Geneva Saint Peter’s Cathedral
The Geneva Saint Peter’s Cathedral is, with the Jet d’eau, the emblem of the city of Geneva. It has the particularity of being made up of a porch made of high columns as well as two towers surrounding the choir and a green copper arrow. It is visited each year by about 400,000 people.
Geneva has many car parks in its centre, but the Rive and Saint-Antoine car parks are the closest to the cathedral.
History of the cathedral
The current cathedral is built on the site where Christian religious buildings had been erected for hundreds of years. The major events in the construction of the cathedral are summarized below.
- 12th century: Beginning of the works under the impulse of the first prince-bishop of Geneva, Arducius de Faucigny and ending in 1230 (without the towers).
- 15th century: Construction of the Maccabean chapel by Jean de Brogny (Right looking at the entrance).
- 1510-1530: Construction of the South Tower.
- 1752-1756: Construction of the neo-classical facade by Benedetto Alfieri.
- 1895: Installation of the 71-metre high copper boom.
- 1965: Construction of the great organ.
Visit of the cathedral
The different parts of the cathedral that can be visited are the neoclassical entrance porch, the cathedral itself, the Chapel of the Maccabees and the two towers. At the entrance to the cathedral on the left are small leaflets describing the particularities of the building in several languages.
It is built to compensate for the instability of the previous gantry.
Inside of the cathedral
The main points of interest inside the cathedral are listed below.
- The Chair
- The chapel of Rohan
- Calvin’s chair
- The Portuguese Chapel
- The Chapel of the Holy Spirit
- The Choir
- 15th century stalls
- The plaque commemorating the first ecumenical service after the Second World War
- The Agrippa Memorial in Auvigné
- The great organs
Chapel of the Maccabees
Chapel with large stained glass windows on the right entering and breaking the symmetry of the structure of Geneva Saint Peter’s Cathedral.
The two towers
The visit of the north and south towers offers a magnificent view of the city of Geneva. The entrance for this visit is at the choir where you can buy your ticket. (4 francs for an adult and 2 francs for a child from 6 to 16 years old).
The South Tower contains the belfry and its 5 bells and the watch room at its top. This room is closed on the outside and contains small windows.
The North Tower, which is accessed via the spire, houses two bells and above all has two external levels from which one can enjoy a magnificent view of the city of Geneva and in particular its harbour with the Jet d’eau. The last level is the most impressive because it is possible to go around it completely and therefore enjoy a 360 degree view.
Inside the top level is a magnificent miniature of the cathedral. Unfortunately, it is not accessible to the public.
It is possible to buy a ticket combining a visit of:
- the towers
- the archaeological site of Geneva Saint Peter’s Cathedral
- the International Museum of the Reformation.
A very important event took place in the middle of the 16th century in Europe with the Protestant reform, a movement challenging the Catholic Church operating mode. It started from Germany in 1517, arrived in Geneva in 1525 and finally was adopted by the city in 1536. At that time, a number of depredations took place in the cathedral to remove objects that were considered incompatible with the new movement. The prince-bishop had been driven out of the city a few years earlier in 1527.
Native of France, the personalities of Guillaume Farel and especially Jean Calvin are associated with the Reformation movement in Geneva. Jean Calvin made Geneva one of the centres of this way of thinking in Europe and raised the city to the rank of “Protestant Rome”. As early as 1540, the Protestant percutants, particularly those fleeing France, reshaped Geneva’s identity. This is the very beginning of international Geneva.
The white statue of Guillaume Farel located next to the Collegiate Church of Neuchâtel. It shows the reformer brandishing a bible while trampling on the Catholic symbols of the cult of Saints and images.
The Republic of Geneva is created shortly after the Reformation in 1541 and it was at that time that Geneva’s history began with Switzerland, which was moving closer to the reformed Swiss cantons and in particular that of Berne. It signed an “eternal alliance” with Switzerland in 1584.
The future canton of Vaud, then called Pays de Vaud, went through the Reformation in the same year as Geneva in 1536. In this case it will not be by choice but following the invasion of its territory by Bern which imposes Protestantism. As in Geneva, the Bishop of Lausanne had to flee to the Savoy region.
Cathedrals of Western Switzerland
Western or French-speking Switzerland has four cathedrals, two reformed in Geneva and Lausanne and two Catholics in Sion in Valais and Fribourg. Lausanne Cathedral is dedicated to Notre-Dame, Fribourg Cathedral to Saint-Nicolas and Sion Cathedral to Notre-Dame du Glarier.
Compared to other cathedrals in French-speaking Switzerland, St. Peter’s Cathedral in Geneva has the particularity of having an imposing entrance porch reminiscent of a Greek temple that contrasts particularly well with the very refined one at the cathedral in Lausanne. Its coloured arrow is also a particularity that is not found elsewhere in French-speaking Switzerland.
A drone video inside the cathedral.
Webcam on the city of Geneva from Carouge.