A hundred year of history

Founded in 1905 by the Congregation of the Missionaries of Saint Francis de Sales, the Florimont Institute has been run since 1995 by secular people. The Management Committee maintains close collaboration with the religious congregation.

The Origins of the Institute

At the beginning of the 20th century, Geneva was a city in full expansion, and its international vocation was already taking shape. It has just turned the page on a troubled period in its religious history, allowing the establishment of Catholic schools on its soil, while France decreed, in 1901, the separation of Church and State. Driven out of their colleges in Evian and Mélan (Haute-Savoie) in 1903, the Missionaries of Saint Francis de Sales (MSFS) settled two years later in a villa located on the then deserted plateau of Saint-Georges, in the Petit-Lancy: the Florimont Institute was born. Its founder, Father François Jeantet, MSFS, brings in his wake other French religious who, like him, were expelled and deprived of education. At the head of Florimont, he placed a Genevan priest, Joseph Rivollet, who became its first director.

The programs are French and the life of the mother country lived intensely, especially the war of 14-18. In 1920, when the religious congregations returned to the good graces of the French government, the MSFS inaugurated in Ville-La-Grand the “Juvénat” (current École Collège Lycée Saint François), little brother of the Institute with which it shared a part of the teaching staff. Thus, the period of the Second World War will be particularly complicated for the MSFS working on both sides of the border. One of them, Father Louis Favre, an early resistance fighter and former sports teacher, was shot by the Nazis in 1944, which earned him the distinction, posthumously in 1986, of Righteous Among the Nations. . This common history explains the privileged ties that still persist today with France and its Consulate General in Geneva.

Continuously supplemented programs

Throughout its history, Florimont has remained faithful to a specific objective: to meet the requirements of education in a Christian spirit, by ensuring the preparation of Swiss, French and international programs (so important in the multicultural context of Geneva). Thus in 1943, the Institute presented its first candidate for the Swiss Federal Maturity. In 2014, Florimont opened up to the International Baccalaureate and the Cantonal Maturity.

Visionary directors… and builders!

Between 1905 and 2021, fifteen directors shaped its history, adding their stone to the Florimontan edifice. “Les Désertes”, the initial house which served as cement for the Institute, has seen new buildings grow around it, driven by a permanent desire to meet the demands of the moment: construction of new wings dedicated to primary education (1956) and secondary (1962), then science (1945 and 1978), addition of a building for kindergartens (2013), construction of sports facilities (Florimont stadium in 1963; sports building in 2010; Marcel Baechler gymnasium in 2020), without forgetting the gradual transformation of the various courtyards, canteens and administrative spaces, as well as the renovation and permanent maintenance of the infrastructures. The school is thus part of a perpetual movement to improve its built heritage, at the service of students and employees.

The archives at Florimont

Knowledge is priceless.

The Florimont archives are ideally situated in the basement of the nursery school building. They have no special monetary worth but their value lies in the knowledge contained in the unique books and documents.

They include the personal archives of the Missionaries, who dedicated their lives to educating the children entrusted to them as well as to the propagation of the Catholic faith and Salesian spirituality in Switzerland, France and especially in India. A number of former pupils and teachers at Florimont have left their mark, by their outstanding actions in war or by the fame they achieved in the arts, science or literature.

One case in point is Father Luis Favre, a supervisor at Florimont then a teacher at Ville-la-Grand, who was shot by the Nazis for having saved many people by helping them to cross the French-Swiss border; or Father Basile Luyet, a former science teacher at Florimont and the father of cryobiology; or the painter and writer Constant Rey-Millet, one of the most important Savoyard painters of the XXth century, who painted his first watercolours at Florimont. We want our current pupils and teachers to learn about these unique destinies so that they benefit from the experiences, the advances, the acts of courage and the actions that these former members of Florimont carried out during their lives. This is one way of perpetuating the tradition of the Académie FlorimontaIne created by François de Sales in 1607 and so the aim was to offer a site for similar intellectual activity, open to all spheres of knowledge.

It was in organising the various exhibitions linked to the 100th anniversary of our school that the initial research was begun on the objects and old photographs and it was also when Florimont discovered a number of priceless archives.

The fathers had an important library and also a museum that was rather like a cabinet of curios.

The items remaining from this collection have gradually been found and certain of the most important pieces are currently in a display case in the chapel. Among them can be seen the Papal Bull by Pio X, a letters patent from Charles-Albert of Savoy, some beautiful reliquaries and a XVlth century missal with lovely illuminations.

Some very important photographic archives have also been found and we have undertaken to have some of them valued.

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.