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Wednesday, 25 March 2015


The Protestant Reformation reached the Swiss city of Geneva in the 1530s. The people of the city voted on May 21, 1536 to live "according to the gospel and the Word of God and to put an end to the masses and other papal practices" in their territory. John Calvin arrived in the city two months later.

Destruction of icons in Protestant Switzerland

In 1541 John Calvin was appointed pastor of Geneva's Cathedral of St Peter with a decent salary, a fine house and 250 gallons of wine a year. He established a rigorous theocracy ( a government by priests) in the city.

Prior to Calvin’s reformation, Geneva had been described as “the stinkiest city in Europe,” where for instance there were more bars per head than any other major city of its time. Calvin enforced morality in a strict way whereby bards, dancing and bawdy singing were banned and adultery was punishable by death.  Every home got a visit from a church leader once a year to check on the morality of it’s occupants.

Calvin’s association with Geneva was not part of his plans. He visited the city only because of a detour to avoid the hostilities of a war raging between the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, and the King of France, Francis I. Calvin had intended to remain in Geneva a single night before resuming his travel to Strasbourg.

The Geneva Testament under the leadership of William Whittingham was produced in Geneva in 1560. It was the first English Bible to be divided into chapter and verses.

Geneva B

The philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau was brought up  at 28 Rue due Coutance, Geneva. He abandoned the city in disgust at the age of 15, after returning to Geneva and finding the city gates locked due to the curfew.

Voltaire lived between 1758-1778 at Ferney Chateau, near Geneva in France on the Swiss border. The French philosopher once prophesied that in "another century and there will not be a Bible on Earth.” Ironically a century after his death his home was occupied by the Geneva Bible Society.

The English scientist Humphrey Davy died in a hotel room in Geneva, Switzerland, on May 29, 1829 after suffering a stroke several months previously.

After the English author George Eliot's father died in 1849, she received a small inheritance. Eliot traveled abroad after his death, and spent a winter in Geneva at the home of M and Mme D' Albert reading intensively and pondering her future.

In 1996 physicists using the particle accelerator at CERN in Geneva, created the first atoms of antimatter, when nine atoms of antihydrogen survived for 40 nanoseconds (40 billionths of a second).

Geneva is the city that hosts the highest number of international organizations in the world, including the headquarters of many of the agencies of the United Nations and the Red Cross.

Geneva is the place where the Geneva Conventions were signed, which chiefly concern the treatment of wartime non-combatants and prisoners of war.

Since 1818, a particular chestnut tree is used as the official "herald of the spring" in Geneva. The sautier (secretary of the Parliament of the Canton of Geneva) observes the tree and notes the day of arrival of the first bud.

JT International (JTI), Mediterranean Shipping Company, Serono, SITA, Société Générale de Surveillance and STMicroelectronics all have their international headquarters in Geneva. Many other multinational companies like Caterpillar, DuPont, Electronic Arts, Hewlett-Packard, INVISTA, Procter & Gamble and Sun Microsystems have their European headquarters in the city too.

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