What is the history of old Villa La Grange in Geneva?

The Geneva summit between the U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin took place in a plush 18th-Century lakeside villa steeped in the Swiss history.

The Villa La Grange, set in Geneva's biggest park, which slopes down to the shore, is well used to hosting showpiece events. The setting is spectacular. Views from the three-storey classical mansion sweep down over the Parc de La Grange, across Lake Geneva towards the United Nations and the Jura mountains beyond.

The summit was set in the showpiece library: two wooden armchairs clad in red leather were set on either side of a globe, against a backdrop of brown and gold tones. During the summer, the gardens would typically be filled by picnickers.

Back in time

The grand, classical villa was owned by Genevan patrician families and was bequeathed to the city. On rare occasions, the public can take guided tours that take in the library, reception rooms, and bedrooms.

The estate was created in the 1660s by the merchant Jacques Franconis. Marc Lullin, a banker, bought it in 1706 and three of his sons built the French-style mansion and its surrounding buildings between 1768 and 1773. Banker Jean Lullin, having been ruined by the French Revolution, sold it in 1800 to Francois Favre, a Geneva ship owner who made his fortune trading with the East from the French port of Marseille.

A bibliophile's dream

 

The Favre family transformed the house and park, adding the large library, which contains some 15,000 books belonging to Francois' son Guillaume. The oldest volumes date back to the 15th Century and the collection is especially strong in history, literature, and ancient languages.

The villa held a gala in 1864 for the diplomats who signed the first Geneva Convention governing the treatment of sick and wounded combatants.

Use for civic receptions

Guillaume's grandson William Favre bequeathed the villa and the estate to the city in 1917, with the house to be used for civic receptions. When he died the following year, he also left the library collection to Geneva in his will. The park opened to the public in 1918.

Another historic meeting at a heritage villa

Let's go back to the 1985 Geneva summit, when Cold War rivals Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev met for the first time in Villa Fleur d'Eau, a late 19th-Century mansion in Geneva.

Things got off to a bad start. Just before the U.S. President Reagan arrived at one of the summit locations, a Swiss soldier waiting in the ceremonial honour guard fainted, overcome by the bitter cold. The historic handshake between the leaders lasted a good seven seconds, and took place in front of frozen photographers and reporters who had stood waiting in the bitter cold. The three-day summit was covered by 3,500 journalists.

Six years before the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union, the 1985 Geneva summit focussed on de escalating the nuclear arms race between the two superpowers, and came with hopes of fostering better East West relations.

Hosts Switzerland were also well aware of the gulf between the two superpowers - so much so that the Swiss - President Kurt Furgler's assistant Walter Fust had to prepare for his boss "two different welcoming speeches, taking into account the different cultures".

On the sidelines, Nancy Reagan wanted to replace the bottles of mineral water provided with U.S. ones, and also wanted an aide to try out her food before she did.

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What are the interesting facts about the Qutub Minar and other monuments in the Qutb Complex?

The Qutb complex in Delhi contains buildings and monuments from the Delhi Sultanate era. Amongst these is the Qutub Minar, built as a victory tower by Qutb-ud-din Aibak, who was once the Sultan of Delhi. The tower commemorates the victory of the Delhi Sultanate over the Hindu kings. Several monuments were added to the complex later by his successors and future rulers. Today, the complex is a popular tourist spot in the capital and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

1. Tallest brick minaret

Standing at 72.5 metres, the Qutub Minar is the tallest brick minaret in the world. It has a base diameter of 14.3 metres which reduces to 2.7 metres at the peak. The Minaret of Jam in Afghanistan is the next tallest brick monument at 62 metres. Interestingly, the Qutub Minar is said to have been inspired by the Minaret of Jam.

2. No more climbing to the top

There are 379 steps that lead to the top of the Qutub Minar. It was once allowed for the public to climb the stairs and catch a glimpse of the city from the top. However, on December 4. 1981, a power failure caused a blackout at the staircase, leading to a stampede. Nearly 300 to 400 people were inside when the blackout happened and in the rush to the exit. 47 people, mostly school children, were killed. Ever since, no one has been allowed to climb the monument.

3. The oldest mosque

The Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, which is part of the Qutb complex was commissioned by Qutb-ud-din-Aibak. It was the first mosque to be built in Delhi after the Islamic conquest of India. The mosque is one of the oldest mosques in the country and the oldest surviving example of Ghurid architecture in the Indian subcontinent.

4. Khilji's incomplete dream

Emperor Alauddin Khilji of the Khilji dynasty enlarged the Quwwat ul-Islam Mosque during his reign. Post this, he wished to build a minaret of his own called the Alai Minar. This was to be double the size of the Qutub Minar. The construction of this minar was however abandoned after his death in 1316, and the 24.5 metre high first storey core of the minar still stands among the ruins of the Qutb complex.

5. The iron pillar

The Iron Pillar of Delhi is part of the Quth complex. It was constructed by emperor Chandragupta II and was erected elsewhere before being moved to its present location. The pillar is famous for the rust-resistant composition of metals used in its construction. Till date, the pillar has not corroded.

Picture Credit : Google

What are the interesting facts about the Qutub Minar and other monuments in the Qutb Complex?



The Qutb complex in Delhi contains buildings and monuments from the Delhi Sultanate era. Amongst these is the Qutub Minar, built as a victory tower by Qutb-ud-din Aibak, who was once the Sultan of Delhi. The tower commemorates the victory of the Delhi Sultanate over the Hindu kings. Several monuments were added to the complex later by his successors and future rulers. Today, the complex is a popular tourist spot in the capital and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.



1. Tallest brick minaret



Standing at 72.5 metres, the Qutub Minar is the tallest brick minaret in the world. It has a base diameter of 14.3 metres which reduces to 2.7 metres at the peak. The Minaret of Jam in Afghanistan is the next tallest brick monument at 62 metres. Interestingly, the Qutub Minar is said to have been inspired by the Minaret of Jam.



2. No more climbing to the top



There are 379 steps that lead to the top of the Qutub Minar. It was once allowed for the public to climb the stairs and catch a glimpse of the city from the top. However, on December 4. 1981, a power failure caused a blackout at the staircase, leading to a stampede. Nearly 300 to 400 people were inside when the blackout happened and in the rush to the exit. 47 people, mostly school children, were killed. Ever since, no one has been allowed to climb the monument.



3. The oldest mosque



The Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, which is part of the Qutb complex was commissioned by Qutb-ud-din-Aibak. It was the first mosque to be built in Delhi after the Islamic conquest of India. The mosque is one of the oldest mosques in the country and the oldest surviving example of Ghurid architecture in the Indian subcontinent.



4. Khilji's incomplete dream



Emperor Alauddin Khilji of the Khilji dynasty enlarged the Quwwat ul-Islam Mosque during his reign. Post this, he wished to build a minaret of his own called the Alai Minar. This was to be double the size of the Qutub Minar. The construction of this minar was however abandoned after his death in 1316, and the 24.5 metre high first storey core of the minar still stands among the ruins of the Qutb complex.



5. The iron pillar



The Iron Pillar of Delhi is part of the Quth complex. It was constructed by emperor Chandragupta II and was erected elsewhere before being moved to its present location. The pillar is famous for the rust-resistant composition of metals used in its construction. Till date, the pillar has not corroded.



 



Picture Credit : Google


What are the interesting facts about the Charminar?



Built in the year 1591 by Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, a ruler of the Qutb Shahi dynasty, Charminar is an iconic monument in Hyderabad, India. This square-shaped structure is built out of granite and lime mortar, predominantly in an Islamic-style design. However, influences of Hindu architecture can be noticed in the ornamentations.



1. What's in a name?



The Charminar takes its name from the four pillars/minars that are part of the monument. However, its relation to the number four goes beyond just the four pillars. There are four main arches in the monument and each of the main arches has four smaller arches on either side. Each of the pillars is also divided into four parts and the number of galleries found at each level is also four. Apart from these, one can spot many more connections to the number four, according to experts.



2. Commemorates the end of an epidemic



There exist several theories about the purpose of the construction of the Charminar. But the one widely accepted is that the monument was built to commemorate the eradication of plague in Hyderabad. Plague was a widespread disease in Hyderabad at that time. Another popular theory, according to the 17th Century French traveller Jean de Thevenot, is that the Charminar was built in 1591 to commemorate the beginning of the second Islamic millenium year.



3. The centrepiece



When Qutb Shah moved his capital from Golconda to Hyderabad, he planned for the Charminar to be the centre of the Old City of Hyderabad. The Old City was spread around the Charminar in four different quadrants that were segregated according to the established settlements. The modern city of Hyderabad has expanded since, but the Charminar remains the centrepiece of the once walled Old City.



4. A secret tunnel?



It is believed Qutb Shah had built a secret underground tunnel from the Charminar to the Golconda Fort, his former capital. He is said to have built this tunnel as an escape route in case of a siege. However, till date no one knows the location of this secret tunnel.



5. On the state emblem



The Charminar features in the emblem of the state of Telangana. The logo was designed by noted Telangana artist Laxman Aelay in four days and has been in use since June 2014.



 



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What are the interesting facts of the Notre-Dame de Paris?



1. Built over a Pagan city



The Notre-Dame was built over the ruins of what was once the Gallo-Roman city of Lutetia. Before the cathedral was built there were four other churches that stood at the same place one after the other over centuries. And before the churches, there stood a Gallo-Roman temple dedicated to Jupiter. In 1160, when the Bishop of Paris. Maurice de Sully decided to build the Notre-Dame, he called for the demolition of the earlier church and chose to reuse some of its material for the Notre-Dame.



2. When Victor Hugo saved the cathedral



The cathedral was in a degraded state since the French Revolution. Some of its statues had been destroyed, while most of its bells had been melted and used as cannon balls. Not much importance was given to the Notre-Dame until Napoleon decided to crown himself the Emperor of France in the cathedral.



In 1831, French writer Victor Hugo published his masterpiece The Hunchback of Notre Dame or Notre-Dame de Paris, which revolved around the cathedral and served as a tribute to the monument. The book became so popular that the public demanded restoration of the Notre-Dame, ultimately leading to massive renovations directed by French architect Viollet-le-Duc in the mid-19th century.



3. The Gargoyles are not so medieval



The famous Gargoyles that can be found around the cathedral are not from the medieval times, as many think. They were in fact added during the 19th Century restoration work by Viollet-le-Duc, inspired by the creatures that appear in Victor Hugo's book.



4. All roads lead to the Notre-Dame



On the square in front of the Notre-Dame, is a tiny plate engraved with a compass, embedded in the cobblestones. It is marked Point zero des routes de France or Point Zero of French Roads. This is the point from which all distances to and from Paris are measured.



5. Fire, destruction and restoration



On April 15, 2019, the roof of the Notre-Dame caught fire while undergoing renovation and restoration. The fire burned for around 15 hours and destroyed many parts of the cathedral. It also led to the contamination of the site and the surrounding environment. Following the fire, many companies and individuals made donations to restore the monument and on July 29, 2019, the French National Assembly passed a law stating that the restoration must preserve the cathedral's historic, artistic and architectural interest. In November 2020, the structure was stabilised to prevent any possible collapse and reconstruction of the cathedral commenced again in January 2021.



 



Picture Credit : Google