Back in 1602, in the early hours between the 11th and 12th of December, the Duke of Savoy tried to take the city of Geneva and annex it to France. 

It should have been easy. He had the troops. And the attack under the cover of darkness caught much of the population by surprise.

But the Duke hadn’t counted on Mère Royaume and her cauldron of scalding hot soup.

Ms Royaume was up late making a batch of soup to sell the next day and simply poured it over the soldiers trying to clamber up the city walls.

The Savoyards never made it over the ramparts.

Guards line up on the streets of Geneva. during Fête de l'Escalade (© GeneveTourisme/Olivier Miche)
© GeneveTourisme/Olivier Miche
Guards on horseback riding through the streets of Geneva during Fête de l'Escalade (© Villa de Genève)
© Villa de Genève

The unlikely victory has been celebrated for over 400 years with Geneva’s famous Fête de l’Escalade. 

The Festival is held over the weekend closest to the date of the historical battle. Every generation in the city comes together to enjoy colourful parades and historical recreations of the famous event.

Characters roam every corner of the city dressed in unique medieval costumes, parading on foot and on horseback. 

Children proudly carry their torches to the sound of drums and the great choir. 

And the whole city gathers around a gigantic bonfire to sing historical songs.

A bonfire during Fête de l'Escalade (© Villa de Genève)
© Villa de Genève
A chocolate cauldron, a staple of the Fête de l'Escalade (© Villa de Genève)
© Villa de Genève

No Escalade festival is complete without a chocolate cauldron, fashioned in honour of Mère Royaume and her unique contribution to the victory.

Families and friends gather across the city to break them open and tuck into the mouth-watering chocolate and vegetable-shaped marzipan sweets inside.

You can join in too. You will find the famous pot in various sizes at all the best chocolate shops in Geneva. 

Just make sure you remember to recite the ritual phrase of “Thus perish the enemies of the Republic!” as you do. 

Then you are truly are Genevois.

Fête de l’Escalade is just one of the many colourful events held during the festive season in Geneva. For more information visit

Main image: A parade through the streets of Geneva during Fête de l’Escalade. (© Villa de Genève)