every one of them. France here I come