Campaign of the Month: August 2011
Le Ballet de l'Acier
Ducato di Chiablese
The duchy of Chiablese – Chablais, in French – is situated in the extreme north of Savoy, along the southern shore of the alpine lake know for many centuries as Lago Lemano or Lac Léman, but which in the last century Genevois Calvinists insist on calling it Lago di Ginevra or Lac de Genève – in English, Lake Geneva – after the Protestant city on its western shore. The province is bordered to the east by the Swiss canton of Valais, to the south by the Savoyard province of Faucigny, and to the west by the Republic of Geneva.
At the time of the Romans, the region was home to the Allobroges, a tribe from the east who were subjugated by the Romans by 121 BC and who helped the Romans check the Helvetes. After the fall of Rome, Chiablese – from the Latin caput lacis – became part of the Kingdom of Burgundy, and after 1032 Count Umberto I of Savoy was named count of Chablais and “Gatekeeper of the Alps.” The county, later duchy in the fourteenth century, of Chiablese remained in the House of Savoy, and served as the Savoyard political center through the fifteenth century, when it was moved to Chambéry.
In 1536, Genevois Lutherans succeeded in converting the parishes of Chablais to the Reformed faith, but the Catholic religion was restored by the 1590s through the work of missionaries and the duca di Savoia and the Reformed faith outlawed in 1601.
Like most of the Alpine provinces of Savoy, Chiablese is thinly populated. Wheat is in short supply, and chestnuts and walnuts are often used in its stead. Apples, pears, and other fruit are grown, along with grapes for wine, and oaks and firs are harvested for timber, ships’ masts, pitch, and tar. Small black Herens cattle, goats, and hogs are kept, and deer and other game are abundant. Fisherman ply the waters of Lago Lemano from villages along it shore.
The Bishop of Geneva oversees his see from Chiablese.