Castles and fortifications in Switzerland

Freudenberg Castle Ruins

The Freudenberg castle was one of the largest castles in region. The main castle dates from the first half of the 13th century and consists of a keep with a trapezoid floor plan. The curtain wall was 80m long and 60m wide and protected by a round tower in the southwest corner. The castle was built by the Lords of Wildenberg. Later it was owned by several families and the imperial Austria. Because of a dispute over ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Bad Ragaz, Switzerland

Rue Castle

Rue castle was built originally in the 12th century (the keep with three storeys), but the other buildings were destroyed in the 1230s. Peter II of Savoy rebuilt the castle between 1260-1268, but it was again destroyed in 1476 in the Burgundian Wars. The current residence dates from 1619-1763.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Rue, Switzerland

Rhäzüns Castle

Rhäzüns Castle may be one of the oldest castles in Switzerland. In 960 Emperor Otto I traded a church in in castello Beneduces et Ruzunnes (in the castle of Bonaduz and Rhäzüns) to the Bishop of Chur and a 976 document by Otto II confirms the trade the existence of the castle. Over the following centuries the fortified church became a feudal castle and in 1139 Arnoldus de Ruzunne appears in the records as a Romans ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Rhäzüns, Switzerland

Tschanüff Castle

The oldest part of the Tschanüff castle is the main tower, which was built as a bergfried (a fighting tower without permanent inhabitants) in the 12th century for the Lords of Ramosch. A ring wall was added in the 13th century. On 12 March 1256 Count Meinhard of Tyrol granted the knight Nannes of Ramosch the right to build a castle at Ramosch. Since there was already a fortification, this permission was probably to expan ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Valsot, Switzerland

Schauensee Castle

Schauensee Castle was first mentioned in the 13th century in connection with the Knight Rudolf von Schauensee (1257-1317) and was probably built in the 13th century. By the beginning of the 14th century it was already in ruins. At the end of the 16th century, Johannes von Mettenwyl acquired the complex and rebuilt it, retaining only the tower from the original castle. In 1750 it was rebuilt to its current appearance under ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Kriens, Switzerland

Allaman Castle

Allaman Castle has its origins in the 11 and 12th centuries but the main components were built by Louis, Duke of Savoy, in 1253. The wealthy Genevan philanthropist Count Jean-Jacques de Sellon, who owned the property until 1839, gave accommodation at the castle to political refugees, such as Napoleon"s brother Joseph Bonaparte, Empress Joséphine de Beauharnais, Voltaire, Franz Liszt and George Sand. In 18 ...
Founded: 1253 | Location: Allaman, Switzerland

Blonay Castle

Blonay Castle was built around 1175 to the site of fortified building dating from the 11th century. It was built by the Blonay noble family, vassals of Counts of Savoy. The castle was in their hands until 1752 when it was sold to Graffenried family who still owns it.
Founded: 1175 | Location: Blonay, Switzerland

Wartensee Castle

The western tower of Wartensee castle was built in 1243 by Ritter Heinrich von Wartensee as a residential tower. By the marriage the tower went in 1377 to the brothers Walter and Diethelm Blarer from St. Gallen. The family Blarer owned Wartensee until 1719. The current appearance dates from the alterations made in 1843-1553 by English composer Robert Lucas Pearsall de Willsbridge. Today Wartensee is a hotel.
Founded: 1243 | Location: Rorschacherberg, Switzerland

Ehrenfels Castle

Ehrenfels Castle was probably built in the first half of the 13th century. The first mention of the Lord of Ehrenfels is in 1257. In 1320 it was owned by Burkhard and Rudolf von Schauenstein, who also used the name Ehrenfels or Herrenfels. They probably expanded the simple bergfried with residential space and a ring wall around that time. The castle was first mentioned in 1423 with Hermann von Ehrenfels as the owner. Towa ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Sils im Domleschg, Switzerland

Frohberg Castle Ruins

The ruins of Frohberg castle is on a rocky ridge at the upper end of the Klus valley on the way to the old Platten pass road. The stronghold at Frohberg was first mentioned in 1292 when Conrad I Schaler 'de Vroberg' was mentioned. It is likely that the castle was built by the Schaler family in the second half of the 13th Century. Although the castle dominated the way across the Platten pass (between Birseck an ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Aesch, Switzerland

Wildenstein Castle

Wildenstein Castle"s first mention was in 1301, with no understanding to when was it made or by whom. The two towers were built around 1350 and the construction or expansion of the palas was made around 1400. The medieval castle was restored as a Baroque residence in 1640 by Hans Thüring Effinger. The restoration work started in 2012.
Founded: 14th century | Location: Veltheim, Switzerland

Hochjuvalt Castle

Hochjuvalt Castle consists of two sections, the upper castle on a rocky spur above the valley and the lower castle along the trade road on the valley floor. The spur created a natural pinch point in the valley, forcing traffic from the Septimer, Splügen and San Bernardino Passes to pass through the customs post in the lower castle. The von Juvalt family first appears in records in 1140 and the castle is first mentioned i ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Rothenbrunnen, Switzerland

Wartau Castle

The area around Wartau was first settled around 9000 years ago, culminating in neolithic settlements on the nearby Ochsenberg and Prochna Burg at about 3000 BC. A Merovingian fortress was built at Prochna Burg, but was destroyed around 750. While there are no written records that mention the first owner of the castle or when it was built, the wooden beams in the castle have been dated to about 1225. It was probably ...
Founded: c. 1225 | Location: Wartau, Switzerland

Altenburg Castle

The exact date of Altenburg Castle construction is unknown, however the traditional date given is during the reign of Valentinian I or around 370. The discovery of several small coin hoards near the ruins may indicate a construction date as early as the beginning of the 4th century AD. The castle was built on a point above the Aar river as part of the Limes Germanicus to protect an easily fordable stretch of the ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Brugg, Switzerland

Liebegg Castle

The origins of Liebegg castle and the von Liebegg family are unclear, though they were probably a junior line of the von Trostburg family. The first castle was probably built in the 2nd half of the 12th century. About a century later the second castle was built south of the first. The first mention of the family is in 1241 when Burkhard I and Ludwig von Liebegg appear as witnesses in a document. At that time they were u ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Gränichen, Switzerland

Sogn Parcazi Castle Ruins

Sogn Parcazi castle is known after the hill that it stands on. The early chronicles of the region list Pepin, the father of Charlemagne, as the founder of the castle. While this is unlikely, it has not been conclusively disproven. Regardless of whether it is true, the first church on the site may date to the 8th century and may have been built on an even older pre-Christian cult site. It was originally built as a fortifi ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Trin, Switzerland

Torre Fiorenzana

Torre Fiorenzana is a tower house built in the late 12th century for the local de Grono family. The first mention of the family is 1219. They appear again in local records in 1286 and 1288. The Canon Bernardinus of Grono and the Provost Heinrich appear to have been the last male members of the family. By 1314 it was owned by the powerful Lords of Sax-Misox and a branch of the family inhabited it. In the 14th century they ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Grono, Switzerland

Champvent Castle

Situated on a hill overlooking the valley of Thiele, the Champvent castle of is on of the best preserved medieval castles in Vaud canton. It was probably built around 1250 by Henri de Grandson. His family occupied the castle until 1336. The castle and the lordship then passed in Burgundy until 1476 when it was burned after the Battle of Grandson (in Burgundian Wars). Champvent castle was rebuilt after 1536 and beca ...
Founded: c. 1250 | Location: Champvent, Switzerland

Bubikon Castle

Bubikon Castle (Ritterhaus Bubikon) is a former commandery, a medieval monastery of the Knights Hospitaller. Assumably in compensation of claims related to the Alt-Rapperswil lands and rights, a change of goods occurred between the Counts of Toggenburg and Counts of Rapperswil probably in the early 1190s. To end the disputes about the legacy, the Knights Hospitaller abbey and commandry was given by Diethelm V ...
Founded: 1190s | Location: Bubikon, Switzerland

Bernegg Castle

The name Bernegg was first mentioned in 1292. Around 1365 the estate was managed by Heinrich Gottschalk. According to unconfirmed documents, the house was looted by the Confederates in 1499 and then rebuilt. In 1702, the Bernegg passed into the possession of Johann Ulrich Merhart-Mallenbrey. To this day, Merhart family still owns the house. In 1786, Maximilian Christof von Rodt, Bishop of Constance, built the four-st ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Kreuzlingen, Switzerland

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Wawel Castle

Wawel Hill – a Jurassic limestone rock, a dominant feature in the landscape of Kraków, have provided a safe haven for people who have settled here since the Paleolithic Age. It is supposed that the Slav people started living on Wawel hill as early as the 7th century. Early medieval legends tell stories about a dreadful dragon that lived in a cave on Wawel Hill, about his slayer Krakus, and about the latter’s daughter Wanda, who drowned herself in the Vistula rather than marry a German knight. Towards the end of the first millennium A.D Wawel began to play the role of the centre of political power.In the 9th century it became the principal fortified castrum of the Vislane tribe. The first historical ruler of Poland, Miesco I (c.965-992) of the Piast dynasty as well as his successors: Boleslas the Brave (992-1025) and Miesco II (1025-1034) chose Wawel Hill as one of their residences.

At that time Wawel became one of the main Polish centres of Christianity. The first early Romanesque and Romanesque sacral buildings were raised here, including a stone cathedral that was erected after the bishopric of Kraków was established in the year 1000.

During the reign of Casimir the Restorer (1034-1058) Wawel became a significant political and administrative centre for the Polish State. Casimir’s son, Boleslas the Bold (1058-1079) began the construction of a second Romanesque cathedral, which was finished by Boleslas the Wrymouth (1102-1138). In his last will of 1138, this prince divided Poland into districts, and provided that Kraków was to be the residence of the senior prince. In 1291 the city of Kraków along with Wawel Hill temporarily fell under the Czech rule, and Wenceslas II from the Premysl dynasty was crowned King of Poland in Wawel cathedral.

In 1306 the Duke of Kuyavia Ladislas the Short (1306-1333) entered Wawel and was crowned King of Poland in the Cathedral in 1320. It was the first historically recorded coronation of a Polish ruler on Wawel Hill. Around that time, at the initiative of Ladislas the Short, the construction of the third Gothic cathedral began, the castle was expanded and the old wooden and earthen fortifications were replaced by brick ones. The tomb of Ladislas the Short in the cathedral started a royal necropolis of Polish kings in Krakow.The last descendant of the Piast dynasty, Casimir the Great (1333-1370) brought Wawel to a state of unprecedented splendour. In 1364 the expanded gothic castle witnessed the marriage of Casimir’s granddaughter Elizabeth to Charles IV accompanied by a famous convention of kings and princes, subsequently entertained by a rich burgher Wierzynek. The accession to the throne in 1385 of Jadwiga from the Hungarian dynasty of Andegavens, and her marriage to a Lithuanian prince Ladislas Jagiello (1386-1434) started another era of prosperity for Wawel. The royal court employed local and western European artists and also Rus painters. During the reign of Casimir Jagiellon (1447-1492) the silhouette of the hill was enriched by three high brick towers: the Thieves’ Tower, the Sandomierz Tower and the Senatorial Tower. The first humanists in Poland and tutors to the king’s sons: historian Jan Długosz and an Italian by the name Filippo Buonacorsi (also known as Callimachus) worked there at that time.

The Italian Renaissance arrived at Wawel in the early 16th century. King Alexander (1501-1506) and his brother Sigismund I the Old (1506-1548) commissioned the construction of a new palace in place of the Gothic residence, with an impressive large courtyard with arcaded galleries which was completed about 1540. Sigismund’s patronage also left an indelible impression in the cathedral, where a family chapel was erected, known today as Sigismund’s Chapel - the work of Bartolomeo of Berrecci Florence, and through various foundations, one of which was that of a large bell, called the Sigismund to commemorate the king. Close artistic and cultural relations with Italy were strengthened in 1518 by the king’s marriage to Bona Sforza. Alongside Italian artists, German architects, wood workers, painters and metal smiths worked for the king. The last descendant of the Jagiellonian dynasty, Sigismund II Augustus (1548-1572), enriched the castle’s interiors with a magnificent collection of tapestries woven in Brussels. In the “Golden Age” of Polish culture Wawel became one of the main centres of humanism in Europe.

The reign of Sigismund III Waza (1587-1632) also made a strong impression on the history of Wawel. After a fire in the castle in 1595 the king rebuilt the burned wing of the building in the early Baroque style. The relocation of the royal court to Warsaw was the cause of a slow but nevertheless steady deterioration in the castle’s condition. The monarchs visited Kraków only occasionally. Restoration of the castle was undertaken during the reign of John III Sobieski, the Wettins and Stanislas Augustus to counteract neglect.

After Poland had lost its independence in 1795, the troops of partitioning nations, Russia, Prussia and Austria, subsequently occupied Wawel which finally passed into the hands of the Austrians. The new owners converted the castle and some of the secular buildings into a military hospital, and demolished some others, including churches. After the period of the Free City of Kraków (1815-1846) Wawel was once more annexed by Austria and turned into a citadel dominating the city. By the resolution passed by the Seym of Galicia in 1880, the castle was presented as a residence to the Emperor of Austria Franz Josef I. The Austrian troops left the hill between 1905-1911. At the turn of the 20th century a thorough restoration of the cathedral was conducted, and shortly afterwards a process of restoration of the royal castle began which lasted several decades.

When Poland regained its independence in 1918, the castle served as an official residence of the Head of State, and as a museum of historic interiors. During the Nazi occupation the castle was the residence of the German governor general, Hans Frank. Polish people managed to remove the most valuable objects, including the tapestries and the “Szczerbiec” coronation sword to Canada, from where they returned as late as 1959-1961. At present, the main curators of Wawel are Wawel Royal Castle – State Art Collection and the Metropolitan Basilica Board on Wawel Hill.