The lateen sails of lake Geneva



THE LATEEN SAILS OF LAKE GENEVA People living on the shores of Lake Geneva are well aware that lateen-sailed barques transported the stones from Meillerie used to build the modern towns which sprang up around the lake. However they usually do not know that the introduction of the lateen sail to Lake Geneva dates back to the 12th century, and stems from the aim of the dukes of Savoy to become kings. From their castle at Chillon, the dukes coveted the thriving city of Geneva and longed to control that great commercial thoroughfare from Genoa and Venice that provided its fairs with goods: this was how the Chillon galley fleet came to see the light of day. The use of lateen sails then quickly spread to the warships of Lake Geneva. The invention, in 1691, of a half-merchant, half-war galley was the brainchild of the Bernese, eager to make these vessels profitable in times of peace. The lateen sail changed from warmongering to commerce, and became the standard sail on the lake in the 18th century, resulting in the disappearance of the ancient square-sailed naus. After an unpredicted peak during the period of the Belle Époque, the improvement of transport and the use of concrete led to its inexorable decline. Two of the oiginal barques have survived are used today, along with replicas, as pleasure boats, thus upholding a rich and long-lasting nautical tradition. It is this history which the show at the Maison Gribaldi seeks to portray through numerous documents, objects, models and paintings from Swiss and French collections. In this way, the barques of Lake Geneva will carry on being what they have always been—a link between the shores.


Maison Garibaldi , Christian Reymond


24 x 28 cm

Publication date

March 2017










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