Time To Bring Out Those Arquebuses: Geneva Celebrates the Escalade in 2019

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Without any doubt, one of the most wonderful times to be in the sedate town of Geneva is during the Escalade.  To commemorate the bravery of the town back in 1602 when it was attacked by Savoyard forces, Geneva holds a weekend of events which celebrates the brave Genevois and allows you to join in.

I have written about the history of the event at length in my post from my first Escalade in 2017.  The history is genuinely very interesting – the little city state of Geneva, the Protestant haven, was enviously eyed by the Kingdom of Savoy, which controlled much of the territory around the city.  For years the Savoyards tried to take over Geneva, but with as much success as the Wily Coyote.  The attack on the city in the dead of night, on the 11th/12th December, was the final attempt.  Unluckily for them, the Genevois discovered they were climbing over the city walls (hence the name of the event, escalade: climb) and came out in their night-gowns with all sorts of weapons and prevented a catastrophe.

It’s not really surprising that the city has chosen to keep celebrating this event – at first, the pluckiness of citizens was commemorated in services, but since the 19th century things have become more theatrical, and there are processions and recreations.  It’s a dignified and relaxed few days in which you can enjoy seeing old Geneva, and despite the fact that I’ve been here for three years now, I still would like to go back for as long as I’m living within travelling distance.

Every year, you basically get the same events repeated, but there is a change of overall theme, which means you get a different image on the official pin (which you can see people wearing in the pictures – it has a little yellow and red tail) and there are various lectures you can attend on the subject.  Other than that – you just get to see locals get together and show you various aspects of early 17th century fighting techniques.  If you’ve ever seen arquebuses in action, you’lll know it makes for an impressive sight, as do the pikemen and their manoeuvres.  The best place to see them is outside the Cathedral of St Pierre, with a cup of vin chaud to keep you warm.

If you are around on the evening of the Sunday, then you also get to see an impressive procession – with everyone who’s involved in the demonstrations getting to walk through the streets, accompanied by boys carrying flaming torches.  Oh the health and safety melt-down that would happen in England if such a thing were suggested!  It’s actually wonderful to see just how responsibly and seriously the young participants play their parts – it’s so encouraging to witness maturity in people of any age and it’s good for local people to take pride in their quiet, modest city.

Sadly, my photographs of the procession were rubbish – we positioned ourselves in a few different places and each time I made a mess of my pictures.  I hope at least they give an idea of how fun it is, and that you’ll be able to visit it next year.  Oh go on, you’ll not regret it.

For further information about the Escalade, please check out my post here.

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