Sanctuary of St. Peters Cathedral, Geneva History

The sanctuary of St. Peters Cathedral, Geneva; credit Mazell Purnell

Geneva History

Geneva History began as an Allobrogian border town, fortified against the Helvetii tribe when the Romans took it in 121 BC. It became Christian under the Late Roman Empire, and acquired its first bishop in the 5th century, having been connected to the Bishopric of Vienne in the 4th.

In the Middle Ages, the city was ruled by a count under the Holy Roman Empire until the late 1300s, when it was granted a charter giving it a high degree of self-governance. Around this time, the House of Savoy came to nominally dominate the city.

In the 1400s, an oligarchic republican government emerged with the creation of the Grand Council.

In the first half of the 1500s, the Protestant Reformation reached the city, causing religious strife, during which Savoy rule was thrown off and Geneva allied itself with the Swiss Confederacy. In 1541, with Protestantism on the rise, John Calvin, the Protestant Reformer and proponent of Calvinism, became the spiritual leader of the city and established the Republic of Geneva.

By the 1700s, Geneva had come under the influence of Catholic France, which cultivated the city as its own. France tended to be at odds with ordinary townsfolk, which inspired the failed Geneva Revolution of 1782, an attempt to win representation in the government for average men.

In 1798, revolutionary France under the Directory annexed Geneva.

At the end of the Napoleonic Wars on 1 June 1814, Geneva was admitted to the Swiss Confederation or what became known as Switzerland.

In 1907, the separation of Church and State was adopted. The city flourished in the 19th and 20th centuries, becoming the seat of many international organizations.

When the United Nations formed after World War II, Geneva became one of the four principal cities to host the United Nations Council headquarters. As a result, the city attracts a cosmopolitan population from around the world.

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