The Lausanne cathedral watch


Category:
Oral expressions
  • Social practices
Canton:

Description

The cathedral watch is a quintessential Lausanne tradition, the resounding voice familiar to all night-owls roaming the old town or Cité. While it no longer serves any practical purpose, it remains absolutely integral to the charm of the Cité, and its supporters defend it tooth and nail from any threat to the belfry from which it is proclaimed. First recorded in 1405, it served for a long time to warn of fires – alongside the ground watches and that of Saint Francis’s church – and to ring in and announce the hours. Technological progress in the 20th century may well have rendered its primary functions obsolete (the fire service no longer needs its assistance, and the bells are now automated), but the watch refuses to fade away. The fire alarms the city installed back in 1907 did not stop it performing the same role until after the Second World War. When it was suggested in 1960 that this should be dropped or changed, a flood of readers’ letters throughout the regional press lasting more than a month made it clear just how attached the people of Lausanne are to their symbolic lookout. Since then, the watch has continued to call out the hours from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., every day of the year. The current watchman Renato Häusler works part-time and is supported by five deputies. He took over in 2002 from his no less famous predecessor Philippe Becquelin, better known as the cartoonist Mix et Remix.

Image gallery

  • “Ten o’clock!” © Dushana Häusler, 2011
  • The cathedral watch and La Marie-Madeleine, the great bell of Lausanne Cathedral © Dushana Häusler, 2011
  • The look-out post, 1952 © Giegel/Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne, collection iconographique vaudoise
  • Father Bovard, 1920 © Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne, collection iconographique vaudoise
  • “Ten o’clock!” © Dushana Häusler, 2011
  • The cathedral watch and La Marie-Madeleine, the great bell of Lausanne Cathedral © Dushana Häusler, 2011
  • The look-out post, 1952 © Giegel/Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne, collection iconographique vaudoise
  • Father Bovard, 1920 © Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne, collection iconographique vaudoise

References and documentation

Publications
  • Charles-François Landry : Le guet. In : La ronde des métiers. Ed. Eglise nationale vaudoise. Lausanne, 1943, p. 25-34

  • Gapard de Marval : Moi, le guet. In : Mémoire vive no. 13. Lausanne, 2005, p. 6-15

  • Gapard de Marval : Le guet de la cathédrale. 6 siècles d’histoire, 100 ans de souvenirs et d’anecdotes. Avec une préface de Gilbert Coutaz, archiviste de la Ville de Lausanne. Chapelle-sur-Moudon, 1992

  • Fabien Ruf, Fabienne Hoffmann, Ulrike Golnick : Les cloches de la cathédrale de Lausanne. Ed. Service des bâtiments, monuments et archéologie. Lausanne, 2005

  • 600 ans du guet. In : 24 Heures, 3 novembre 2005, p. 33-35

Documentation