“Thus perish the enemies of the Republic!” Each year, the people of Geneva commemorate their unlikely victory over the Duke of Savoy by smashing cauldrons made of chocolate. The Duke launched an assault against the city’s defences during the night of 11 December 1602, sending more than 2,000 men over the walls. This attack was fended off by people armed with nothing more than their own courage – foremost among them the legendary Mother Royaume, who reputedly threw a cauldron of boiling soup over the enemy – and remains firmly lodged in the city’s collective memory. While the tradition of smashing the cauldron did not become established until 1881, the victory celebration took shape as early as 1603. By turns solemn and satyric, for a long time it divided proponents of historical re-enactment and masquerade, with the latter turning the occasion into something of a Protestant mini-carnival during the 19th century.
"L'Escalade" is the quintessential symbol of Geneva’s rebellious, independent spirit. It gives the youngest citizens an opportunity to knock on their neighbours’ doors and sing “Ah la belle Escalade” or “C’é qu’è lainô” (a rare example of surviving Savoyard dialect) in exchange for some small change or sweets. Various costumed celebrations and processions as well as official speeches take place on the weekend closest to 11 December. Saint Peter’s Cathedral hosts a multi-faith service, and the epic "Course de l’Escalade" race has been held on the first weekend of December since 1978.
Monique Bertossa : Ceux de 1602. Ed. Compagnie de 1602. Genève, 1977
Comité du 350e anniversaire de l’Escalade (Ed.) : L’Escalade de Genève, 1602. Histoire et tradition. Genève, 1952
Eugène-Louis Dumont : 1926-1976. Carnet de bord de la Compagnie de 1602. Ed. Compagnie de 1602. Genève, 1977
Jean-Pierre Ferrier : Histoire de la fête de l’Escalade. In : L’Escalade de Genève, 1602. Histoire et tradition. Genève, 1952, p. 489-530
Bernard Lescaze : Escalade et coutumes de table. De quand date la marmite en chocolat ? In : Revue du vieux Genève no. 21. Genève, 1991, p. 92-96
Pierre Morath, Philippe Longchamp : La Course de l’Escalade. Miroir de son temps, héritière des siècles. Yens sur Morges, 2002
Ah, la belle Escalade
Concert de carillon pour l'Excalade
Ref. Swiss National Sound Archives:
DAT664 Tr. 2
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