Cologny (1949 – 1971)

FundationMartin BodmerCologny (1949 – 1971)

The Bibliotheca Bodmeriana was inaugurated on 6 October 1951.

Martin Bodmer hired Odile Bongard, his secretary and colleague at the Red Cross to help him. She was in charge of administering the building and in 1962 she took over the running of the library. One of her main tasks was to compile an alphabetic inventory of the collection.

The early years in Cologny were quiet, as Bodmer was busy with other personal tasks. A number of exhibitions were held at the library and individual visits were organized for friends and acquaintances. On several occasions he also opened his collection to small groups of visitors. Meanwhile, Victor Martin, Michel Testuz and Rodolphe Kasser had been working with Odile Bongard since 1953 on the demanding job of publishing the papyrus collection – a total of 26 volumes were published between 1954 and 1969. On 2 October 1967, Bodmer gave a highly acclaimed lecture at the Palais de l’Athénée in Geneva on ‘some of the Bodmeriana’s valuable documents’, with two sets of slides.

Shortly before he died, Martin Bodmer finished Chorus Mysticus, the book he had been working on since 1948. It was to be his spiritual legacy.  According to Jan Janssen, his assistant librarian, it was about 300 pages long with an additional 250 pages of drawings. Jan Janssen typed up the manuscript from autumn 1962 to May 1963, then again from 1966 till the eve of his death.  Only an incomplete typed version and some manuscript pages have been found.

In 1969, when Pope Paul VI visited the Nicolas de Flue Church, near the United Nations in Geneva, Martin Bodmer gave him four pages of a papyrus codex containing the two Epistles of Peter. ‘May Peter’s letters return to Peter’s house’, he said in an accompanying note. While he was in Rome with his family to celebrate his 70th birthday, Martin Bodmer had a private audience with the Pope at the Vatican.

The Bibliotheca Bodmeriana

For his lifetime achievements he was awarded three honorary doctorates from: the University of Frankfurt, Goethe’s birthplace, in 1949; the University of Geneva in 1958; and the University of Bern in 1967. He was also a member and correspondent of the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts (1953) and the co-founder of the International Association of Bibliophiles.


>  Martin Bodmer – the man


Villa (1)

Villa (2)

Former exhibition hall

A préciser

Churchill arrives in Cologny (16 September 1946)

A préciser

Churchill and Alice Bodmer during a luncheon in Cologny

A préciser

Churchill and Martin Bodmer on the terrace in Cologny