Swiss Holidays: L’Escalade

Post by Lauren

This weekend was the annual L’Escalade celebration. In French, “escalade” means climb. In 1602, the Savoys (now France) wanted Geneva badly. It was its own republic and not to mention, a free town. The Duke of Savoy wanted to push out Protestantism and make it his capital. So, his army secretly gathered and tried to climb into the city gate with ladders. They were thwarted and Geneva kept its independence. Thus, the holiday’s name.

 

Geneva, back in the day. Courtesy of wikipedia - escalade-battle-2.jpg

 

I was originally told that there was a lady was up late at night cooking soup who heard the climbers and dumped her boiling pot of vegetable soup on their heads and their screams woke up the Genevois so they could defend their city. Apparently, this recount is false that she was the initial defender, but she did dump soup on one soldier’s head and killed him. And his screams woke up more people. She also was the mother of 16 children.

And to commemorate the brave Madame Royaume (the soup thrower lady) they have a marmites (chocolate cauldrons) into which they dip marzapan vegetables to symbolize her vegetable soup. How this correlation was made, I am not sure, but I do know that the confectioner’s on Rue de Marché are very grateful.

 

A typical chocolate display for L’Escalade. I can’t imagine what the big pot cost. Also below are marzipan vegetables.


Nevertheless, the Escalade celebrates Geneva’s victory and all weekend, people are gathered in Old Town, dressed in period attire. We went Saturday to explore.

Every half hour, there were demonstrations on musket firing, cannons, and battle scenes.

Just for L’escalade weekend, they open the Passage de Monetier, a secret passageway that was used during enemy attacks. It was very tight!! They served vin chaud, a hot spice wine that was very handy to keep warm. I don’t recommend having four cups if you want to have a productive Sunday.

Sunday, we went to the grande cortege, or parade. It was really cool and done in the dark so it is by candlelight, to mimic the time of evening of L’Escalade. There was lots of fire involved and thousands of Genevois in costume.

 

At the end, they do a huge bonfire in St. Peter’s Cathedral.

We enjoyed our first L’Escalade and are glad to live in this city so proud of their heritage!

 

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