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Ferney-Voltaire 3790.JPG
Coat of arms of Ferney-Voltaire
Coat of arms
Ferney-Voltaire is located in France
Coordinates: 46°15′21″N 6°06′29″E / 46.2558°N 6.1081°E / 46.2558; 6.1081Coordinates: 46°15′21″N 6°06′29″E / 46.2558°N 6.1081°E / 46.2558; 6.1081
Country France
Region Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes
Department Ain
Arrondissement Gex
Canton Saint-Genis-Pouilly
Intercommunality Pays de Gex
 • Mayor (2014-2020) Daniel Raphoz
Area1 4.78 km2 (1.85 sq mi)
Population (2015)2 9,250
 • Density 1,900/km2 (5,000/sq mi)
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 • Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
INSEE/Postal code 01160 /01210
Elevation 409–446 m (1,342–1,463 ft)
(avg. 423 m or 1,388 ft)

1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.

2 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.

Ferney-Voltaire is a commune in the Ain department in eastern France.

It lies between the Jura mountains and the Swiss border and forms part of the metropolitan area of Geneva.


Ferney was first noted in 14th-century Burgundian registers as "Fernex." Four centuries later, however, Voltaire changed the "x" to a "y" due to the excessive number of towns in the region with names ending in "x," such as Maconnex, Saconnex, Gex, Versonnex, Ornex.[citation needed]

During Voltaire's reign over Ferney in the second part of the 18th century, the town saw rapid expansion. Today Ferney is a peaceful town with a Saturday market and a large international community, due to the proximity of CERN and the United Nations Office at Geneva. Ferney is growing very quickly. It is also home to the Lycée International. Voltaire still presides over Ferney with his statue in the center of town.


Statue of Voltaire in town's center

From 1759 to 1778 Ferney was home to French writer and philosopher Voltaire, sometimes referred to as "the patriarch of Ferney."[1] His influence on the town was profound. He built the local church and founded cottage industries that produced some of the finest potters and watchmakers of modern France. After the French Revolution, the town was renamed "Ferney-Voltaire" in his honor.

In 1759, after having lived in Geneva less than two years, Voltaire purchased the estate of Ferney in France, near the Swiss border. A prime reason for his leaving Geneva was that theatre was forbidden in that Calvinist city, so he had decided to become the enlightened "patriarch" of the little village of Ferney, setting up potteries, a watchmaking industry and, of course, theaters, attracting rich people from Geneva to watch his plays.

During Voltaire's residence, the population of Ferney increased to more than 1,000. Voltaire lived there for the last 20 years of his life before returning to Paris, where he died in 1778.


Historical population
Year Pop. ±%
1793 858 —    
1800 884 +3.0%
1806 944 +6.8%
1821 686 −27.3%
1831 935 +36.3%
1836 1,194 +27.7%
1841 1,214 +1.7%
1846 1,238 +2.0%
1851 1,173 −5.3%
1856 1,138 −3.0%
1861 1,166 +2.5%
1866 1,288 +10.5%
1872 1,232 −4.3%
1876 1,403 +13.9%
1881 1,274 −9.2%
1886 1,222 −4.1%
1891 1,200 −1.8%
1896 1,232 +2.7%
1901 1,269 +3.0%
1906 1,169 −7.9%
1911 1,172 +0.3%
1921 1,102 −6.0%
1926 1,209 +9.7%
1931 1,232 +1.9%
1936 1,224 −0.6%
1946 991 −19.0%
1954 1,275 +28.7%
1962 1,805 +41.6%
1968 2,984 +65.3%
1975 5,642 +89.1%
1982 6,399 +13.4%
1990 6,408 +0.1%
1999 7,071 +10.3%
2006 7,661 +8.3%
2008 7,822 +2.1%
2012 8,844 +13.1%


École Florian

Around 1940 a primary school, the École de Ferney-Voltaire, was established. About 1970 it was renamed École Florian, after the French poet and fabulist Jean-Pierre Claris de Florian, whose uncle and guardian, the Marquis de Florian, had married a niece of Voltaire.

The school is notable for having had a large number of pupils who were children of physicists at CERN, which is located in the vicinity.


Ferney's main attraction is Voltaire's house (château), built 1758–66, now owned and administered by the Centre des monuments nationaux (an arm of the French Ministry of Culture). It is open to visitors between May and September.

The chateau includes the main building, with a reconstruction of Voltaire's room (moved from its original location by later private owners), a garden with a fine view of the Alps, and a church dedicated, contrary to custom, directly to God. In the church's inscription, "Deo erexit VOLTAIRE" ("Erected to God by VOLTAIRE"), Voltaire's name is written in the largest characters.

A few dozen meters from the chateau is another impressive house, built in 1900 by Monsieur Lambert (the sculptor of the statue of Voltaire; his family owned the chateau before it was purchased by the French government). The house, now privately owned, had been used to store provisions and wine for the chateau, and to accommodate the household staff.

The village features 18th-century houses and artisans' workshops; a life-size statue of Voltaire; a smaller bust of him, surmounting a fountain; many restaurants, French and foreign; and proximity to the nearby cosmopolitan city of Geneva, Switzerland.

Every Saturday, a market is held in the main street of Ferney.

The old road at the centre of the village is a remnant of the time when Voltaire resided at the chateau in Ferney-Voltaire.

The pedestal of the Voltaire statue, erected in 1890, dedicates that memorial to the town's "benefactor," noting that he built over a hundred houses for the inhabitants, as well as a school and church, gave the town interest-free loans, and fed its inhabitants in time of need.


Napoleon Bonaparte once famously frequented the local pub, 'Le Patriarche' on a tour of France, with his signature still displayed on the walls of this provincial building originally built in 1766.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Gilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Ferney, The Patriarch of". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead. 
  2. ^ (in French) QuiElire.fr, Commune de FERNEY VOLTAIRE (01210). consulted 11 April 2008.

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