"L'Escalade"


Category:
Social practices
Canton:

Description

“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.

Image gallery

  • Minutes of the Council of Geneva meeting at 8 a.m. on Sunday, 12 December 1602 concerning the attempt by Savoyard troops to capture the city © AEG, 2005
  • Minutes of the Council of Geneva meeting at 8 a.m. on Sunday, 12 December 1602 concerning the attempt by Savoyard troops to capture the city © Archives d’Etat de la République et Canton de Genève, 2005
  • Transcribed minutes of the Council of Geneva meeting at 8 a.m. on Sunday, 12.12.1602 concerning the attempt by Savoyard troops to capture the city © AEG, 2005
  • Héraut: l’Escalade ceremony in the square outside Saint Peter’s © L. Buscarlet/Cie de 1602
  • Madame Royaume: l’Escalade historic procession © Ph. Pedat/Cie de 1602
  • Women and children: l’Escalade historic procession © Ph. Pedat/Cie de 1602
  • Following in the footsteps of the Duke of Savoy, an army of runners launch a peaceful assault on Geneva © Ass. Course de l'Escalade, 2007
  • For one day, le Bourg-de-Four, the heart of Geneva’s old town, is given over to the youngest runners. © Ass. Course de l'Escalade, 2010
  • Parc des Bastions: a colourful mix of runners from all faiths pass by under the attentive gaze of the Reformationists © Ass. Course de l'Escalade, 2010
  • The l’Escalade church service © Eddy Mottaz/Eglise protestante de Genève, 2010
  • The l’Escalade church service © Eddy Mottaz/Eglise protestante de Genève, 2010
  • Minutes of the Council of Geneva meeting at 8 a.m. on Sunday, 12 December 1602 concerning the attempt by Savoyard troops to capture the city © Archives d’Etat de la République et Canton de Genève, 2005
  • Minutes of the Council of Geneva meeting at 8 a.m. on Sunday, 12 December 1602 concerning the attempt by Savoyard troops to capture the city © Archives d’Etat de la République et Canton de Genève, 2005
  • Transcribed minutes of the Council of Geneva meeting at 8 a.m. on Sunday, 12 December 1602 concerning the attempt by Savoyard troops to capture the city © Archives d’Etat de la République et Canton de Genève, 2005
  • Héraut: l’Escalade ceremony in the square outside Saint Peter’s © L. Buscarlet/Cie de 1602
  • Madame Royaume: l’Escalade historic procession © Ph. Pedat/Cie de 1602
  • Women and children: l’Escalade historic procession © Ph. Pedat/Cie de 1602
  • Following in the footsteps of the Duke of Savoy, an army of runners launch a peaceful assault on Geneva. © Association Course de l'Escalade, 2007
  • For one day, le Bourg-de-Four, the heart of Geneva’s old town, is given over to the youngest runners. © Ass. Course de l'Escalade, 2010
  • In the Parc des Bastions, a colourful mix of runners from all faiths pass by under the attentive gaze of the Reformationists. © Association Course de l'Escalade, 2010
  • The l’Escalade church service © Eddy Mottaz/Eglise protestante de Genève, 2010
  • The l’Escalade church service © Eddy Mottaz/Eglise protestante de Genève, 2010

References and documentation

Publications
  • 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

Multimedia
  • Ah, la belle Escalade 
    Concert de carillon pour l'Excalade  
    Ref. Swiss National Sound Archives:
    DAT664 Tr. 2

Documentation
  • L'Escalade

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