This year, Château de Prangins, the largest 18th-century castle open to the public in Switzerland, celebrates its 20th year as home to the Swiss National Museum in French-speaking Switzerland.
To celebrate, the chateau is hosting a party, which includes a light sculpture on Saturday 29 September 2018 and the déjeuner sur l’herbe (Lunch on the Grass), a themed picnic in its park on Sunday 30 September 2018.
The elegant castle, positioned near the edge of Lake Geneva not far from Nyon, has a colourful past. Occupied since the bronze age, the site has been home to foreign royalty, financiers, writers, including Voltaire, a Swiss army general, Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother and a school for the Frères Moraves, a Protestant monastic order.
Bought by the cantons of Geneva and Vaud in 1974, it opened as a national museum in 1998 after a long period of careful renovation.
Over the centuries people have been born there, made the castle their home, laughed and shed tears there, and died there. That’s what gives it its richness and makes it special, according to Chantal Schoulepnikoff, the museum director who opened the castle to the public in 1998.
Since its opening more than one million people have explored its 41 exhibition rooms, 54 temporary exhibitions, historical kitchen garden and magnificent surroundings. Its traditional kitchen garden contains fruits, vegetables, medicinal plants, flowers and plants for fabrics and dyes.
A major new exhibition focuses on chintz, a printed cotton fabric that sparked a global craze in the 17th and 18th centuries. The exhibition explains Switzerland’s key role in one of the Enlightenment period’s most successful industries.
On Saturday 29 September 2018, Muma, an artist from Catalonia who now lives in Lausanne and is well known around the world for his vast elaborate candle sculptures, returns to the museum. He and more than 600 volunteers will create a light sculpture entitled Flowers of Fire made with 50,000 candles. The candles pay homage to the illumination and clarity to the Age of Enlightenment, an era when the castle shone as an iconic monument.
Muma describes his work as social sculpture. “A social sculpture is a participatory artwork in which the human bond is the most important material. Candles crystallise all this human energy in a magical moment that will nourish collective memory.”
Leading up to the light display, the commune of Prangins will put on a day of outdoor dining and festivities. The village fête, with food trucks and drinks stands, provides the perfect lead in to the Flowers of Fire exhibition at the castle, which starts at 6:30 PM.
On Sunday 30 September 2018, the chateau’s tenth edition of the déjeuner sur l’herbe (Lunch on the Grass) kicks off at 10 AM and runs until 6 PM. The day includes a historical costume parade celebrating the period from 1700 to 1920.
There will be a gourmet food market, from which visitors can add to their own picnic baskets.
In partnership with the Geneva School of Art and Design HEAD, a class of students from the degree course in Fashion Design will present a “chintz” collection specially created for the occasion.
Participation in the parade is open to all upon on-the-spot registration. This must be done before 1 PM.
A weekend visit to the chateau is a great way to unplug from urban life. Unlike museums located in town centres, Château de Prangins draws you out of the urban buzz to unwind, recharge and discover.
When: Saturday 29 September 2018 – 20th anniversary party with the Flowers of Fire sculpture – from 6:30 PM until midnight.
Sunday 30 September 2018 – 10th déjeuner sur l’herbe (Lunch on the Grass) – from 10 AM until 6 PM.
Where: Avenue Général Guiguer 3, 1197 Prangins, Switzerland
Getting there: a shuttle bus connects Nyon railway station with the chateau on weekends and public holidays. There are regular TPN buses from the railway stations at Nyon and Gland. For those driving, the chateau has a large carpark. More information.
Website: Chateau de Prangins