Bernese Conquest of Geneva & Environs, 1536

A.) Prehistory

In the early 16th century, the city of Geneva defended her autonomy against attempts of the Duke of Savoy to subdue her. From 1519 to 1525, the city was under enforced Savoyard rule. In 1525 Genevan exiles returned and regained control. Fearing Saboyard retaliation,, they concluded treaties with Bern and Fribourg, which turned Geneva into a combined Bernese & Fribourgoise protectorate. Genevan mercants, however, continued to experience molestation at the hands of Savoy's nobility. Bern, Solothurn and Fribourg in 1530 forced the Duke of Savoy to recognize the status of Geneva as a free city in the Treaty of St. Julien.
When Geneva permitted the protestant preacher Farel to preach in the city, Duke Charles III. of Savoy resumed the feud.

B.) The Conquest

With the death of Francesco Sforza, the Milanese dynasty ended, and war between the Emperor and King Francis I. of France resumed. The French king planned to occupy Savoy's Alpine passes, and to win Geneva as an ally.
Bern was not willing to permit the stationing of French troops on her side of the Jura Mountains. In a quick campaign, Bernese troops occupied the (hitherto Savoyard) territories of Vaud, Gex amd the western Chablais (territories connecting Geneva with Bern, and surrounding Geneva).

C.) The Legacy

Bern was able to hold on to the Vaud, and returned both Gex and the western Chablais only in 1563. In the meantime the reformation has been introduced in these areas. The Bernese campaign made the Calvinist reformation of Geneva possible.

The Bernese Occupation of Vaud, 1536-1798, by John W. McCoy
Article "Bern" for the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation, by H.R. Schmidt
Article Chablais, from Yahoo Encyclopedie, in French
Chronologie, from Sabaudia, in French
Article Savoy, from Catholic Encyclopedia
REFERENCE Wolfgang von Wartburg, Geschichte der Schweiz (History of Switzerland), München : Oldenbourg 1951, 264 pp.

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on June 5th 2003, last revised on November 17th 2004

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