"Je crois Ferney plus beau. Les regards étonnés
sur cent vallons fleuris doucement promenés
de la mer de Genève admirent l'étendue,
et les Alpes de loin s'élevant dans la nue
d'un long amphithéâtre enfermant ces coteaux,
où le pampre en festons rit parmi les ormeaux."
Extract from "Epitre a Horace" - Voltaire - 1774
Do you know Voltaire?
Born in Paris in 1694, François Marie Arouet, son of a wealthy notary, received a humanistic education from the Jesuits. When he was 24 years of age, he completed his first major play "Oedipe" in prison, he became famous thanks to this work and adopted his pen name "Voltaire" that same year.
Fearing for his safety in Paris,he constantly sought security far from the King : in Cirey at Madame du Châtelet's home, with Frederik II of Prussia, in the Château de Prangins, and then in his Délices in Geneva ; and finally in Ferney, where he stayed for the last twenty years of his life.
In February 1778, having returned to Paris, he staged his last play « Irène » (a tragedy), which was a spectacular triumph. He died on 30 May 1778. His ashes were transferred to the Panthéon on 11 July 1791.
Voltaire, the patriarch of Ferney
After years of wandering throughout Europe, Voltaire settled in the hamlet Fernex, an arbour of peace, because of its proximity to Geneva and especially its distance from Paris. This situation he elucidates very well in his Epistle to Horace: "Finding free land where one is the absolute master, being at one and the same time in three sovereignties and depending on none of them, is a singular happiness to which I could not have dared to aspire."
The last 20 years of his life in Ferney were Voltaire's most productive. Apart from his abundant literary production, he was an indefatigable defender of human rights and the leader of concerned writers.
A veritable lord of the manor, he unveiled the many hidden facets of his character:
Farmer, he helped the villagers profit from the technological advances of their century.
Architect, he supervised the work of the masons and entrepreneurs on the building site of his château and his "church".
Urbanist, he invested enormously in the construction of this new town, houses, paving, fountains, ...
Entrepreneur, he attracted craftsmen and merchants for the creation of pottery, tiles, leather goods, roof tiles and clock making.
In 20 years, this tiny hamlet of scarcely 150 inhabitants grew into a prosperous little town of more than 1,000 souls. The Tourist Office is today located in what was his last theatre.
Guided tours are organised by the tourist office during the summer months for individuals and all year round on reservation in advance.