Towering over Geneva’s old town is this 12th-century cathedral, known for its mixture of architectural styles and the Roman temple ruins that lie beneath it.
Climb Saint-Pierre Cathedral’s towers for superb views of the city, see where Protestant reformer John Calvin delivered his sermons and tour the archeological site under the building.
The cathedral was constructed in the late 12th century on the site of several earlier religious sanctuaries. It became a Protestant place of worship in the 16th century during the Reformation. The cathedral was rebuilt several times, resulting in a mix of architectural styles. Look for them when you examine the church’s exterior. The main building is Romanesque-gothic, while the columns of its façade are neoclassical. The two square towers on the east end are so different from the rest of the cathedral they almost seem to be part of a completely separate building.
Much of the cathedral’s once lavish interior was stripped away when it was converted into a Protestant church. However, you can still see some elegant Romanesque capitals in the nave. Admire one of the church’s other ornamental feature, the 15th-century carved wooden choir stalls. They survived the Reformation because they were in another building at the time. Then go to the Maccabee Chapel for its gothic paintings. One of the highlights of the cathedral is the simple wooden chair used by John Calvin.
Walk up the narrow, spiral staircase that leads to the top of the cathedral’s towers. From here, you can take in panoramic views of the city, Lake Geneva and the surrounding mountains.
Venture into the basement of the cathedral to explore the underground ruins. Many of these excavated areas date back to the fourth century. Look out for mosaic floors from the late Roman Empire, monks’ cells and the tomb of an Allobrogian chieftain.
Situated in the center of the old town, the cathedral is easy to get to via Geneva’s efficient public transportation system.
The interior of Saint-Pierre Cathedral is free to explore, but there are entrance fees for both the archaeological site and the towers. The cathedral is open every day, except for some public holidays.