Holy Mary, Mother Of Pinball

The French can differ from other humans. They are for instance known, in the immortal words of National Lampoon, as folks who “fight with their feet and fuck with their faces.”

Now it seems they have determined that a proper way to honor Mary, mother of Jesus of Nazareth, is to light up a building like a pinball machine, and play it.

For many centuries the people of Lyon have in early December paid homage to Mary, in gratitude to the god-woman for interceding with the Mean Man to spare the place from the plague, back in 1643.

In them Olden Times, said homage involved a procession culminating at the Basilica of Fourviere, where candles were lit and offerings presented.

In 1852, the sculptor Joseph Hugues Fabisch erected a Mary statue next to the Basilica. The people of Lyon planned for December 8 a mammoth Mary party. Here is what happened:

Leading up to the inauguration, everything was in place for the festivities: the statue was lit up with flares, fireworks were readied for launching from the top of Fourvière Hill and marching bands were set to play in the streets. The prominent Catholics of the time suggested lighting up the facades of their homes as was traditionally done for major events such as royal processions and military victories.

However, on the morning of the big day, a storm struck Lyon. The master of ceremonies hastily decided to cancel everything and to push back the celebrations to the following Sunday. In the end the skies cleared and the people of Lyon, who had been eagerly anticipating the event, spontaneously lit up their windows, descended into the streets and lit flares to illuminate the new statue and the Chapel of Notre-Dame-de-Fourvière, later superseded by the Basilica. The people sang songs and cried “Vive Marie!” until late in the night.

In years since, Lyon humans have each December 8 placed Mary-devoted lit-candles on their windowsills. The place is alive with light. Meanwhile, in the center of town, various assorted performances and such now draw up to 4 million tourists, to what has become a four-day event.

As it is necessary on this planet that things mutate to survive, this year the Mary-fest featured some clever humans, from the French lighting company CT Light Concept, who projected with colored lights an assortment of pinball bumpers and flippers onto the side of the Celestine Theater. The display was fully playable, as can be seen in the video below.

Pretty cool.

The French: good with light.

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