Escalade Part Four: Night Procession through Geneva

Continued from Part Three

In Geneva, Switzerland; 9th/10th December 2017

On Sunday 10th December, Saturday’s events celebrating the Escalade are repeated, and in the evening the weekend’s celebrations reach their climax.  Over 800 people form a procession that marches through old Geneva, looking truly majestic in the dark, with flickering torchlight to guide their way.  It was raining most of the night, and I haven’t mastered the art of taking photos of moving people in the dark.  My pictures were therefore a disaster, which is a real shame because it was such an impressive sight, I really wanted to share it.

And I kept running around trying to catch up with the procession in the hope I’d get to a better spot for taking pictures.

Oh well.

The procession is made up different parts of the Genevan population:

The townsfolk on parade in Geneva, Switzerland

The townsfolk on parade in Geneva, Switzerland

The peasants on parade in Geneva, Switzerland

The peasants on parade in Geneva, Switzerland

The pikemen on parade in Geneva, Switzerland

The pikemen on parade in Geneva, Switzerland

Off to battle with the pikemen in Geneva, Switzerland

Off to battle with the pikemen in Geneva, Switzerland

The procession halts at certain rest spots, where there are proclamations.  The crowds listen, boo when the Savoyards are mention, cheer when Genevan victory is announced, and then everyone sings “Cé qu’è l’ainô”, a 68 stanza work (almost as epic as this blog post), written in a Franco-Provençal dialect in 1603, which celebrates the Escalade.  Fortunately, they seem to only sing two verses now, to a tune which is a strange mash-up between the British national anthem and something like “Partridge in a Pear Tree”.

We briefly went back to the Cathedral, because there was meant to be a concert, but it was running late, and because we live outside Geneva, we decided to leave it for this year.  We saw on the tv when we got home that the events were badly overrunning, so it was a good thing we left when we did.

In the Bourg-de-Four Square, listening to the proclamation in Geneva, Switzerland

In the Bourg-de-Four Square, listening to the proclamation in Geneva, Switzerland

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The Cathedral square, with the bonfire ready to be lit, and firemen on hand in Geneva, Switzerland

Peasant ladies processing, in Geneva, Switzerland

Peasant ladies processing, in Geneva, Switzerland

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A horse looking me in the eye in Geneva, Switzerland

However, there was a concert, a proclamation and a then a grand bonfire was lit, before university students danced round it in some weird ceremony.  A fine way to end the weekend.

To get the best views, you need to get to the Cathedral square at least two hours before events start.  And it’s cold in December, so bring your thermals.  And money for the vin chaud and the Mère Royaume soup that is sold in the square.

When I first discovered that I would be making my home near Geneva, I was excited about going to the Escalade.  Quite genuinely, the weekend exceeded my expectations.  I think this had a lot to do with the fact that the celebrations were very simple, dignified and sincere – and from a cultural point of view, it was great to see costumes and weapons from a period of European history that is less often celebrated than some others.  There were crowds, but it wasn’t crowded.  There is a great vibe, everything was very laid-back, and people were friendly: it all makes for a truly enjoyable weekend.  Long live Geneva!

General Information 

The tourist office has copies of the leaflet produced by the Company of 1602 which details the events of the weekend.  These are freely available from the information office and the various stands around town during the weekend.

The Company’s own website also has lots of information, but it’s only in French: www.1602.ch 

Schools in Geneva celebrate the Escalade and so it’s not surprising that there were lots of children about on both days, getting into the spirit of things.  During the demonstrations of the sword-fighting and the arquebuses, for example, children were going up and inspecting the weapons, something which the Company members seemed happy with.  I’m sure they’d have been very informative if you had any questions, so it could be very educational for children who are learning about the events of 1602.

Apart from that, there was a little area dedicated to the entertainment of children with some fairground type games, but the real interest will probably come from seeing the men on horseback going about town, and seeing and hearing the weapons in action.

How to Get There 

It is easy to walk from the Geneva train station to the old town, which is where the looming Cathedral is a centre point for events.  There are also plenty of buses and trams that can take you close to the action; more information can be found on the Geneva transport site which is available in English: www.tpg.ch

 

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