Home > Tourist Guide > Table of contents > Lake Geneva > The Lake > Rolle

Frédéric-César de la Harpe

Frédéric-César de la Harpe was a key Swiss and Vaudois patriot in the turbulent times around the end of the eighteenth century. He was born in Rolle in 1754, but hardly spent any time there, instead becoming a major in the Bernese army at an early age. As his awareness of Bernese domination over his homeland grew, he left the army, eventually becoming tutor in St Petersburg to Catherine the Great’s grandson, Alexander. While at the Russian court during the French Revolution, he wrote many pamphlets urging the Vaudois people to liberate themselves from the Bernese, and he eventually travelled to Paris in 1797 to urge the revolutionary French government to intervene in Vaud. The following year, due largely to de la Harpe’s petitioning, the Bernese were ejected and Vaud won its independence.

In the years following, Bern made various attempts to regain power in Vaud; de la Harpe stepped in again, this time persuading his former charge Alexander, now Czar of Russia, to take the side of Vaud. De la Harpe died at Lausanne during construction of Rolle’s new harbour, and his home town decided to name their little offshore island after him, planting on it an obelisk and a plaque bearing his portrait facing the Vaudois shore.

ROLLE is a little-visited place roughly midway between Nyon and Lausanne which lies at the heart of the La Côte wine country. Its huge lakeside château, plum in the heart of town, dates from 1270 but is not open to the public. Just offshore – crowned by an obelisk – is the tiny Île de la Harpe, built up in 1835 from earth dumping during construction of the town’s harbour; unfortunately for posterity, the harbour works incorporated a quantity of pre-hewn oak posts which had stood just offshore for as long as anyone could remember – remnants, no doubt, of prehistoric stilt dwellings, destroyed in the name of progress. It’s a tragic irony that shortly afterwards the railway arrived, negating the whole point of building a harbour in the first place. The island, named after local revolutionary and statesman Frédéric-César de la Harpe, is now the focus for Rolle’s active community of yachties, who regularly organize sailing festivals and races around it, often tying up for a fortifying dram or two at the handy midway point.

Five kilometres east of Rolle on the lakeshore road you’ll find the massive Château d’Allaman built in the twelfth century, torched in 1530, rebuilt in 1723 and transformed again into a private residence in 2006. The office of the new owner, Mr Markus Jerger, told us the property is no longer open to the public.

© Micheloud & Cie 2013     No part of this site may be reproduced in any form or by any means without our prior written permission. Printed from http://Switzerland.isyours.com/e/guide/lake_geneva/rolle.html