• LOCATION 13 | A Stroll Through Carouge: Geneva's Little Italy

    The monumental fountain

    Take the pedestrian crossing to your right to walk to the middle of the place on this side of the tramway.

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    From spring to autumn, there is a terrace café. Stand by it facing the monumental fountain. Or you can sit down and have a drink while watching the fountain.

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    In the 1840's, it was decided to gather water from the hills above Carouge. Pipes were laid and the architect and medievalist Blavignac was asked to design four monumental fountains. This is the biggest of them and they were inaugurated in 1868. So now, we again had clean drinking water.

    Now normally, a utilitarian fountain has a deep basin for drawing water with a bucket but has no special decoration. Whereas decorative, monumental fountains have a low basin so you can see the surface of the water. Here, we mixed the two styles: a utilitarian fountain with monumental decor. The deep basin is octagonal. Above it, four frightened swans spit the water to the four cardinal points so as to scare the bad spirits from Carouge.

    Between the two bowls is an old beardy man symbolizing the god of river Arve. Normally, river gods are in a lying position. This one is sitting so as to be able to hold two vases on his knees. His left foot stands on a third one. From these three vases, water runs out to remind that the source of the river Arve is triple. In a high valley above Chamonix near the Mont Blanc, three streams join to create this river.

    Blavignac was born rich and Protestant in Geneva. But then he lost all his money in a speculative building in the city. When he participated in restoring two Catholic churches, he familiarized himself with the Catholic mystic symbolism and ended up making himself Catholic… and he came to Carouge. When he died, people said: “he was born rich and Protestant in Geneva and died poor and Catholic in Carouge”. This also happened to me: I was brought up by protestant parents and after having lived here a while, changed to catholic. But today, this doesn’t matter much anymore, we live together in harmony and mutual respect.

    Blavignac was a freemason and the symbol of his lodge was a Burgundy snail, the one with a house on his back. On this fountain, he hid one. Can you find it? You have to pass the café to the right to get close to the fountain and follow it to the left through the small corridor between the café and the fountain. I give you a hint: these snails like to live in vineyards, so search for the vine leaves.

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    Have you found it?

    Then let’s go to the middle of the marketplace. I meet you there.

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A Stroll Through Carouge: Geneva's Little Italy