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Yvoire – The Floral Village

11/02/2024
Yvoire was 700 years old in 2006 and I visited the village to learn more of its past and to photograph its floral tradition.

Floral Cascade, Grande Rue
Floral Cascade, Grande Rue
The beautifully restored medieval village of Yvoire can be found on a headland jutting out into the shores of Lake Geneva, or Lac Leman as it is more locally known. It is situated in the Chablais region which stretches from the northern shores of the lake up into the mountainous region of Haute Savoie.

Yvoire is described as a medieval village, although its history goes back well beyond the middle ages. The first signs of human settlement can be traced back to the Neolithic period around 3,500 BC.

Recent excavations have discovered evidence of Burgundians who settled in the region from Norway. Among the excavations a skull with a coin between its teeth was found together with the usual jewellery, pins and buckles. Nothing much remains of their civilisation today save a few place names. However it is interesting to note that records reveal they were regarded as peaceful people who lived in harmony with the Roman population. They were also regarded as good soldiers but with a somewhat dubious description, “tall, unrefined, who stank of garlic and put rancid butter in their hair”.

The end of the Burgundian’s occupation of the region came in the sixth century when the area was the scene of a famous natural disaster, the collapse of the Dents du Midi Mountains. This occurred in the Rhone Valley just above St Maurice and damned the river. This process created a lake which gradually grew until it breached the landslide and swept down the hillside into Lac Leman, creating a huge tidal wave. 72 kilometres away in Geneva at the far end of the lake, houses, bridges and people were swept away. Villages on either side of the lake suffered the tremendous backlash, but Yvoire, situated slightly higher was spared.

Yvoire’s situation was also perceived in 1306 to be of some strategic importance. This was the vision of Amedee V, the Count of Savoy who considered that as Yvoire was located on the promontory which separated the smaller part of the lake from the larger, whoever controlled Yvoire, controlled the lake and all who travelled along it.

Amedee negotiated with the de Compey family, who held the seat of Yvoire and set about the fortifications of the village. Crenellated ramparts surrounded the perimeter and two imposing entrance towers were erected for those travelling along the lakeside. Today, little has changed since this period.
Apart from damage sustained during battles with marauding protestant Bernese troops in 1536 much of Yvoire has remained intact. However during 1792 – 1815 the peaceful inhabitants of Yvoire suffered religious persecution and obligatory military service. Since married men were exempt from the latter numerous marriages were hurriedly arranged and the population suddenly doubled.

In 1860 along with the rest of Savoy, Yvoire became truly French and over the ensuing years has emerged into a modern world. In the 1950’s the residents began to realise their history and heritage could be put to good use. They considered the travelling public of Europe needed to learn of Yvoire and its resplendent beauty. A significant restoration programme was established and the village has since become a feature attraction on the shores of the lake.

Also in 1959 Yvoire was awarded first prize for “the most beautiful floral village in France”. This coveted award has been won by Yvoire so many times they no longer take part in the competition but each year there is always a magnificent display and they have been allowed to retain the title of “the most beautiful floral village in France”.

Despite its annual tourist invasion, Yvoire retains an authentic atmosphere, helped no doubt by its traffic free narrow streets. With its magnificent panoramic views of Lake Geneva and the Jardin des Cinq Sens (garden of 5 senses) in the former kitchen garden of the castle, Yvoire is worthy of the praise bestowed upon it.

2006 saw the village celebrate its 700th birthday. This is surely a marked tribute to a village which has suffered invasions of a less favourable kind, yet has risen beyond its history to become the floral jewel of France.

Floral Display, Place de la Marie
Floral Display, Place de la Marie


Flower Display Porte de Reveree
Flower Display Porte de Reveree


Yvoire, Eglise St. Pancrace and Medieval Rooftops
Yvoire, Eglise St. Pancrace and Medieval Rooftops


Yvoire, 14th Century Chateau
Yvoire, 14th Century Chateau


Porte de Pecheurs
Porte de Pecheurs


Glimpse of Lac Le Man
Glimpse of Lac Le Man