INTERESTING SNIPPETS OF HISTORY
by Vivian Holding
A walk around Geneva with visiting guests this Easter is a great way to walk off your excessive lunch time feast and chocolate over-indulgence. Why not impress them with these interesting snippets of history about Geneva?
THE OLD TOWN
Geneva’s Official Tree
How do Genevans know it’s Spring? They use their official tree of course! You’ll find this tree on the Promenade de la Treille (hunt out the horse chestnut tree with a plaque – see photo). For over 200 years, it’s the job of the Sautier (Clerk) to regularly check the tree to record when the first bud appears. Once it has, Spring has officially started. This date has varied in previous years between December to as late as April.
This year, Spring arrived on Saturday 24th March 2018.
To read more about Geneva’s Official Tree click here.
The Passage des Poules
Have you noticed the partially covered staircase that runs from the place du Bourg-de-Four up to the Cathedral named the Passage des Degres de Poules? One of the many old passageways and stairs in the old town of Geneva which give the place a certain mystery I think.
But did you know that the word ‘poule’ is the colloquial/slang word for a promiscuous woman in French? The passageway is known to have been where local prostitutes hung out and took cover from the inclement Genevan weather. Prostitution is actually legal in Calvinist Geneva. It is however highly regulated.
THE PARC DES BASTIONS
The Reformation Wall
One of the city’s most emblematic monuments The Reformation Wall, recently celebrated its 100th year anniversary. Designed to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the birth of Calvin, it was constructed after the city chose the winning design from an international competition (which was open to anyone regardless of nationality or religion). Guess which country the winner came from? Yes, they were Swiss! (funny that). The architects Monod, Laverrière, Taillens and Dubois were the unanimous winner, with the French sculptors Bouchard and Landowski given the task of creating it.
The sculptor Landowski is better known as being the sculptor of one of the most impressive landmarks in the World – the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro. Built after the construction of the Reformation Wall in 1931, the statue stands at over 30 metres high. Given the size of the statues of the Reformateurs, we’re guessing Landowski enjoyed working on large scale models!
To read more about the Reformation Wall click here.
The Brunswick Monument
Considering he lived in Geneva for only 3 years, lucky old Geneva received a massive legacy of 22 million francs in gold after his death – that’s approximately 22,000 francs in gold for every day of his stay in the City!
So we have the Duke of Brunswick to thank for the funding of the construction of many buildings in the city – the Grand Theatre, the École d’Horlogerie, the École du Grütli and the University of Geneva, as well as the installation of the beautiful wrought iron railings and gates that surround the Parc des Bastions.
To read more about the Duke of Brunswick click here.