Defending Geneva: Celebrating the Escalade in 2018

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.

Listening to the band during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Listening to the band during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

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

Soldiers patrol the streets during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Soldiers patrol the streets during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Girl on a cannon during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Girl on a cannon during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

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.

Cathedral Square during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Cathedral Square during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Touting goods outside the Cathedral during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Touting goods outside the Cathedral during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Soldiers chatting with the populace during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Soldiers chatting with the populace during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

A gent with cool boots, Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

A gent with cool boots, Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Drummers drumming during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Drummers drumming during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

An inspection during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

An inspection during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Salute during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Salute during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Arquebusiers gossiping during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Arquebusiers gossiping during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Waiting for orders during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Waiting for orders during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

View from the steps of the Cathedral during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

View from the steps of the Cathedral during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Lighting the fuse during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Lighting the fuse during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Encouraging the burning of the fuse during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Encouraging the burning of the fuse during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Sparks fly from the arquebus during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Sparks fly from the arquebus during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Terrifying flash from the firing of the arquebus during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Terrifying flash from the firing of the arquebus during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Smoky world around an arquebusier during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Smoky world around an arquebusier during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Another big bang during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Another big bang during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

A lady officer looking magnificent during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

A lady officer looking magnificent during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Conference during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Conference during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

The pikemen join the arquebusiers during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

The pikemen join the arquebusiers during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

The pikemen defend the arquebusiers who are firing their weapons during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

The pikemen defend the arquebusiers who are firing their weapons during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

A world of grey during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

A world of grey during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Job done during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Job done during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Sparks reflect in the pikemen's helmet during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Sparks reflect in the pikemen’s helmet during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Fire and cinders from the arquebus during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Fire and cinders from the arquebus during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Pikemen in rows during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Pikemen in rows during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Pikemen on the march during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Pikemen on the march during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Pikemen showing off their moves during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Pikemen showing off their moves during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Shouting orders to the pikemen during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Shouting orders to the pikemen during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Pikemen standing to attention during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Pikemen standing to attention during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Pikemen showing off further moves during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Pikemen showing of further moves during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

The return of the T-Rex during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland.  I should explain that children run around in costumes on these days.

The return of the T-Rex during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland. I should explain that children run around in costumes on these days.

Inspecting the troops during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Inspecting the troops during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Showing of methods of defending the town during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

Showing of methods of defending the town during the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

A final glance at the soldiers of the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

A final glance at the soldiers of the Escalade, Geneva, Switzerland

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.

The Salle des Rois, Hôtel de l'Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

The Salle des Rois, Hôtel de l’Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

Looking back at the entrance of the Salle des Rois, Hôtel de l'Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

Looking back at the entrance of the Salle des Rois, Hôtel de l’Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

The Salle des Rois and portraits of modern club Presidents, Hôtel de l'Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

The Salle des Rois and portraits of modern club Presidents, Hôtel de l’Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

The portraits are, on the whole, really very good.

Portrait of Moise Maudry, Hôtel de l'Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

Portrait of Moise Maudry, Hôtel de l’Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

Portrait of Colonel Coutau, Hôtel de l'Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

Portrait of Colonel Coutau, Hôtel de l’Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

Portrait of Frederic Luthi, Hôtel de l'Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

Portrait of Frederic Luthi, Hôtel de l’Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

Portrait of Eugene de la Rive, 1844, Hôtel de l'Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

Portrait of Eugene de la Rive, 1844, Hôtel de l’Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

Detail of the portrait of Eugene de la Rive, 1844, Hôtel de l'Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

Detail of the portrait of Eugene de la Rive, 1844, Hôtel de l’Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland.  I love the way he is shown with his glasses.

Portrait of Isaac Trembley, Hôtel de l'Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

Portrait of Isaac Trembley, Hôtel de l’Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

Detail of Isaac Trembley, Hôtel de l'Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

Detail of Isaac Trembley, Hôtel de l’Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

Portrait of Guillaume Vignier, Hôtel de l'Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

Portrait of Guillaume Vignier, Hôtel de l’Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

The Salle des Rois and portraits of modern club Presidents, Hôtel de l'Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

The Salle des Rois and portraits of modern club Presidents, Hôtel de l’Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

The amazing embossed wallpaper in the Salle des Rois, Hôtel de l'Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

The amazing embossed wallpaper in the Salle des Rois, Hôtel de l’Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

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.

A banquet scene, 1899, Edouard Castres, Hôtel de l'Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

A banquet scene, 1899, Edouard Castres, Hôtel de l’Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

Gentlemen of the 19th century with their rifles, 1899, Edouard Castres, Hôtel de l'Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

Gentlemen of the 19th century with their rifles, 1899, Edouard Castres, Hôtel de l’Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

Detail of the gentlemen of the 19th century with their rifles, 1899, Edouard Castres, Hôtel de l'Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

Detail of the gentlemen of the 19th century with their rifles, 1899, Edouard Castres, Hôtel de l’Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

The corner of the room, 1899, Edouard Castres, Hôtel de l'Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

The corner of the room, 1899, Edouard Castres, Hôtel de l’Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

On the battlefield, 1899, Edouard Castres, Hôtel de l'Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

On the battlefield, 1899, Edouard Castres, Hôtel de l’Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

Committee members (with some trophies on the table), 1899, Edouard Castres, Hôtel de l'Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

Committee members (with some trophies on the table), 1899, Edouard Castres, Hôtel de l’Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

A face in the wall, Hôtel de l'Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

A face in the wall, Hôtel de l’Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

Nice lintel decoration, Hôtel de l'Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

Nice lintel decoration, Hôtel de l’Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

Trophies and cups, Hôtel de l'Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

Trophies and cups, Hôtel de l’Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

Weapons galore, Hôtel de l'Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

Weapons galore, Hôtel de l’Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

A cute guy from Lucerne, Hôtel de l'Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

A cute guy from Lucerne, Hôtel de l’Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

Painted image of a ship on a flag, Hôtel de l'Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

Painted image of a ship on a flag, Hôtel de l’Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

Like a gentleman's study, Hôtel de l'Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

Like a gentleman’s study, Hôtel de l’Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

Study for the frieze in the Salle des Rois, Eduard Castres, Hôtel de l'Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

Study for the frieze in the Salle des Rois, Eduard Castres, Hôtel de l’Arquebuse, Geneva, Switzerland

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: www.1602.ch

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: www.arquebuse.ch

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: www.tpg.ch

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