Defending Geneva: Celebrating the Escalade in 2018

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In Geneva, 8th December 2018

Having written at some length about the three-day 2017 Escalade celebrations in Geneva, I will not be adding anything except some pictures from the 2018 event (including some from the infrequently opened Arquebus Museum).  It really is a wonderful time for the city, full of families and tourists all enjoying the fun atmosphere over the weekend.  As you walk around the old town, you’ll see police on horseback, children selling badges, bands touring round the streets playing drums or flutes – all wearing the heavy woollen costumes of 1602.

So I’m going to let the photos speak for themselves…

The square outside the Cathedral is a hub throughout the day, and in the afternoons there are exciting demonstrations by arquebusiers and pikemen.  Gee they’re awesome.

The Museum at the Hôtel de l’Arquebuse

A little way from the main activities in the centre of the old town, is the building which houses the Exercices de l’Arquebuse et de la Navigation (EAN).  It is basically a shooting club, still very much active, which was founded in 1856 – an amalgamation of an Arquebus club, founded in 1474, and the Naval club, from the 17th century.  The term ‘exercices’ harks back to the days when the militia were involved in defending Geneva, and therefore engaged in military exercises.

The current building was constructed in two short years, opening at the beginning of 1900.  A highlight of the visit was seeing the Salle des Rois, a grand room which displays charming portraits of Presidents of the clubs, and is topped off by some impressive frescoes by the Genevan artist, Édouard Castres.

I tried to find out more information about the scenes being shown in the Castres frescoes but was surprised to hit a blank with that.  It’s a shame, because they are fine paintings and deserve as much attention as the more publicised work of Hodler, for example.  Anyway, I’ve given generic descriptions of the paintings, and sorry it couldn’t be specific.

So In Summary

I don’t think I need to say much more about the Escalade.  I totally recommend that anyone who can time their visit with the event does so, as it brings the past of Geneva alive in a charming but also informative way.

As for the Arquebus Museum: well, there isn’t a great deal of information about it, and as my understanding is that the building is rarely opened to visitors – and then with strange hours – that’s not too surprising.  There is a multitude of weaponry and trophies and not a lot else for those not particularly interested in such things.  It is charming, though, and the paintings and sketches are definitely worth seeing.  An essential visit if you are experiencing the rest of the Escalade in town – no.  But it is a pleasant addition to the activities, especially if you are interested in the frescoes of Castres.

Further Information

The information on the Escalade is available in English and French:

On the day, there are various booths around the city where you can go and pick up paper versions of the schedule – and buy some of the merchandise.

As for the Arquebus Museum, that too has a website, but only in French.  This link will take you to an overview of the museum’s contents:

How To Get There

The Cathedral is a hub for the activities and it’s easy to walk to from most points in the city.  There are 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:

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