Geneva

History Around Every Corner

That’s one of the things I love most about Europe. Geneva is itself full of history if we take into consideration that it was once where the League of Nations was based and is now where the United Nations is headquartered. If we go even further back in time, we find that many important historical figures had strong connection to Geneva themselves – to Champel and Saint-Jean, where I lived when I first arrived and where I now live, respectively. Here are a few that may peak your interest:

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, philosopher, writer, and composer, was born in Geneva, lost his Genevan citizenship when he converted to Catholicism in in 1742 but regained it later on when he reverted back to Calvinism. Jean-Jacques is the name of the closest bus stop to our new apartment, too.

John Calvin, one of the most influential Protestant leaders, asked along with some other ministers that a man named Michael Servetus, denounced as a “Spanish-Portuguese” heretic and descendant of Jewish converts, be beheaded in 1553. Instead, Servetus was burned at the stake at the Plateau of Champel. Just a few streets down from where I was staying when I first arrived is Rue Michel-Servet, named after Servetus.

Voltaire, an iconic figure of the Enlightenment, stayed in Geneva between the years 1755 and 1760, in an estate called Délices (in Saint-Jean). Today the estate is home to the Voltaire Institute and Museum.

Joseph Mallord William Turner, the British landscape painter, passed through Geneva on multiple occasions on route to Italy. His 1804 drawings are said to be his “most delicate study of the town” (says the Tate, which now houses them). Take a look at the Rhône (with Saint-Jean, to the left) and Mont Blanc (in the background).

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