Perpignan is a city in southern France, close to the Mediterranean coast and the Spanish border. It was the capital of the Kingdom of Majorca in the 13th century, and its medieval centre has a strong Catalan influence.
The idea for creating an illuminated trail inside the city was first raised in a proposal made by the Directorate of Roads, Infrastructure and Mobility. Drawing on the experience of other cities, they argued that creating an illuminated educational trail would attract visitors to this area given that it is not close to any of France’s winery routes that are so popular in the summer.
The idea was approved by the city administration, and a work group was formed including an architect (Aimée Forletta) from the Atelier d'Urbanisme, the Tourism Office, the Department of Heritage, and the Department of Roads.
6 months of work and consultation were required to define a coherent route, choose themes linked to the city's history and the origin of its street names, design the gobos, and ensure that the façades were suitable. The luminaires best suited to achieve the required effects were also identified and Palco InOut projectors were chosen and attached to the façades.
Starting from Aristide Maillol's Venus sculpture in Place de la Loge, the tour takes about 30 minutes and features a total of 42 projections on façades and pavements. Visitors can therefore explore this district as the sun goes down thanks to gobos that guide them from one street to the next in an entertaining and immersive way. An explanatory brochure has also been produced and can be downloaded from the "Perpignan la Radiosa" app.
Opposite Maillol‘s Venus is the start of Rue de L'incendie where a gobo projects flames to recall the fire that broke out here on October 1, 1415, following skirmishes sparked by a diplomatic meeting between the Emperor, the King of Aragon, the Pope, princes, cardinals and ambassadors in an attempt to resolve the Western Schism.
We then continue to Rue Des Abreuvoirs, which in the Middle Ages was known as Rue de l'hôpital des Pauvres as it housed the Saint Jean Hospital. Its current name comes from an ancient pipeline that fed water to fountains and troughs. This street was once graced by the Hôtel de l'Europe, where distinguished guests, including George Sand and Frédéric Chopin, stayed. Now, several gobos project on the walls and ground the image of a mule quenching its thirst.
In Rue De l'Horloge, on the other hand, we find a nod to modernity with the projection of clock mechanisms and a digital watch screen. The name of this street dates back to at least the beginning of the 16th century and refers to the clock on the cathedral bell tower that marked the time for the townspeople. In Rue Amiral Ribeill the visitor is accompanied by dancing skeletons projected on the walls of the Campo Santo. These are inspired by the "Dances macabres" that became popular throughout Europe after the plague that raged between 1348 and 1349.
We then move on to Rue De La Revolution Française and Rue De La Vieille Intendance where there are projections of a Phrygian cap, a plug (a French pun on the storming of the Bastille), a light bulb, and arrows in the ground. The announcement of the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789, took ten days to reach Perpignan, and in this area the Revolution was less bloody than in other places. This takes the visitor to Rue Fontaine Na Picarda. Na in Catalan means "Madame". So, this is Madame Picard’s fountain, a surname that definitely existed in this district in the 15th century when the fountain was built. In this case, a rectangular framer has been used to outline the area of the fountain.
In Rue De L'ancienne Comedie, which takes its name from a house that used to host theatrical performances, there are gobo projections of theatrical masks on the pavement, a court jester on the side of a building and lower down a playful invitation to take the stage with a curtain and a microphone. In Rue De La Main De Fer naturally we find a projection of a hand. For many years it was thought that the "iron hand" referred to the door knocker of Casa Xanxo, an early 16th century building. But, today, historians believe the name refers to the blacksmiths’ smithies that once filled this area.
Rue Du Père Pigne recalls the legend that Perpignan was originally founded by the shepherd, Father Pigne. However, given the town’s strong connections with Catalan culture it should also be remembered that the word "pinya" in Catalan means pine cone, hence the projection of pine cones and needles on the ground.
This takes the visitor to Rue De L'argenterie, in the district that has been home to silversmiths since the late 14th century. Here we find a projection of a set of scales for weighing the precious metal and a series of bygone silver objects.
On Rue Amiral Barrera, in memory of Admiral Barréra, who was born in Perpignan in 1836 and served in the Crimean and Chinese campaigns before climbing the ranks of the Navy, we see a sailing ship, a compass rose, and an anchor. In Place Grétry, musical notes and treble clefs are projected on the ground and walls to recall André Grétry, a composer of comic operas and a contemporary of Mozart.
In Rue Des 3 Journees, a projection of the dates July 27, 28 and 29, 1830 recalls the revolution that ended the reign of Charles X and established the July monarchy led by Louis Philippe I. The circuit then ends in Rue des Marchands, which is one of the oldest streets in Perpignan. This street leads to Place de la Loge, which has been the town’s economic and political centre since the 12th century and where the Loge de Mer, which was formerly a stock exchange and a maritime trade court, still stands.
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