The archaeological site under Saint-Pierre Cathedral has a total area of over 3000 m2. Among the many interesting things you will see during your visit, here are 18 you shouldn't miss.
The archaeological site of Saint-Pierre Cathedral in Geneva is one of the largest in Europe. The remains presented here illustrate the principal stages of the history of Geneva, from Antiquity to the Middle Ages.
This animated simulation illustrates the main stages in the development of the city of Geneva, from the emergence of its historical centre, in the 4th century, to the building of Saint-Pierre Cathedral as it stands today.
Several cathedrals succeeded each other over the centuries on the site of the present cathedral of Geneva. The oldest, the north cathedral, dates from the 4th century. The faithful gathered here for mass. This church was replaced in the 10th century by a single, larger cathedral.
Several small free-standing buildings with two stories were built against the north wall of the cathedral. Each had two rooms heated by a system of pipes under the floor.
An imposing model representing the city in the 6th century. Made in 1992, it reflects the state of archaeological research at the time. Since then, ten further excavations have added new data, allowing us to gain a more accurate view of the city's appearance in this period.
Even today in northern climates, it is often necessary to dry wheat after harvesting. One of the service areas (3th-4th century), attached to the residence of an important official of the town, may have been used for this purpose as it included a heated room.
In the 5th century, the cathedral's choir, which was reserved for the ecclesiastics, was closed off by screen surmounted by columns. Probably in order to facilitate processions, this was prolonged by a solea, a long narrow passageway marked out by screens, which opened onto the nave. A venerated tomb was incorporated into this liturgical layout on the south side.
The most striking feature of the 11th-century cathedral was its monumental scale. Inside the nave, a broad flight of stairs led up to two consecutive levels. A large area reserved for the canons, the ecclesiastics surrounding the bishop, gave onto the choir, where the high altar stood. The choir, located over the crypt, was elevated 4.5 m above the nave.
A third cathedral was built in line with the baptistery during the 7th-8th century. The almost square plan of the cathedral was divided into three naves. A highly venerated tomb situated in the choir was the object of a particular devotion. It was flanked by two platforms and surrounded by an ornamented chancel (a low screen) which the faithful had to cross in order to worship before the grave.
The audiovisual show addresses the salient events of the 30 years of archaeological excavation on the Saint-Pierre site. It includes interviews of Charles Bonnet, director of archaeological excavations from 1976 to 2006, and various other specialists.
Dated at 100 BC, this tomb is located under the choir of several successive buildings; it was probably the grave of an Allobrogian chieftain who was buried at this spot overlooking the lake, the port and the bridge over the Rhone.
The crypt was built to a plan including a double ambulatory and a protruding apse on the eastern side. The centre of this type rotunda was generally occupied by a tomb or a chest containing relics, while the altar was placed in the apse.
Rendition of the principal Allobrogian and Roman monuments from the 2nd century BC to the 4th century AD. The development of the city of Geneva is illustrated by an animated simulation and a model.
A large dwelling was built during the latter half of the 1st century on a terrrace overlooking the port. It was probably preceded by other buildings belonging to Roman city officials.
In a film projected on three screen, Charles Bonnet, for over 30 years the archaeologist responsible for the excavations, comments on some of the distinctive aspects of Geneva's main archaeological sites.
Adjacent to the south cathedral, built around AD 400, was the bishop's reception hall, which gave directly onto the choir. The highlight of this richly decorated room was a magnificent mosaic floor. The presence of such a room reflects the many functions of the bishop: not only was he the spiritual head of the diocese, he also played a political, judicial and administrative role, and hosted numerous delegations.
The rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire had a major impact on the political organisation and layout of Geneva in the late 4th century. The bishop became the highest official in the city and ruler of the lands attached to it. The cathedral complex which rose on the hill soon became a distinct quarter within the city. It served as the residence of the bishop and his entourage and as a centre of religious, political, administrative and economic activity.
The entrance area and museum shop provides visitors with audio tour devices and a selection of publications and postcards related to the archaeology and history of the site and the city of Geneva.