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History of Morges

In prehistoric time Morges was a very important town. For 6000 years (between 7000 and 1000 BC) there were 4 lake dwelling villages, one after another in front of the town of today. The last and largest town that stretched 150m from the lakeside, was made up of about 400 huts and 2000 inhabitants. Many piles can still be seen today under 3 to 5 meters of water (so the water level was lower then). The importance of the town was so great, that they named the town after the most brilliant period of the bronze age: the morgien period.

As the lake dwellings disappeared, the region became deserted once again. Even during the Roman empire there were a few fishermen’s huts at the most. No cultures, only bushes and shrubs. Until the 13th century it was a very unsafe place. Many thieves hid on the roads along the lake, from St. Sulpice to Nyon. While the plain remained uninhabited, the population built up high under the protection of the lords of the castles Vufflens, Aubonne and Mont.

For a long time the foundation of Morges was thought to be Pierre de Savoy’s doing. As a matter of fact, Morges was only founded in the 13th century. Louis I, Baron of Vaud, was given a large territory in Vaud by his brother Amédée the great, heir of Pierre de Savoy. The center of this territory, from the river Venoge to the river Veveyse, was occupied by the diocese of Lausanne.

But a dynamic baron like Louis I would have thought to take over this piece of land, but not by attacking the diocese, because that would get him excommunicated, but by encircling it. First of all he built a castle at some distance from the Veveyse, the castle of La Tour-de-Peilz.

On the other side, at the west of the Venoge, where it joins the river Morges, which was important for filling the motes, he had chosen the right place and bought land off Richard, whose castle was up on the hill at Vufflens.

But when the sire of Vufflens saw the foundations and towers of an enormous castle arise, he knew he had been tricked and protested and took Amédée the Great, liege of Louis I and Richard, to court. Luckily the judgement text was found in the archives in Turin a little over half a century ago, which permitted historians to fix the date of the foundation of the castle to 1286. The construction of the town followed some years later, on orders of Louis I. Eventually the “Petit Rue” and the “Rue du Lac” were named “Rue Louis de Savoie”, in honor of the man who had built the castle and the town of Morges.

The castle remained Savoy till 1536, that is the date when the Bernese invaded the country of Vaud. They occupied the castle and appointed their reeve. When the Bernese departed in 1798 the building became the property of the new country of Vaud, who used it as an arsenal in 1804. Today the Vaud Military Museum, the Artillery Museum, the Swiss Museum of Historic Figurines as well as the Gendarmerie Museum are inside the castle.

As a reminder of its origins, Morges took the colors of Savoy, red and white, for its coat of arms. The two wavelike stripes are the two rivers, the Morges (which shares its name with the town), and the Bief which marks the border of the communal territory to the east. So the coat of arms of Morges has a historic as well as a geographical significance.

The houses in Morges haven’t changed much since their reconstruction in the Renaissance and the 18th century. They are still close to each other and the roofs aren’t the same height.

The town hall, recognizable by its hexagonal tower, which encloses a spiral staircase, is situated in the town center. This gothic building was built in 1519, and many features are still recognizable today.

The port with its two moles that stretch out like two arms trying to grab as many boats as it can, was built by the Bernese around 1700, in order to harbor their fleet, so that they could react to any Savoy attacks. Morges was founded by the Savoy against the diocese of Lausanne, and was now fighting that same Savoy. After being a war and commercial port, it is now just a moorage for leisure boats.

On the quay facing the port, there is a large building, with one of those enormous roofs that the Bernese admired so much. In fact it was they who built this custom office to check and store the goods that had been brought by the boats from Geneva. In the 50ies it was transformed into offices for the state services and now it is the tourist office.

The protestant church, whose cupola dominates the town, is a rare example of a transition style. The building of the church began as the baroque era was ending and was finished in the classic era. That’s why the nave and especially the interior are oval shaped in the Jesuit style. The cladding on the other hand was built on the orders of Louis XVI after the discovery of the ruins in Pompei.

The history of the Parc de l’Indépendance goes back a long way. It used to be a vague terrain. It was called Pâquier, then Grand-Pré and Parc de la République. In 1884, the council decided to turn it into an English garden. It was named Parc de l’Indépendance due to the 100th anniversary of the independence of Vaud in 1898. A monument, which was built in memory of the three patriots of Morges: Muret, Cart and Monod, reminds us of this incident. The Parc de l’Indépendance is on of the most beautiful on Lake Geneva. There are over 50 types of trees from every continent.

From the 19th century Morges welcomed some eminent artists, such as the writers René Morax, Alfred Gehri, Bernard Clavel, the painters Jean Morax, Alexis Forel and the composers Paderewski and Stravinski.

Source : Villes et villages vaudois, by Ric Berger


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