Villa La Grange, set in a vast park on the shores of Lake Geneva in the heart of Geneva, will host the most important event in a rich history on Wednesday: the summit between US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Poutin .
The beautiful 18th century building is no stranger to historical events and famous figures.
In 1864, it hosted - in the presence of Henry Dunant, the founder of the Red Cross - the closing gala of the first Geneva Convention for the amelioration of the lot of soldiers wounded on the battlefield, which marks the birth of humanitarian law.
More than a century later, in June 1969, it was Pope Paul VI who celebrated mass in front of a crowd of 70,000 people in the park, which was then the only space large enough in Geneva to accommodate such a large crowd.
"In this contrasting hour in the history of humanity, full of perils, but filled with hope, it is up to you, to a large extent, to build justice, and thereby ensure peace "had launched Paul VI during his trip to one of the cradles of Protestantism.
A message that resonates, for a Biden-Poutin summit which promises to be difficult between the two great powers.
- Villa with view -
The park of La Grange, the largest in the city, is a perfect setting for the villa, partly protected by large trees on the south side and offering a completely unobstructed view of the park and the lake on the north side.
For the past week, the place has been a hive of activity.
Inside, craftsmen retouch gilding and moldings.
The heavy candlesticks were cleaned and the furniture moved to be ready to welcome the two heads of state and their delegation.
Outside, it is the security measures that are most visible, the park having been surrounded by a metal barrier.
At the entrance, the two stone lions, symbolic guardians of this summit, were washed with a high pressure cleaner.
The estate was created in the 1660s by the merchant Jacques Franconis.
It was then bought by the banker Marc Lullin in 1706. It was the Lullin family who built the first mansion on the estate between 1768 and 1773 and had a French garden fitted out.
Ruined by the French Revolution, Jean Lullin sells the whole to a shipowner in the city, François Favre, who made his fortune in trade with the East.
- Bibliophile's dream -
It is the Favre family who transforms the house and the park, and built the large library in 1821, which houses the prestigious collection of Guillaume Favre, rich in about 15,000 works, according to the website of the Library of Geneva, which manages this exceptional place, the oldest volumes of which date back to the 15th century.
It was there that two red chairs stood on either side of a terrestrial globe on Friday, as if ready to welcome the two presidents.
The city organizes guided tours of the villa every spring, to allow the public to discover the reception rooms, the bedrooms and of course the library.
Too late for 2021. Everything is complete.
It was Guillaume Favre's grandson who donated the villa and the park to the city of Geneva in 1917. A year after his death, he bequeathed the library to the city.
In 1918, the park was opened to the public.
© 2021 AFP