The Saint-Gervais of Geneva
28 September 2022
The history of Saint-Gervais is related to the ancient presence of the first bridges over the Rhone, built in Roman times. This strategic place, mentioned by Caesar in 58 BC in his de Bello Gallico, remained a crucial crossing point for travel from (southern) France to the Swiss plateau and beyond until the 18th century.
Geneva was already inhabited around 4000 BC, and this Neolithic settlement is Geneva’s oldest trace of human presence.
Celtic Tombs and a Gallo-Roman sanctuary testify to an uninterrupted religious purpose. In the 11th and 12th centuries, this church became the centre of a parish, stretching across the Saint-Gervais district on the right and left banks of present-day Geneva.
The church was rebuilt entirely (except for the crypt) between 1430 and 1446. The church was richly decorated with frescoes, the most important of which has been preserved despite the Reformation in 1536.
The Gothic-style church was rebuilt twice in 1547 to adapt it to the requirements of the Protestant liturgy and again at the beginning of the 20th century to restore its medieval appearance.
On 10 August 1535, Geneva abolished the Catholic mass. Nine months later, the Reformation was confirmed, and l’église’ became ‘le temple’ and a service ‘le culte.
In the Saint-Gervais, the change of confession led to the removing the altars, relics and sacred images and the repainting of the frescos.
(Source and further information: Le temple Saint-Gervais)