Over a hundred years of history

The values handed down to us by the Missionnaires de Saint François de Sales, who founded the Institut in 1905, find their origins not only in Christianity but in a secular and universal set of ethics. They were passed on to the first lay management in 1995 and continue to guide the school’s values to this day.

The Origins of the Institute

At the turn of the 20th century, Geneva was growing rapidly and beginning to establish its international status. It had just turned the page on a difficult period in its religious history, and now allowed Catholic schools to be opened, while France was decreeing the separation of Church and State. Forced out of their colleges at Evian and Mélan in 1903, the Missionaries of Saint François de Sales (MSFS) eventually settled in a villa in the then quasi-rural area of Saint-Georges, now Petit-Lancy – and Institut Florimont was born. The school’s founder, Fr. François Jeantet assembled a staff of French clergymen who had also been expelled and denied education, making Genevan priest Fr. Joseph Rivollet the school’s first director.

The school’s language and syllabus were French, and life in the motherland was difficult, especially during the First World War. In 1920, when religious orders were once again permitted by the French government, MSFS opened a second school, the Juvénat in Ville-la-Grand (now École Collège Lycée Saint François), where some of Florimont’s staff also taught. This complicated life for MSFS during WW2 with teachers working on both sides of the border. Fr. Louis Favre, a former sports teacher, was shot by the Nazis in 1944 for his role as an early resistance fighter, earning him a posthumous Righteous Among the Nations award in 1986. The special bonds arising from this common history continue today between France and its Consulate in Geneva.

A clear educational purpose

Throughout its history, Florimont has always remained true to a clear objective: to provide a rounded education in a Christian spirit, preparing students for Swiss, French and international programs (particularly relevant to Geneva’s multicultural context). In 1943, Florimont presented its first candidate for the Swiss Federal Maturity, and since 2014 offers the International Baccalaureate and the Cantonal Maturity.

School directors and builders with vision 

Since 1905, the Institut’s 15 directors have all made their own additions to the campus we see today. “Les Désertes”, the Institut’s initial home, has seen new buildings grow around it as improvements are made to keep pace with changing demands: primary, secondary and science wings were added between 1945 and 1978, a new kindergarten building in 2013, construction and expansion of sports facilities (Florimont stadium in 1963, sports building in 2010 and Marcel Baechler gymnasium in 2020), as well as the transformation of the canteen, offices and outside spaces and maintenance of infrastructures. The school is constantly adapting and improving to best serve its students and staff.

The Florimont archives

Knowledge: a priceless asset

A papal bull issued by Pope Innocent X, a letters patent from Charles-Albert de Savoie, a 16th-century prayer-book and other exceptional religious relics: these are some of the treasures rediscovered in preparing for the Institut’s centenary in 2005, and now part of our archives.

The archives’ importance and value lies in the knowledge contained in the Congregation’s unique collection of books and documents. Along with some extraordinary historical and religious items, and many photographs, are the personal archives of the Missionaries who dedicated their lives not just to educating the children in their care, but to propagating the Catholic faith and Salesian spirituality in Europe and India.

The archives also highlight the achievements of a number of former pupils and teachers at Florimont through their outstanding action in times of war and in the arts, science or literature. One such case is Fr. Louis Favre, a supervisor at Florimont and then a teacher at Ville-la-Grand who was shot by the Nazis for saving the lives of many people by helping them cross the French-Swiss border. There is the story of Fr. Basile Luyet, a former science teacher at Florimont who went on to become the father of cryobiology; and the artist and writer Constant Rey-Millet, one of the most important Savoyard painters of the 20th century, who made his first watercolours at Florimont. Bringing these unique stories to life for today’s pupils and teachers means they can learn and be inspired by the experiences, progress, courage and actions of fellow Florimont members. Preserving the archives is an opportunity to keep alive the traditions established by François de Sales in 1607, providing a place of intellectual stimulation in all spheres of knowledge.

Pupils and staff can view the archives on Wednesdays from 9 am to 12,30pm. For more information, please contact Mme. Lorenzeni at: klorenzini@florimont.ch or by telephone at 076 370 13 83.