La campagne de Genève, entre les villages de Meinier et Choulex. Photo/Foto: TES

The City and Canton of Geneva

For centuries, French-speaking Geneva has been a haven for refugees, aristocrats and royal visitors, bankers, watchmakers, chocolatiers, and (religious) reformers.
The city is not only the global centre of Calvinism, but since the nineteenth century, it has also been the world capital of multilateralism, arbitration, diplomacy, international aid and international organisations.

Collège Calvin

Today, the city is home to more than 700 international organisations, diplomatic missions and NGOs. The United Nations, the World Trade Organisation and the Red Cross are the best-known examples. More than 50 000 people are employed in this sector. The city hosts 3 230 international conferences every year.

Maison de la Paix

However, Geneva (over 200 000 citizens) is more than a multilateral and cosmopolitan city. It is the capital of one of the 26 cantons of the Swiss Confederation.

Moreover, it is not just any canton, but a canton with only one mountain, the 516-metre Arales east of the canton. Mountains on all sides surround the canton, even Mont Blanc is visible, but they are in France. Only canton Basel-Stadt has just one mountain, the Chrischona, 522 metres high.

Canton Basel-Stadt has only three municipalities (Basel, Riehen and Bettingen) and is a canton without real countryside, rather an urban canton. On the other hand, Geneva Canton (over 500 000 inhabitants) has more than 50 communes with rural areas and villages, the unknown side of Geneva.

Cologne-Bellerive was governed until 1536 by the Dukes of Savoie, the Lords of Vaud. Bern occupied Cologne in 1536 and imposed Protestantism. However, Collonge became Catholic again in 1598 and joined the Protestant canton of Geneva in 1815-1816.

Le village de Cologny au bord du lac

The church of Collonge-Bellerive

Collonge, like the other Catholic villages in the canton, experienced the ‘Kulturkampf’. This movement originated in Germany and advocated control of the Catholic Church by the Protestant state. Geneva confiscated the churches in 1872.

The Catholics of Collonge retreated to a temporary chapel in the buildings of Rivollet’s farm (now the Municipal Centre), which became the “Chapel of Persecution”. They were able to practice their religion in the church again in 1894.

These villages are not only on the shores of Lake Geneva but also inland. Genevois Jean-Jacques Rousseau developed his passion for nature in this rural region.

Despite its small size, the canton of Geneva is Switzerland’s third-largest wine-producing canton! The first botanical garden was created in 1793. To showcase the canton’s winemaking tradition, a vineyard was created in 2019 on the site of the first botanical garden, in the heart of the city. This municipal vineyard is a reminder of Geneva’s urban-rural link.

It characterises Switzerland that the countryside is never far from an urban centre. Even the world’s multilateral capital is surrounded by them, not to mention Lake Geneva and the beautiful parks in the city of Geneva.

(Source and information: Canton et République de Genève)