Celebrated in Geneva this weekend 7-9 December 2018
A history of The Escalade: Festival of the Chocolate Pot celebrated in Geneva – A commemoration of the defeat of The Duke of Savoy and his army
Each year in the second week of December, Geneva in Switzerland comes alive with the sound of revolution. Fife and drum bands march the cobbled streets of the Old Town. Cannon fire and musket shot burst into the night. Secret passageways are lit by flaming torches and women in dirndls tend to
Marmite de l’Escalade
The symbol of this uniquely Genevan celebration is an old-fashioned cauldron called a marmite. It’s made of chocolate and filled with marzipan vegetables. Family and friends come together over the Marmite de l’Escalade and break them using a rolling pin, sword or their fists formed in a handshake. One, two, three – smash.
To an outsider, this looks like a celebration of chocolate, but in fact, the pot is a symbol of the roles ordinary citizens played in maintaining the sovereignty of their city-state. They are also a reminder of what happens when refugees cometo the aid of the city that saved them.
Switzerland has a long history as a proud Protestant nation. John Calvin arrived in Genevain 1573. For the following thirty
The Duke of Savoy
At midnight on the night on December
Under the newly built south
It was the middle of winter and the guards were huddled around braziers to keep warm. No-one saw them scale the inner wall and open the Tertasse Gate to let in Lord d’Albigny. He was so flush with
Lights came on in the nearby houses. People began to shout. Soon church bells were ringing and half-dressed men ran into the streets to help.
Mere Royaume wife of a money engraver, Pierre Royaume, lived above the Porte de Monnaie. According to the song, Céqu’è lainô, she threw household items onto the soldiers below – stones, cooking utensils, a barrel – finally launching her wrought iron cooking pot (boiling vegetable soup and all) killing one man dead on the spot.
Further along the Corraterie, soldiers entered the passageway at the home of Madame Piaget. Her servant, Abraham de Baptista held the invaders off with a rapier. After he was killed, Madame Piaget moved a heavy piece of furniture in front of the door to block the army. She then called from her window for help. When it arrived, she threw her keys to the militia so they could enter the walkway and rout the Savoyard.
All along la Corraterie women of Geneva were setting fire to their straw mattresses and throwing them from their windows onto the Savoyard.
At the Porte de
Savoy Army Trapped
He began work immediately – unaware that Isaac Mercier was quietly climbing the gate to cut the rope holding up the heavy metal portcullis. It plummeted to the ground killing Pico and barring the entrance. Not only could the Savoy army no longer enter the city, the soldiers inside were trapped.
By now Clemence, the great tocsin bell in Cathedral St Pierre, was ringing. The bulk of the 12,000 citizens were out of bed and fighting. From the city’s armoury at the top of La
The men of Geneva advanced towards the Savoy army where they pressed together into battle. The gateway at the top of Rue de Tertasse had now filled with citizens. It was here that all the forces collided and the bulk of the fighting occurred. They fired their cannon onto the ladders propped against the wall knocking them over. Now the retreating army had no option but to fight or fall to their death.
Word reached the Duke of Savoy that Geneva was his. He sent a message to his cousin, the King of France, and then rode towards Geneva to claim victory – only to be met by his retreating army.
After a long night…
Theodore Béze’s sermon that Sunday was brief but emphatic in its praise of God. Then everyone set about tidying the city and burying the eighteen Genevoise who died during the night.
That marmite pot stayed in the Royaume family for generations. It was eventually stored in the armoury for safe keeping but was lost during the French occupation in the 19th century.
After the confederation of the Swiss states in 1848 (and after the Swiss invention of milk chocolate), the locals finally created the Marmite de l’Escalade. They decorated it with the Genevan coat of arms and filled with marzipan vegetables – as the symbol for their victory. One hundred and thirty years later and it is now an iconic symbol which also celebrates local ingenuity and courage.
This post – The Escalade: Festival of the Chocolate Pot is a guest post written by Sheridan Jobbins, an Australian author and screenwriter who has made her home in Geneva. All photographs provided by Sheridan Jobbins
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