The Day of Museums

5 October 2015

On our penultimate day in Geneva (2 October) we decided to have a bit of a museum day.

First up, the History of Science Museum. Free to enter, and only a short stroll from our accommodation, it housed a modest collection of old scientific instruments–very similar to the Galileo  Museum in Florence, but on a much, much smaller scale. Not too much of interest for me here, and not much to make images from, as everything was housed in glass cases and the reflections made ‘clean’ photos impossible. The building, however, was set in pleasant grounds.

From here we ventured to the Gare Cornavin again and asked the oracle at the information desk which tram to catch to get to ‘Old Geneva’. From memory, tram 19 (but don’t take that as gospel) took us to the Metropole stop. From there it was a short walk to St Pierre’s Cathedral, the heart of Old Geneva. And old it it is indeed.

While the cathedral is most certainly beautiful, it was just another church. The really interesting — no, completely fascinating –part was the archaeological site underneath the cathedral. I took no photos because it is all dimly lit, and the value, really, was from the commentary provided via the audio tour. (If you want more information and some images, go to their website.)

In a nutshell, there is a vast dig underneath the cathedral that has revealed Geneva’s origins. It all began with the burial of an anonymous Allobrogian chief around about 100 years before Christ (you can still see his remains in the dig). The high altar of the cathedral is directly over his resting place — as have been the primary altars of all of the various places of worship (Allobrogian, Roman and then Christian) over the past 2200 years. Remains of each of these epochs can be clearly seen in the dig (which is all extremely accessible via metal walkways). Over 2000 years’ evidence of the uninterrupted evolution of human worship all in one place is distinctly humbling to see.

Despite me saying that the cathedral is ‘just another church’, it is just another beautifully crafted church. The current cathedral was originally constructed in the 12th century. 12th century! The woodwork inside is from the 15th century, and is intricate and very beautiful. Again, the light inside was dim, so I had to use an ISO of between 2500 and 4000 to get shutter speeds that allowed me to hand-hold the camera — so no getting around the grain. I’ve deployed HDR filters to attempt to bring out some of the detail.

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Next to the cathedral is the Reformation Museum, which I would also have liked to visit — but there just wasn’t enough day!

Being in Switzerland, the home of fine watchmaking, we’d prioritised a visit to the Patek Philippe Museum. Again, no photos — because it was interdict (prohibited). However, this museum also consumed two hours with no effort. If our legs, feet and backs hadn’t been complaining so much about standing up all day we could have stayed longer. This place is a must-see if you love exquisite craftsmanship and art. We would love to have purchased the large hard-cover book about the museum’s collections… but it was 600 Swiss Francs!!! (At today’s exchange rate that’s NZ$945! For one book!) So I bought a 1 Franc pen instead…

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