The voice of Cassandre, the first woman on the lookout on the Tower of Lausanne

from Monica Ricci Sargentini

The 28-year-old: “The Municipality didn’t answer me, I never gave up.” She is convinced to keep the tradition alive but also to carry on the feminist battle

The work is one of the archaic ones, destined to disappear with the passage of time. It is about going up to the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Lausanne at night to announce the time. Until a few months ago the voice of the lookout had always been that of a man but, since last August, the figure of Cassandre Berdoz, 28, has stood out on the tower. Black brimmed hat and lantern in hand, she is the first woman to join the sentry team. “C’est le guet, il a sonné dix, il a sonné dix!”, “I’m the sentry, it’s ten o’clock, it’s ten o’clock!” he shouts at the stroke of 10 pm looking out from each side of the cathedral. A ritual that is repeated until two in the morning.

The Lausanne lookout was introduced in the 15th century after a raging fire ravaged the city. Obviously today there is no longer a need to watch over the citizens. And throughout Europe there are only six cathedrals that have maintained this tradition. But for Cassendre it was a dream cultivated since she was a child: “I have always been fascinated by this role – she confesses toCourier service
-, I’ve been trying for years. Personally I think that if you want something you have to persevere to get it. Each of us can achieve much more than what we can dream of.This is why I wrote to the Municipality several times, even if they did not answer me ».

The young woman, who has studied for many years at the city’s conservatory, has managed to win out of a hundred applications for the vacancy in the squad of seven sentries who take turns at the top of the bell tower. The anti-discrimination breakthrough came in June 2019 when hundreds of thousands of women in Switzerland crossed their arms to protest against lower job opportunities, lower wages, sexism. In Lausanne, four of them, as a sign of defiance, climbed the 153 steps to get to the top of the Cathedral tower and the others, from below, took them cheer. “At that point – says the young woman – the city promised it would hire a woman as soon as a position was cleared. And so it was ».

Cassandre puts his hands around his mouth as if to form a funnel and shouts: “I’m the lookout, it’s ten o’clock.” She is convinced that she is keeping a tradition alive and helping her city but also to carry on the feminist battle: «I work in a beautiful and ancient place but I also scream in the name of women, I give my contribution to the cause. When we come to fill for the first time a position that was reserved only for men, it is always a step forward. In this case it is even more so because to be the sentry of the Cathedral has a strong symbolic value, it is a tradition much loved by the citizens of the city ». Switzerland is certainly not a country that shines in gender equality, just think that it was only in 1971 that women won the right to vote. Wages are still completely unbalanced and care work is, as always, on the shoulders of women. “Even in Lausanne – Berdoz admits – there are still many steps forward to be taken to improve the condition of women”.

The sentry squad consists of a leader and six helpers who take turns. Berdoz, who organizes events during the day, works four nights a month between ten in the evening and two in the morning. The pay is not great: 116 euros per shift but the honor is great. “I feel good with my male colleagues, they have been very welcoming and have supported me but I hope that another woman will be hired on the next round. So I will no longer be the only one ».

In Lausanne the news of the first female sentinel was applauded by the majority but someone would have preferred it to remain a male job: “Unfortunately in the age of the internet those who are not happy tend to complain but there have been very few. I wouldn’t care, “he says. More annoying is the accusation of not having the right to the post because it is an atheist: «I find it such a sad objection. The guard is made in the Cathedral not for religious reasons but because it offers the highest point from which to watch over people ».

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