l’Escalade – Part Two – Historical Parade

6 Jan

The Story

RoyaumeOn the night of December 11, 1602, Duke Charles Emmanuel of Savoy attacked Geneva by surprise after walking from La Roche and Haute-Savoie. There were more than two thousand men on foot and horseback and they arrived in Plainpalais, just outside the old city walls. Awoken from their slumber, the citizens of Geneva, the militia and the city guards seized their weapons to fight the enemy. No doubt there was a fierce battle that followed, but the story ends with the Frenchmen running back to their camp before sunrise.

The most famous symbol remembered from this invasion, and indeed the only part of the story we heard until attending this years celebrations,  was the pot of soup (“Marmite”) which Madame Cheynel, also known as the Mother Kingdom, tossed over the old city wall onto the head of an assailant below. Common folklore says that this was the reason for the victory over the French.

The Celebrations

DSC03819DSC03809This year was the 410th anniversary of the Escalade and celebrations commenced on Friday 7th December and ending on Sunday 9th December. The Escalade hisorical society (The Compagnie de 1602), along with over a thousand volunteers, recreates life as it was at the end of the 17th century in the old town of Geneva and around the cathedral. Festival activities to be enjoyed and explored included tours of the Old Town Hall, street defence manoeuvres and battle presentations, exhibitions of body armour and arsenal, access to secret walkways in the old town wall fortifications, and of course food stalls selling mulled wine and soup.

This was a totally new and exciting experience for us. Australia is such a young country (comparatively) that we have no wars or battles fought in the 17th century to commemorate or grand victories to celebrate, and so to join in the revelry of our adopted home town was really special.

DSC03888DSC03874The celebrations were brought to a close on Sunday evening, with a historical procession through the streets of Geneva. At five different locations along the route, the procession stops and a herald invites Genevans and visitors to recall that memorable night during which the city’s population won a lasting peace and to join in the singing of the traditional victory song.

The Marmite

fo_marmites_02935a1As you now know, Madame Cheynel tipped her steaming cauldron of hot soup over the heads of the soldiers scaling the city’s walls and no Swiss celebration is complete without a bit of Swiss chocolate. And so from early November until mid-December Genevans are buying and eating pots of chocolate, filled with marzipan vegetables.

As this was our third year of Escalade traditions, we embraced our inner Genevois, hailed victory to Geneva and cracked open a dark chocolate Marmite. This years Marmite was puchased from Du Rhône Chocolatier (rue de la Confédération 3, Geneva) and to my delight was filled with yummy little chocolate pralines as well as the traditional marzipan vegetables (not so much to my liking). Delicious chocolate goodness!

The Song

No historical celebration is complete without a traditional victory song. We heard it being chanted by young children dressed in 17th century costumes all through the old town and also during the Sunday evening procession. It is quite simply the Escalade story in a song; the fall of the French, the greatness of Geneva and the victory that was won on that Saturday night in the year 1602.

Cé qu’è lainô, le Maitre dé bataille,
Que se moqué et se ri dé canaille,
A bin fai vi, pè on desande nai,
Qu’il étivé patron dé Genevoi.
A bin fai vi, pè on desande nai,
Qu’il étivé patron dé Genevoi.
I son vegnu le doze de dessanbro,
Pè onna nai asse naire que d’ancro;
Y étivé l’an mil si san et dou,
Qu’i veniron parla ou pou troi tou.
Y étivé l’an mil si san et dou,
Qu’i veniron parla ou pou troi tou.
Pè onna nai qu’étive la pe naire,
I veniron; y n’étai pas pè bairè:
Y étivé pè pilli nou maison,
Et no tüa sans aucuna raison.
Petis et grans, ossis an sevegnance:
Pè on matin d’onna bella demanze,
Et pè on zeur qu’y fassive bin frai,
Sans le bon Di, nos étivon to prai!
Dedian sa man il y tin la victoire,
A lui solet en démure la gloire.
A to zamai son Sain Non sai begni!
Amen, amen, ainsi, ainsi soit-y!

One Response to “l’Escalade – Part Two – Historical Parade”


  1. Post-Marathon Running | Cheese & Vegemite - October 24, 2013

    […] So what’s been happening? Not a lot to be frank. I’ve been on two runs in the last three weeks which is a pretty dismal effort but on the plus side I’ve signed myself up for two more races!! My “over-eager overachiever” husband wanted to run in the Lausanne Marathon taking place this Sunday so instead of going along with him as a spectator (I’m not ready to run another marathon just yet!) I decided to sign-up for the 10km run. My first 10km race – a lot of “firsts” for me this year! I’m obviously not taking it very seriously because let’s be honest, two runs in the last three weeks is not sufficient training to run a good time but I’m hoping to hash it out in about 55 minutes. And then I’ve signed myself up for the Escalade in December. The, almost, biggest event of the year in Geneva. I wrote a few lines on the Escalade and the associated race around the Geneva Old Town last year which you can read about here and here. […]

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