Geneva, L'Escalade AD 1602

L’Escalade, Geneva AD 1602

celebrating the defeat of the surprise attack by troops sent by Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy during the night of 11-12 December 1602 through a rich programme of festive traditions, chocolate cauldrons, sports competitions, battle reenactments and the Escalade procession on horseback in 17th century armour…

The Event

Geneva is located at the south-western end of Lake Geneva, in the bay where the Rhone river leaves the lake, between the nearby Alpine peaks and the hilly terrain of the Jura. Known both as the ”smallest of big cities”, or the “city of peace”, Geneva is the second-most populous city in Switzerland, the largest French-speaking city in the country, and also the most international one due to its humanitarian tradition and cosmopolitan flair. And in fact, Geneva is one of the world's major centres of international diplomacy, being the seat of many international organizations, such as the International Red Cross since its foundation in 1863, the United Nations (now headquartered in New York, USA), while hosting also many international conferences, trade fairs and exhibitions. Besides being a congress city, Geneva is a centre focused on the international economy, but also a city of culture and history, boasting an important heritage, and finally also one of the greenest cities in Europe with over 20% of green areas. The quayside of Lake Geneva, the parks, the old alleyways and smart boutiques and the wealth of events all year round complete the wide touristic offer.

The city was first mentioned by the ancient Roman politician, general, and author Gaius Julius Caesar (100-44 BC), with the spelling “Genava”, which probably originates from a Celtic toponym “genawa” meaning a bending river or estuary. Thus, Geneva shares its name, *genawa "estuary", with the Italian port city of Genoa. Originally a fortified border town of the Allobroges Gallic tribem, Geneva was conquered by the Romans in 121 BC, and became an episcopal seat in the 4th century, changing hands several times after the fall of the Roman Empire. The bishops of Geneva got the status of prince of the Holy Roman Empire from 1154, but had to long struggle for their independence against the counts of Geneva and later the counts of the House of Savoy. In the late 14th century Geneva was granted a charter with a high degree of self-governance. In the 15th century, an oligarchic republican government emerged. Geneva was an independent republic from at least the 16th century until it was admitted to the Swiss Confederation at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, in 1814.

The traditional yearly celebration of L'Escalade (from "escalade", the act of scaling defensive walls), a quite beloved city festival, commemorates the surprise attack on Geneva during the night of 11-12 December 1602 by troops of Duke of Savoy, Charles Emmanuel I (1562-1630), known as the Great and nicknamed Testa d'Feu ("the Hot-Headed") for his rashness and military aggression. The Savoy army tried to invade the city by climbing and otherwise breaching the city walls, but failed and was ultimately defeated. Having turned aside this attack at the cost of only 16 lives, Geneva had secured its liberty and independence, since the House of Savoy was never again strong enough on this side of the Alps to attempt such an invasion. Every year, on the weekend closest to December 12, the old city centre hosts along its characteristic narrow streets celebrations, commemorative parades and battle reenactments. During the weekend hundreds of reenactors, including more than 60 cavalrymen, offer displays of the life of the period, military activities and parades. On Sunday evening a touching torchlight procession takes place, involving more than 1000 people to celebrate the manifold historical characters of L'Escalade. The procession ends in the Cathedral square with a great bonfire.

The Programme

Please contact the Organizers for confirmation and further details.

Info & Contact

Compagnie de 1602 (Society of 1602, Geneva Historical Society)
Address: Arsenal 18bis Quai Ernest-Ansermet, P.O. Box 3124, 1211 Genève 3, Switzerland
Tel.: + 41 (22) 3123739 | Fax: + 41 (22) 3104761

Geneva Tourism - Tourist information centre in Geneva
Foundation Geneva Tourism & Conventions
Address: Rue du Mont-Blanc 18 - P.O. Box 1602 - CH - 1201 Geneva 1, Switzerland
Tel.: +41 (22) 9097000 | Fax +41 (22) 9097011

Geneva City council / Ville de Genève
Address: Rue de la Croix-Rouge 4, 1204 Geneva, Switzerland
Tel: +41 (22) 4185949 – 4182900 | Fax: +41 (22) 4182901

Switzerland Tourism
Address: P.O. Box 695, CH-8027 Zurich, Switzerland
Tel.: +800 100 200 29 (free-phone)
E-mail: ‎

Image: Compagnie de 1602
Text sources: Compagnie de 1602, Wikipedia, Wikivoyage, Switzerland Tourism, Geneva City council, Geneva Tourism

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