2015: Lisbeth Lasserre – ‘The richness in art’

Philippe and Liseth Lasserre


The founding generation of the Caux conference centre wanted to make it ‘a home for the world’. Many gave furniture, fittings and paintings. The Caux Palace’s resident historian, Andrew Stallybrass, writes:

The first of two doctorates on Moral Re-Armament/Initiatives of Change (MRA/IofC) in Switzerland has just been awarded to Cyril Michaud. His research, financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), covers 1932 to 1969.


Philippe and Liseth Lasserre
Lisbeth and Philippe Lasserre


Among his findings is the important part played by women and families in the history of the movement. One such network was Robert Hahnloser and some members of the Jäggli family. Over the generations, members of this family have not only participated in Caux conferences, but also played a major part in financing and furnishing the centre.

Lisbeth Lasserre came from Winterthur, where her grandparents, Hedy and Arthur Hahnloser, had built up a private collection of art at their home, Villa Flora. Amongst their artist friends were Bonnard, Vallotton, Giacometti, Manguin, the sculptor Maillol, the group of painters known as the Nabis and the Fauves. They passed their passion for art on to the next generation and to their granddaughter.


Villa Flora
The Villa Flora in Winterthur


When a hundred Swiss families and individuals decided to buy the old Caux Palace hotel and turn it into a centre for reconciliation, Robert Hahnloser, a cousin of Lisbeth’s mother, was one of the two signatories to the contract. ‘My uncle invited me to Caux in 1948,’ Lisbeth says. ‘I was still a schoolgirl. I was fascinated by his great vision that the world could change through people who adopt ethical values. I discovered a new perspective!’

I was fascinated by his great vision that the world could change through people who adopt ethical values.

She met with young Americans and Scandinavians, Germans and French, and she decided to apply honesty in exams and with money. Sharing hidden secrets with her parents was difficult but liberating. She wanted to work with Moral Re-Armament, but her father insisted on her getting a training first, so she studied to be a tri-lingual secretary. She then travelled widely with different MRA plays and shows.


Philippe and Liseth Lasserre in Nouvelle Calédonie with Yann Céléné Uregeï  and his family, 1974
Philippe and Lisbeth (left) in New Caledonia with Yann Céléné Uregeï and his family, 1974


In 1969, Lisbeth married a Frenchman, Philippe Lasserre, another of the discrete people behind the scenes – during meetings at Caux, Philippe was often out of view in a cabin, interpreting the platform speakers simultaneously. Their home in Paris quickly became a rallying point for students and young people. A young German, who stayed with them for a month while learning French, remembers how Lisbeth took her to the Musée d’Orsay, giving her a private tour and explaining the impressionist paintings in detail.

We made friends in India, Australia and even in New Caledonia where the French were not so welcome.

Philippe and Lisbeth also travelled extensively. She remembers: ‘My husband Philippe and I worked with IofC in many parts of the world. We made friends in India, Australia and even in New Caledonia where the French were not so welcome.’


Le groupe français du Réarmement moral en Australie (1970) : Michel Orphelin, Andrée Devésa, Martine Algrain, Michel Bielak,  Lisbeth et Philippe Lasserre, Maurice Nosley, Gérard Gigand et Guy Audrain. (Françoise Caubel rejoint le groupe plus tard.)
Members of the French team in Australia, 1970: Michel Orphelin, Andrée Devésa, Martine Algrain, Michel Bielak,  Lisbeth and Philippe Lasserre, Maurice Nosley, Gérard Gigand and Guy Audrain.


For many years, the two of them were at the heart of the editorial teams of MRA’s magazines in French, first Tribune de Caux and later Changer. As such, they pioneered the expression of MRA and IofC’s ideas for the French-speaking and Latin world.

Lisbeth and Philippe spent many hours in the the Caux Palace and the Villa Maria finding the right place for each painting and hanging them correctly. The best sitting room, 401, where honoured guests including the Dalai Lama have been received, holds five paintings given by Lisbeth.


Two of the paintings in Room 401 which were donated by Lisbeth


In 2019, Philippe died, and in 2021, after many years in France, Lisbeth moved back to Winterthur, to be close to her sister and her nieces. And close to the Villa Flora, which after a thorough renovation will open to the public in 2023 as one of the city’s art museums.

Lisbeth recently wrote: ‘When I think of my more than 89 years on this earth, I am grateful for the inspiration that I’ve received through Initiatives of Change, and for the richness in art – more than words can say. Above all I am grateful for the faith that has carried me.’


Toute une génération de permanents du Réarmement moral en France réunis en 2008 pour le 80ème anniversaire de Micheline Sentis. Debout : Lisbeth Lasserre, Jean-Jacques et Marie-Lise Odier, Michel Koechlin, Marie-José et Michel Orphelin, Alain et Anne-Marie Tate ; assis : Micheline Sentis, Evelyne Seydoux, Catherine Koechlin et Michel Sentis.
An entire generation of IofC fulltime workers in France gathered in 2008 for Micheline Sentis' 80th birthday. Back from left to right: Lisbeth Lasserre, Jean-Jacques and Marie-Lise Odier, Michel Koechlin, Marie-José and Michel Orphelin, Alain and Anne-Marie Tate. Front: Micheline Sentis, Evelyne Seydoux, Catherine Koechlin, Michel Sentis




Jeanne Sigg paintings corridor 5th floor Caux Palace
The corridor on the 5th floor of the conference centre
where some of Jeanne Sigg's paintings are exhibited.

Artists in Caux

Another of the ‘founding generation’ of the Initiatives of Change conference centre in Caux was the Swiss artist Jeanne Sigg (1907-1988). A number of her paintings hang on the fifth floor corridor. Jeanne encouraged other artists to donate works to the conference centre, and organized sales of art to raise funds. Some of the paintings in the Villa Maria are gifts from Jeanne Sigg’s friends. Over the years, there were a number of conferences bringing together artists from different countries, cultures and disciplines, including the Finnish fresco painter Lennart Segestråle.




This story is part of our series 75 Years of Stories about individuals who found new direction and inspiration through Caux, one for each year from 1946 to 2021. If you know a story appropriate for this series, please do pass on your ideas by email to John Bond or Yara Zhgeib. If you would like to know more about the early years of Initiatives of Change and the conference centre in Caux please click here and visit the platform For A New World.


  • Photo Villa Flora: Villa Flora, Winterthur
  • Photo Philippe and Lisbeth black and white: Initiatives of Change
  • Photo Birthday Micheline Sentis: Philippe Lasserre
  • Photos paintings and 5th floor corridor: Cindy Bühler
  • All other photos: Lisbeth Lasserre


Featured Story
Event Categories
75 stories 75th anniversary

related stories

This is us square 8.png

75 Years of Stories: Meet the team!

When we launched the 75 Years of Stories series in February 2021 about 75 years of encounters at the Initiatives of Change conference centre in Caux, we had no idea what an adventure we had embarked o...

Caux in snow 2021 credit Cindy Bühler

2021: Initiatives of Change Switzerland – Opening Caux’s doors to a new chapter

As our series of 75 stories for 75 years of the Initiatives of Change conference centre in Caux draws to an end, the President of Initiatives of Change Switzerland, Christine Beerli, and its two Co-Di...

Aad Burger

2020: Aad Burger – Struck by a virus

In 2020, the Caux Forum went online in response to the pandemic. Its organizers found that this made Caux accessible to people all over the world who could not have taken part in normal circumstances....

Marc Isserles 2017

2019: Marc Isserles – ‘We must save the children’

During World War II, the Caux Palace (later the Initiatives of Change conference centre in Switerland) provided a refuge for Jews fleeing the Shoah. Over the years, some of them – or their descendants...

Wael Broubaker climate actionist

2018: Wael Boubaker – ‘Climate change should be top top top priority’

When Tunisian economics graduate Wael Boubaker joined the Caux Peace and Leadership Programme (CPLP) in 2018, he expected a conference which would look good on his CV, and some beautiful scenery. Inst...

Tanaka Mhunduru CPLP

2017: Tanaka Mhunduru – A home for the world

Tanaka Mhunduru from Zimbabwe is one of the organizers of the Caux Peace and Leadership Programme (CPLP), a one-month programme for young people from around the world. He first took part in 2017....

Diana Damsa Winter Gathering 2016

2016: Diana Damsa – ‘It made me feel I counted’

The Winter Gathering of 2016 was a special experience for Diana Damsa – not just because she experienced Caux in winter, but also because, for the first time in eight years, she had no responsibilitie...

Catherine Guisan

2014: Catherine Guisan – Europe’s Unfinished Business

Catherine Guisan is Visiting Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota, USA. She has written two books on the ethical foundations of European integration. In 2014 she spoke at Caux’s first se...

Tom Duncan

2013: Tom Duncan – Restoring a healthy planet

2013 saw the first full-length Caux Dialogues on Land and Security (CDLS). These events, which took place at the Caux Conference and Seminar Centre, focus on the links between sustainable land managem...

Merel Rumping

2012: Merel Rumping – Going out on a limb

When Merel Rumping from the Netherlands first visited Caux in 2012, she had a goal in mind – ‘to explore how I could contribute to a more just world through my professional activities’....

Lucette Schneider

2011: Lucette Schneider – Choices which make the magic of Caux

For many years, Lucette Schneider from Switzerland organized the team which gathered in the early mornings to wash, peel and chop vegetables for the kitchens of the Caux conference centre. ...

Mohan Bhagwandas 2003

2010: Mohan Bhagwandas – Addressing the crisis of integrity

Mohan Bhagwandas is all too aware of his carbon footprint. In the 13 years from 2006 to 2019, he flew 17 times from his home city of Melbourne, Australia, to Switzerland to take part in the Caux confe...

Rajmohan Gandhi 2011 Caux Forum Human Security

2009: Rajmohan Gandhi – Bridges between India and Pakistan

25 distinguished Indians and Pakistanis came to Caux in 2009 with the aim of building bridges between their countries. The man who initiated the gathering was Rajmohan Gandhi, a grandson of Mahatma Ga...

Iman Ajmal Masroor

2008: Learning to be a Peacemaker – ‘An eye-opener to the world’

2008 saw the launch of an unusual course on Islam’s approach to peacemaking for young Muslims and non-Muslims, devised by Imam Ajmal Masroor from the UK. The course’s coordinator, Peter Riddell, descr...