L’Escalade tradition on the annual dinner of the AGFDU

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This year, the traditional annual dinner of the Association of University Women of Geneva (AGFDU) took place on 26th of November in the heart of the city Geneva. The President, Monica Chirita Lemenager, members, and few men accompanying their partners were present. The Guest of honour was the CER (Coordinator of European Relations) who represents her NFA at the University Women of Europe (UWE).

As every year, this evening was, in anticipation, dedicated to the most popular Festival in Geneva called “l’Escalade”, which celebrates the proud defence of Genevans from the attack of Duke of Savoy’s army in 1602, a strong cultural identity element of deep origin and a cohesive factor of the Republic and the Canton of Geneva. The Duke’s idea was to let his best soldiers secretly climb (“scale”) over the Geneva’s fortification walls to get hold of the city gate from inside, open it and let the troops in. This is where the word escalade comes from – French “escalade” translates as English “scale”, or “climb”.

There is a legend which tells a story of a woman called Catherine Cheynel. It says that while cooking a soup, she was lucky enough to have noticed the attackers approaching from below and poured a large cauldron of hot soup on them while they were climbing on the walls. The noise awakened the entire city and its militia successfuly defended Geneva from the Duke of Savoy’s army.

As a reminiscence of this moment, a special chocolate pot stuffed with marzipan candies is being ceremonially consumed every year as the hallmark of the Escalade celebrations. AGFDU keeps the tradition going on with this ritual. The President invited one of the eldest member, Muriel Joye, to officiate the ceremony of the resistance of Geneva: a large pot of dark chocolate filled with marzipan candies (la marmite) was placed in the middle of the table. After the speech and the rallying song sung by the Dean and the members, a strong punch hit the whole thing and it broke into a thousand pieces, to the joy of all! This ritual is thus transmitted to the new generation for its perpetuation.

In the beginning of the programme there was a new book presentation by AGFDU member Michèle Makki: “Pompei-Le Sang et la Cendre”, published by Editions Baudelaire. Christine Botchi Morel was invited to explain her role as CER in order to promote understanding of this function among members who have just joined the Association. The aim was to help them to understand also the difference between the acronyms CER and CIR (Coordinator of International Relations) at Graduate Woman international (GWI), the worldwide organisation.

It was really a pleasant evening which led to numerous exchanges about literature, biology, chemistry and other scholarly disciplines.


Thank you Christine Botchi Morel – CER AGFDU for sharing your traditions and keeping us updated about AGFDU and the history of Geneva.

One thought on “L’Escalade tradition on the annual dinner of the AGFDU

    Jean Matson said:
    December 22, 2021 at 10:24 am

    Thank you for this very interesting account of an historical tradition!

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