Coordinates: 46°15′21″N 6°06′29″E / 46.2558°N 6.1081°E / 46.2558; 6.1081
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Coat of arms of Ferney-Voltaire
Location of Ferney-Voltaire
Ferney-Voltaire is located in France
Ferney-Voltaire is located in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes
Coordinates: 46°15′21″N 6°06′29″E / 46.2558°N 6.1081°E / 46.2558; 6.1081
IntercommunalityCA Pays de Gex
 • Mayor (2020–2026) Daniel Raphoz[1]
4.78 km2 (1.85 sq mi)
 • Density2,300/km2 (5,900/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+01:00 (CET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+02:00 (CEST)
INSEE/Postal code
01160 /01210
Elevation409–446 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.

Ferney-Voltaire (French pronunciation: [fɛʁ'nɛ vɔl'tɛʁ]) is a commune in the Ain department in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of eastern France. It lies between the Jura Mountains and the Swiss border; it forms part of the metropolitan area of Geneva. It is named for Voltaire, who lived there from 1758.


Ferney was first noted in 14th-century Burgundian registers as "Fernex" and changed several times until the 19th century to Fernay, Fernaj, Fernai or Fernex before adopting its current name as 'Ferney-Voltaire' in 1791, after the French Revolution which saw a number of city names unchristened and then given more republican names.

During Voltaire's residence in 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 centre of town.


Statue of Voltaire in town's center

From 1758 to 1778 Ferney was home to French writer and philosopher Voltaire, sometimes referred to as "the patriarch of Ferney."[3] 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. The town was eventually renamed "Ferney-Voltaire" in his honour.

In 1758, after having lived in Geneva for 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, theatres, 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
YearPop.±% p.a.
1793 856—    
1800 884+0.46%
1806 944+1.10%
1821 686−2.11%
1831 935+3.15%
1836 1,194+5.01%
1841 1,214+0.33%
1846 1,238+0.39%
1851 1,173−1.07%
1856 1,138−0.60%
1861 1,166+0.49%
1866 1,288+2.01%
1872 1,232−0.74%
1876 1,403+3.30%
1881 1,274−1.91%
1886 1,222−0.83%
1891 1,200−0.36%
1896 1,232+0.53%
YearPop.±% p.a.
1901 1,269+0.59%
1906 1,169−1.63%
1911 1,172+0.05%
1921 1,102−0.61%
1926 1,209+1.87%
1931 1,232+0.38%
1936 1,224−0.13%
1946 991−2.09%
1954 1,275+3.20%
1962 1,805+4.44%
1968 2,984+8.74%
1975 5,642+9.53%
1982 6,399+1.81%
1990 6,408+0.02%
1999 7,083+1.12%
2007 7,741+1.12%
2012 8,844+2.70%
2017 9,766+2.00%
Source: EHESS[4] and INSEE (1968–2017)[5]


École Florian

The community has two public preschools/primary schools: École Jean-Calas and École Florian. A nearby intercommunal school, École Intercommunale Jean de la Fontaine in Prévessin-Moëns, also serves the community. As of 2018 the three schools had a combined total of 952 students, with Jean-Calas, Florian, and Jean de la Fontaine respectively having 278, 307, and 367 students.[6] 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, Madame Dompierre de Fontaine [fr]. 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.[citation needed] Ferney-Voltaire also has a private preschool/primary school, École Saint-Vincent.[6]

Collège Le Joran (junior high school), in Prévessin-Moëns,[7] serves Ferney-Voltaire. Lycée international de Ferney-Voltaire, including a junior high school/middle school (collège) and a senior high school/sixth form college (lycée) was created in 1961 in Ferney-Voltaire.[8] As of 2016, the Lycée includes a branch campus in Saint-Genis-Pouilly.[9][10]


Voltaire's chateau

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). 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 metres 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.

On 31 May 2018, Président Emmanuel Macron officially visited the Château for the re-opening after renovation. [1]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Répertoire national des élus: les maires". data.gouv.fr, Plateforme ouverte des données publiques françaises (in French). 2 December 2020. Archived from the original on 28 June 2020. Retrieved 29 March 2021.
  2. ^ "Populations légales 2021". The National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies. 28 December 2023.
  3. ^ Gilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Ferney, The Patriarch of" . New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
  4. ^ Des villages de Cassini aux communes d'aujourd'hui: Commune data sheet Ferney-Voltaire, EHESS (in French).
  5. ^ Population en historique depuis 1968 Archived 18 July 2022 at the Wayback Machine, INSEE
  6. ^ a b "Maternelles et élémentaires Archived 10 November 2018 at the Wayback Machine." Ferney-Voltaire. Retrieved on 10 November 2018.
  7. ^ "Collège & lycée Archived 10 November 2018 at the Wayback Machine." Prévessin-Moëns. Retrieved on 10 November 2018.
  8. ^ "Présentation historique - [Cité Scolaire Internationale de Ferney-Voltaire]". csi-ferneyvoltaire.etab.ac-lyon.fr. Archived from the original on 26 October 2020. Retrieved 18 August 2020.
  9. ^ "Collèges et lycée". Ferney-Voltaire. Archived from the original on 10 November 2018. Retrieved 10 November 2018.
  10. ^ "Lycée international". Saint-Genis-Pouilly (in French). 19 August 2016. Archived from the original on 20 September 2020. Retrieved 18 August 2020.
  11. ^ (in French) QuiElire.fr, Commune de FERNEY VOLTAIRE (01210) Archived 21 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine. consulted 11 April 2008.

External links[edit]