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Etrembières (Municipality, Haute-Savoie, France)

Last modified: 2003-12-27 by
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[Flag of Etrembieres]by Ivan Sache

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Presentation of Etrembières


Etrembières is a village of 1,430 inhabitants (1999) located on the left bank of the river Arve. Etrembières is only 7 kms from Geneva (Switzerland). The municipality is made of the village of Etrembières and the hamlet of Pas-de-l'Echelle, built on the first slopes of mount Salève.

Most of the activity of Etrembières is linked to Switerland. A sizeable proportion of the inhabitants of the village work in Switzerland (and are locally called frontaliers). In 1994, the Swiss chain Migros opened a huge supermarket in Etrembières, which is also famous for its crowdy highway interchange.

The river Arve (100 km) has its source in the massif of Mont-Blanc. It has several mountain streams as tributaries, as well as the rivers Diosaz, Giffre, Borne and Menoge. The Arve flows into the Rhône near Geneva. In Etrembières, the Arve is a big river with a high flow, which explained the strategic importance of the bridge of Etrembières.

Mount Salève (highest point, le Grand Piton, 1875 m) stretches over 20 kms between Etrembières and Cruseilles. This so-called 'Genevan mountain' attracted tourists and naturalists as soon as in the XVIIIth century. Horace-Bénédict de Saussure, who climbed on the Mont-Blanc in 1786, had his first rock-climbing experience on the Salève. In the XIXth century, the Salève was visited by Alphonse de Lamartine, John Ruskin, Richard Wagner and Guiseppe Verdi, who married in Collonges-sous-Salève in 1859.
In 1854, the Swiss Alpine Club designed the Grande-Gorge hiking trail between Collonges and the top of the Salève. There are now more than 50 hiking trails crossing the Salève.
In 1875, a few rock-climbers gathered in a narrow gorge of the mountain called Varappe. Those people were nicknamed varappeux. Around 1925, the word varappe was coined to design rock-climbing and is now comonly used in French.
Since the Salève attracted more and more tourists, a rack railway was built in 1892. The line was Y-shaped, with two branches starting from Etrembières and Veyrier, respectively, joining in the village of Monnetier, and reaching the crest of the mountain at the place named les Treize-Arbres (1,142 m). The railway was the first in Europe to use a third rail as the power supply. To produce the required electricity, a barrage was built on the river Arve near Arthaz. Electricity was brought to the station of Monnetier-Mairie by an overhead cable. Each train was made of 12 cars of 36 seats each, divided into one first class compartment and two second class compartments. The trip lasted one hour at a speed of 5.4 - 10.8 km per h, offering a wonderful panoramic view over Geneva, Lake Léman and the massif of Mont-Blanc.
In 1925, a 33-km road called Route des Crêtes was built between Etrembières and Cruseilles. In the 1930s, the railway was considered obsolete and too expensive, and a cableway was built between Pas-de-l'Echelle and the crest of Salève. The cableway was renovated in 1984, whereas the railway was suppressed after the Second World War.

Ivan Sache, 23 August 2003


Magdalenian remains, a Celtic dolmen (destroyed in 1836), a Roman milliary column and a Germanic belt buckle are evidence of early populations in Etrembières. The name of the village might have been derived from ès Tremblières, a place were aspens (trembles) grew.

The knights of Etrembières were vassals of the count of Geneva and lived in the castle of Etrembières, also called the castle of Rozey, mentioned for the first time in 1206. The castle was later bequeathed to the hospital of Annecy, which still owns it. The bridge over the Arve is probably older than the castle but was mentioned for the first time in 1304. This bridge links Etrembières to the bigger border city of Annemasse.

In 1536, duke of Savoy Charles III allied with German emperor Charles V. As a consequence, king of France François I invaded Savoy. Charles lost all of his states, which were shared between France, Valais and Bern. Etrembières was incorporated to the bailliwick of Gaillard, allocated to the Republic of Bern.
In 1559, duke Emmanuel-Philibert was nominally given back his states by the treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis. Etrembières and the bailliwick of Gaillard were formally reincorporated to Savoy in 1567.

In the very beginning of the XVIIth century, duke Charles-Emmanuel I had great political ambitions. He planned to restore the Roman Catholic religion all over Savoy and to reincorporate Geneva to Savoy. The duke also challenged king of France Henri IV. As a consequence, France invaded Savoy in 1600. The Duke had to 'swap' the lands located west of the river Rhône (pays de Gex, Bresse, Valromey and Bugey, which were never reincorporated to Savoy) against the tiny Marquisate of Saluces.
After his defeat against Henri IV, Charles-Emmanuel decided to attack an apparently much less dangerous game, the Republic of Geneva. During the night of the 11 to 12 December 1602, hundreds of soldiers gathered in Etrembières, crossed the bridge over the Arve and put up scales specifically manufactured for that purpose against the walls of Geneva. Unfortunately, the defenders of the city had been warned and had specifically designed tools to cut the scales in small pieces. One of the surviving leaders of the expedition could come back to the castle of Etrembières and relate the failed attempt to Charles-Emmanuel. Historians do not agree on the word used by the duke to qualify the attempt (cagade or coglionade). The attempt is known as l'Escalade (the Scaling) or la Miraculeuse Délivrance (the Miraculous Deliverance) and is celebrated each year in Geneva by a popular festival.
The disaster of l'Escalade sounded the knell of the Savoyard international ambitions. In 1603, Savoy recognized the independence of Geneva by the treaty of Saint-Julien.

Etrembières was incorporated to the French Republic along with the rest of Savoy in 1792, and allocated to the department of Léman, whose capital city was Geneva. In 1816, the Prefet of the department merged the neighbouring municipalities of Etrembières and Veyrier into a single one.
In 1816, the treaty of Turin created the canton of Geneva by merging 24 cities and villages. Veyrier was (and still is) one of them, whereas Etrembières was incorporated to Sardinia. Etrembières was reallocated to France with the rest of Savoy in 1860.

Ivan Sache, 23 August 2003

Description of the flag

The flag of Etrembieres is vertically divided green-yellow. This flag can be seen on the bridge of Etrembières, along with the flags of France, Switzerland and European Union and the municipal flag of Annemasse, the neighbouring city located on the other side of the bridge.

The flag is based on the municipal coat of arms of Etrembières. The arms are divided per pale to symbolize the two components of the municipality, Etrembières and Pas-de-l'Echelle. Dexter shows the castle of Etrembières on vert, and sinister shows a scale (échelle) on or.

Green and yellow are the traditional colours of Etrembières, and are as well the colours of the Swiss municipality of Veyrier, which constituted for a while a single municipality with Etrembières. Green symbolizes the fields and the meadows, whereas yellow symbolizes wheat and sun.

Sources (for this whole page):

Ivan Sache, 23 August 2003