St Sulpice, a small town to the west of Lausanne on Lake Geneva, is famous for one of the oldest Romanesque churches in Switzerland. The main reasons for travelers to visit are to see the former abbey church, enjoy the views of Lac Léman and the Alps, as well as to stroll along the waterfront.
St-Sulpice is a very pleasant and mostly upmarket residential town in the district West Lausanne. The main cultural draw is a small Romanesque church that once was the heart of a Cluniac priory. St Sulpice also has a beautiful waterfront area with green spaces and a well-maintained play park for children. CGN Lake Geneva pleasure boats call in St Sulpice while hiking routes can take visitors back to Lausanne or Morges via lovely trails passing by bird resorts. Bus services are available to Morges and Lausanne.
Romanesque St Sulpice Abbey Church on Lake Geneva
The small church of St-Sulpice has foundations well over a thousand years old. The main structure of the church is twelfth-century Romanesque, which makes it the oldest church in the region and one of the oldest in Switzerland. (Romainmontier near Vallorbe and the Lac de Joux also has a wonderful Romanesque church worth visiting.)
St Sulpice was a Cluniac priory from around 1100 to 1500. The last prior in residence left in 1413 and by the end of the century, the monastery was definitely abandoned despite its favorable location directly on the shores of Lac Léman. At its height, the monastery housed around 40 monks.
Romanesque St Sulpice Parish Church on Lake Geneva
The church was altered during the Bernese period (1536 onwards) when the Reformation was introduced. By then, the nave had collapsed but the small community did not warrant the rebuilding of the nave. As a result, the present church is mostly the original Romanesque choir and three apses.
Remains of arches, where the original nave was attached, can clearly be seen on the outside walls of the church. (Look for the information folder in French, English, and German inside the church with drawings of the original St Sulpice monastery complex.)
The twelfth-century crossing tower of the church shows typical Burgundian influences but was also altered by the Bernese. Most of the stained-glass windows in the church of St Sulpice are modern but some of the wall paintings date from the fourteenth century.
The Bernese sold off most of the other monastery buildings. Several survived to the present and are used private residences. However, five hundred years later, aerial photos of the complex still clearly show the outlines of a typical Benedictine monastery.
The St Sulpice Church is on the pilgrimage route to Santiago (Way of St James / Chemin de St Jacques / Jakobsweg).
Further Sights in St Sulpice near Lausanne in Switzerland
The best views of St Sulpice, Lake Geneva, and the Alps can be enjoyed from behind the local administration offices and police station. A 3-D panorama map explains the sights and Alpine peaks.
The CGN Lake Geneva pleasure boat cruise landing jetty also gives fines views of the Romanesque church of St-Sulpice, Lausanne, and the Alps on the opposite side of the lake. A nearby play area is fun for children while adults can stroll on the lakeside promenades.
Hiking and Cycling to St Sulpice
Several hiking trails lead from St Sulpice. Walking times from here to Lausanne-Ouchy or Morges are around 1h30. The hike to Morges passes by the mouth of the Venoge River, which is a popular overwintering spot for birds, especially on the small bird island (L’île aux oiseaux de Préverenges). Several free public beaches are available en route.
Cycling is also very popular in this area with many dedicated cycling trails. It is possible to cycle around Lake Geneva on marked cycling routes although parts are on busy public roads.
Transportation to St Sulpice on Lake Geneva
Getting to St Sulpice in Switzerland is easiest by car. St Sulpice is on the National Route N1, or the lakeside route that links Geneva and Lausanne. The closest Autobahn exit is Morges on the A1. Parking is mostly blue zone with the few spots close to the lake filling up early.
Buses provide frequent and quick connections to St Sulpice from Morges or Rennens stations. St Sulpice VD Centre is the closest stop to the Romanesque church and the CGN lake boat landing — take in the view from the large terrace before heading downhill.
Although St Sulpice VD (not NE!) has no railway station, Swiss Railways remains the go-to source for public transportation timetables:
- TPM-MBC Bus line 701 connects Morges train station and St Sulpice in around 15 minutes. The bus generally runs three times per hour on weekdays and twice per hour on weekends.
- TL bus 31 connects Renens (VD, Gare Sud) train station with St Sulpice in 20 minutes. The bus generally runs three times per hour.
CGN Lake Geneva pleasure cruise boats call at St Sulpice on the Lausanne-Ouchy – St-Sulpice – Morges – St-Prex – Rolle route. During the summer season (mid-June to mid-September) up to three boats stop here per day with direct cruises possible all the way to Geneva. During autumn and spring, a boat usually calls at St Sulpice twice on weekends. During winter (mid-December to mid-April), no Lac Léman pleasure boats stop in St Sulpice.
St Prex, on the other side of Morges, is a similar small, romantic old town with a historic church and appealing waterfront. In addition, St Prex has a lovely old town and the only medieval town tower gate in Vaud with its original machicolation still in place.
- See also Photos of St-Sulpice in Switzerland.