Winter Lights in Vézelay

The basilica gets brighter at the winter solstice

Around the winter solstice, the sunlight plays beautifully with the interior architecture of the basilica of Vézelay, according to the intention and the art of the monks builders.


"The period of the winter solstice is paradoxically the brightest in the abbey church of Vézelay. This is the time of year when the latter is the most enlightened,

says Véronique Feugère, guide-lecturer at the Visitor's House.

How darkness is transformed into light

A model representing the basilica, installed in the House of the visitor, restores the race of the sun on the building on the day of the solstices.

This model allows understand why, every hour of the day light plays with its interior architecture.

Basilica of Sainte Marie Madeleine - The lights of winter in Vézelay

From the 21 December and until the beginning of January, from sunrise to its evening declension, is played in the abbey a wonderful show:

Steps of light appear in the morning on the ground of the north aisle.

In the afternoon the Roman capitals are hit by solar projectors.

On this cloudy afternoon, the lecturer Christopher Kelly introduces a group of about fifteen people to the symbolism of the vaults, windows and sculptures of the abbey church.

"The stone is the body of the church, it is as lifted by light all year round," he explains.

At the winter solstice

Stopping for a moment at the foot of the sculpted capital representing David mastering a lion, Christopher explains the intimate battles that are forming in the heart of humanity:

How everyone goes from anger to tenderness, how all life is "transformation", and how darkness is transformed into light.

It is precisely at this moment that the clouds are broken and the sun makes a brief and intense appearance, finally illuminating the capitals high north of the nave, as well as the pillars lit by a more subtle glow.

The magic of Christmas has again worked, perpetuating throughout the centuries the intention of the monks who built the Middle Ages: to make the hill surmounted by his church a stone vessel capable of taming the light.

Christine Joseph, correspondent of the Yonne Républicain

Article published in Yonne Republican 30 December 2017