Saint Peter's Cathedral today

In July 1909, Geneva celebrated the 400th anniversary of the birth of Jean Calvin and the 350th anniversary of the founding of the College and the Academy. Numerous services were celebrated at St Peter’s and also at the other temples in the city, bringing together Protestants from all over the world. To mark the occasion, the Promotions took place at St Peter’s as they had done in the past, and so too did the University Jubilee.

When the First World War ended, Geneva became a crossroads for the world, the headquarters of the League of Nations and then the United Nations, the International Labour Office, the Red Cross, all manner of conferences open to all, and the Churches’ Council. Services of intercession were celebrated at St Peter’s during the wars, and during the peace conferences, with clergymen from many nations invited to take to the pulpit. Inter-faith services were celebrated here, bringing together diverse branches of non-Roman Christianity.

Whilst remaining a Protestant temple first and foremost, from the 20th century onwards St Peter’s became a church for all Genevans, for it hosts major religious or ecumenical celebrations that bring together the whole of Christianity and beyond, along with patriotic and civic events, and services commemorating the anniversaries of events that shaped the Republic’s history (services for the Restoration, 1st June, 1st August, the Escalade, etc.).

At the civil level, every four years the cathedral hosts ceremonies for the swearing in of the State Council, the judiciary and the communal magistrates. But St Peter’s has also become the go-to venue for major theatrical, lyrical, musical and folkloric performances. It is for this reason that a movable rostrum was installed in the building during the renovation work in 1977-81. And thanks to the sound of its bells and the extraordinary way in which it can be seen from far and wide, even those residents of Geneva who don’t frequent it would acknowledge that it plays a part in their lives.

Genève, 12 juin 2020. Reportage sur la Cathédrale St. Pierre. © Niels Ackermann / Lundi13