Temple de Saint-Pierre, Geneva

Temple de Saint-PierreTemple de Saint-Pierre
Temple de Saint-Pierre, the post-Reformation name of the Cathedral of Saint-Pierre, rises on the highest point of Geneva's old town (Vieille Ville: alt. 404 m/1,326ft), occupying the site of a Roman temple and a number of earlier churches of the fourth-fifth C. onwards. This Romanesque church with Gothic elements was built between about 1150 and 1232, with later alterations, particularly to the exterior. The two principal towers, never completed, date from the 13th C.; the metal spire over the crossing was built only in 1895, replacing a tower destroyed by fire in the 15th C. The original west front and doorway were replaced in 1749-56 by a portico of six Corinthian columns - a piece of stylistic nonconformity which does not, however, interfere with the unity of the interior. Extensive restoration of the church was carried out in 1888-98 and in 1974-79.

Temple de Saint-Pierre Highlights


The interior of the Temple de Saint-Pierre (total length 64 m/210ft) is impressive with its harmonious proportions and the austere simplicity characteristic of Calvinist churches. The nave, with the aisles divided off by massive clustered piers, has a gallery, blind arcading and triforium; the transepts are short and narrow; the choir, with no ambulatory, ends in a semi-circular apse.

Choir stalls

Against the aisle walls of Temple de Saint-Pierre, in the second bay, are the gravestones of ecclesiastical and lay dignitaries of the 15th and 16th C., originally set into the ground. In the fifth bay are Late Gothic choir-stalls with delicate carving from the destroyed Chapelle des Florentins. In front of the last pillar on the wall of the north aisle is the "Chaise de Calvin", a triangular chair said to have been used by the Reformer. In the transepts are chapels: in the northeast corner the plain Nassau chapel, northwest of the choir the Rohan chapel, with the tomb (1889) of Duc Henri de Rohan (1579-1638), leader of the French Protestants in the reign of Louis XIII.


Temple de Saint-Pierre's simple choir with blind arcading, dates from the 12th C.: the stained glass windows are copies of the 15th C. originals, now in the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire (which also has the surviving parts of the high altar, painted by Konrad Witz).


The large gallery above the entrance to Temple de Saint-Pierre houses a modern organ (1962-65) with 6,000 pipes. The late Romanesque and Early Gothic capitals on the clustered piers of the nave and the pillars on the walls and windows of the aisles and in the choir and transepts are notable for their artistic quality and their variety of theme.

Archaeological excavations

The recently opened archaeological excavations below Geneva's Temple de Saint Pierre reveal an extensive underground labyrinth, evidence of early Christian settlement on the hill.

Chapelle des Maccabees

Adjoining the southwest corner of the Temple de Saint-Pierre is the Chapelle des Macchabées (1406, with later alterations in 1898; restored 1939-40), a superb example of High Gothic religious architecture, with beautiful window traceries.
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