The Old Academy
The Academy was constructed between 1579 and 1587 to house a school of theology for the intellectual elite of the Reformation. Owing to the sheer volume of the structure, towering over the city from its location up on the western walls, it was long a prominent feature of Lausanne. Today, however, that impact is weakened by the presence of the Palais de Rumine.
The building is similar to the Jesuit colleges constructed in Fribourg and Lucerne during the same period. At that time, the whole of Europe was divided by religious disagreements, which then degenerated into political disputes and armed conflicts. Lausanne was also home to a number of Huguenots. The Cantonal Museum of Fine Arts houses the famous painting by one of the Huguenots, François Dubois, who sought refuge in Geneva. The painting depicts the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, which took place in Paris in 1572.
The architecture of the Academy is strikingly well-balanced and reflects the strict nature of the use for which it was employed. It is formed by two perpendicular wings that create an inner courtyard. Both wings contain a staircase tower halfway along their façade. The main body of the building, the first to be built, is 50 metres long along the courtyard side and is composed of three floors, each with twelve windows. Although they were all similar originally, the second-floor windows were later enlarged. There are crow-stepped gables at each end of the building.
The staircase tower is topped by a two-part roof that gives an overall elegance to the establishment, featuring a first floor with three bartizans and then a spire that stretches up more than 40 metres. This combination, which can also be seen on the bell tower of Lausanne City Hall, reveals a marked Bernese influence. Today the Academy houses a cantonal secondary school.