Castles in Bern Canton

Thun Castle

During the Early Middle Ages there was a small fort and church on the top of the Thun castle hill. The castle was built between 1180 and 1190 by Duke Berthold V of Zähringen, who constructed the still preserved keep to the level of the Knights' Hall (Rittersaal). The 14 m tall Knights' Hall was built as the centerpiece of a monument to Zähringen power. However, the family never lived in the castle, preferring Burgdorf C ...
Founded: 1180-1190 | Location: Thun, Switzerland

Oberhofen Castle

During the High Middle Ages the Freiherr von Oberhofen built Balm Castle on a hill above the village. In 1200, a daughter of the family, Ita, married into the von Eschenbach family and gave this family the castle and village. In the 13th century they began a new, moated castle on the shores of Lake Thun. One of the last owners of the castle, Walter IV von Eschenbach, was assassinated along with King Albert I in ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Oberhofen am Thunersee, Switzerland

Spiez Castle

According to Elogius Kiburger, the author of the Strättliger Chronicle, in 933 the King of Burgundy, Rudolph II, built the Spiez Castle. Shortly thereafter, the Freiherr von Strättligen settled in the castle. Portions of the current castle shield walls and main tower were built during the 12th century and by the 13th century the town of Spiez existed outside the castle walls. By 1280 the castle was listed as an Imperial ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Spiez, Switzerland

Schadau Palace

Schadau Palace is situated in the Schaudaupark, and was built between 1846 and 1854 according to the plans of Pierre-Charles Dusillon in the Gothic Revival style, for the banker Abraham Denis Alfred de Rougemont Since 1925 the castle has belonged to the city of Thun and contains a restaurant and the Swiss Gastronomy Museum. Between 1972 and 1992 the façade of the castle was renovated by the city"s own quarrym ...
Founded: 1846-1854 | Location: Thun, Switzerland

Büren Castle

Büren Castle was built in 1621-24 as the residence of the Bernese Landvogt over the area. It was built on the site of four farm houses. Between 1624 and the 1798 French invasion a total of 77 Landvogts lived in the castle. Some of the bullet scars from the troops that invaded in 1798 are still visible on the castle walls. Today the castle is home to the municipal administration and government offices. In 2003 the 17th ce ...
Founded: 1621-1624 | Location: Büren an der Aare, Switzerland

Jegenstorf Castle

The Lords of Jegistorf were first mentioned in the 12th century, in the service of the Dukes of Zähringen. They built the large square castle tower around that time. The original castle was probably surrounded by wooden walls. During the 13th and 14th centuries, the wooden walls were replaced with stone. In 1300, shortly before the Lords of Jegenstorf died out, the Erlach family acquired the herrschaft of Jegenstorf. How ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Jegenstorf, Switzerland

Schwarzenburg Castle

Schwarzenburg Castle was built in 1573-76 to replace the increasingly expensive to maintain Grasburg Castle. From the beginning it was built as an administrative center for the Grasburg district and as a home for the governor. Grasburg was a shared condominium between the Cantons of Bern and Fribourg so the governor was appointed by each Canton in turn. Following the 1798 French invasion, Schwarzenburg Castle and the dist ...
Founded: 1573-1576 | Location: Schwarzenburg, Switzerland

Aarberg Castle

While the builder of the Aarberg Castle is unknown, the city itself was founded between 1220 and 1225 by count Ulrich III of Neuchâtel. The count had recently acquired the rulership over this region and needed a central location from which to rule. The island and the key bridge was a natural location for a town. The castle may have been built around the time of the founding of the city. The city was besieged in 1339, 13 ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Aarberg, Switzerland

Münchenwiler Castle

Münchenwiler Castle is a former Cluniac priory. In 1080-81 the village was given by the brothers Gerold and Rudolf de Vilar to Cluny Abbey. Shortly thereafter a priory was founded, which served as a way station for pilgrims on the Way of St. James. The Priory church was built in 1100, using spolia from the Roman ruins at Avenches. The small priory community normally consisted of a prior and two to four monks. ...
Founded: 1535 | Location: Münchenwiler, Switzerland

Ringgenberg Castle

The rocky heights above Brienz Lake were first occupied and fortified by the Late-Bronze Age. During the Middle Ages, the land around the castle was owned by the Barons of Brienz and Raron. Around 1231, they moved to Ringgenberg village and soon thereafter into the castle. Ringgenberg Castle was probably built in several stages during the 13th century. It first appears in the historical record in 1240. During the 13th ce ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Ringgenberg, Switzerland

Burgdorf Castle

During the High Middle Ages the land that would become Burgdorf was owned by the Kingdom of Burgundy and then after 1080 by the Dukes of Zähringen. Either the kings or the dukes built a castle on the left bank of the Emme river, this castle was first mentioned in 1080. Under Duke Berthold V, in 1200, Burgdorf Castle was expanded. The old castle consisted of a gatehouse and attached wall. Berthold V added a tower, donjon ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Burgdorf, Switzerland

Nidau Castle

Nidau Castle is the landmark of the city, today housing cantonal administration and the museum. The museum has an interesting exhibit on the Jura water correction. The first wooden castle on the site was built in 1140, followed by a second one in 1180. The presence of the Nidau castle is first evidenced by a deed dated 30 August 1196, issued by Count Ulrich III of Neuchâtel. The first stone castle was built in the early ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Nidau, Switzerland

Weissenau Castle

Weissenau Castle was first mentioned in the historic record as castrum Wissenowe in 1298. It is unclear whether it was built by the Lords of Rotenfluh (Unspunnen) and then given in fief to the Freiherr of Weissenau or if it was built by the Weissenau family as the center of their estates. The castle was built on what was an island at the mouth of the Aare river into Lake Thun. In the intervening centuries, the waterway si ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Unterseen, Switzerland

Tellenburg Castle

Tellenburg Castle was built around 1200 by the Lords of Kien. After the Lords of Kien, the Lords of Wädenswil became the owners of the castle. They were followed by the Lords of Turn in 1312 and then later by the city of Bern. The original castle was expanded and repaired in the 13th or 14th centuries. Under Bernese rule, the castle served as the administrative seat of the surrounding area until the creation of the Helv ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Frutigen, Switzerland

Schlossberg Castle

In 999 the Abbot of Moutier-Grandval Abbey gave his extensive landholdings around Lake Biel, including where La Neuveville would be founded, to the Prince-Bishop of Basel. At that time the region was known as Nugerol and over the next centuries the Bishop of Basel and the Counts of Neuchâtel often quarreled over the land. In 1283 the Prince-Bishop Henry von Isny began to have Schlossberg Castle built on the slopes of ...
Founded: 1283 | Location: La Neuveville, Switzerland

Erlach Castle

Erlach Castle was built around 1090-1100 by Burkart von Fenis, the Bishop of Basel. In 1224, the castle and town of Erlach became the property of the Counts of Nidau. In 1265, Peter II of Savoy brought the counts and their castle under the feudal authority of the House of Savoy. While under Savoy control, Peter II appointed a warden to occupy the castle and manage the castle estates. The warden knights took their name fro ...
Founded: 1090-1100 | Location: Erlach, Switzerland

Unspunnen Castle

Unspunnen Castle, likely constructed in the early 12th century, overlooks the city of Interlaken. The castle was the center of a 13th-14th century fief of an Oberland barons, though the name of the barons or the castle builder is unknown. The cave castle of Rotenfluh at Tschingelsatz and Unspunnen Castle (first mentioned in 1232 as Uspunnun) were used to guard the late medieval Lütschinenbrücke, a bridge at Gsteig ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Wilderswil, Switzerland

Belp Castle

In 1550-54 the von Luternau family built the Belp Old Castle in the village to the site of earlier wooden castle. The Old Castle was the administrative seat of the Herrschaft during the 16th and 17th centuries.
Founded: 1550-1554 | Location: Belp, Switzerland

Aarwangen Castle

The lords of Aarwangen were first mentioned between 1194 and 1212 as a Ministerialis (unfree knights in the service of a feudal overlord) family in service to the Kyburgs. Starting in 1266, Walter of Aarwangen was in the service of the future King of the Romans Rudolph I. Initially they owned land in the Emmental, but in 1276 they sold the land to Trub monastery. Around 1300 they built the tower of Aarwangen Castle along ...
Founded: c. 1300 | Location: Aarwangen, Switzerland

Old Bümpliz Castle

The first structure on the site of Old Bümpliz Castle was a Burgundian royal estate which was built around 900. Around 1250-1270 a round stone tower was built in the center of the site. This round tower was quite unusual for Bernese castles but may indicate a savoyard influence. Since Peter II of Savoy held authority over Bern at the time, it is likely, but not confirmed, that the round tower was built as a symbol of Sav ...
Founded: c. 1250 | Location: Bern, Switzerland

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Palazzo Colonna

The Palazzo Colonna is a palatial block of buildings built in part over ruins of an old Roman Serapeum, and has belonged to the prestigious Colonna family for over twenty generations.

The first part of the palace dates from the 13th century, and tradition holds that the building hosted Dante in his visit to Rome. The first documentary mention notes that the property hosted Cardinal Giovanni and Giacomo Colonna in the 13th century. It was also home to Cardinal Oddone Colonna before he ascended to the papacy as Martin V (1417–1431).

With his passing, the palace was sacked during feuds, and the main property passed into the hands of the Della Rovere family. It returned to the Colonna family when Marcantonio I Colonna married Lucrezia Gara Franciotti Della Rovere, the niece of pope Julius II. The Colonna"s alliance to the Habsburg power, likely protected the palace from looting during the Sack of Rome (1527).

Starting with Filippo Colonna (1578–1639) many changes have refurbished and create a unitary complex around a central garden. Architects including Girolamo Rainaldi and Paolo Marucelli labored on specific projects. Only in the 17th and 18th centuries were the main facades completed. Much of this design was completed by Antonio del Grande (including the grand gallery), and Girolamo Fontana (decoration of gallery). In the 18th century, the long low facade designed by Nicola Michetti with later additions by Paolo Posi with taller corner blocks (facing Piazza Apostoli) was constructed recalls earlier structures resembling a fortification.

The main gallery (completed 1703) and the masterful Colonna art collection was acquired after 1650 by both the cardinal Girolamo I Colonna and his nephew the Connestabile Lorenzo Onofrio Colonna and includes works by Lorenzo Monaco, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Palma the Elder, Salviati, Bronzino, Tintoretto, Pietro da Cortona, Annibale Carracci (painting of The Beaneater), Guercino, Francesco Albani, Muziano and Guido Reni. Ceiling frescoes by Filippo Gherardi, Giovanni Coli, Sebastiano Ricci, and Giuseppe Bartolomeo Chiari celebrate the role of Marcantonio II Colonna in the battle of Lepanto (1571). The gallery is open to the public on Saturday mornings.

The older wing of the complex known as the Princess Isabelle"s apartments, but once housing Martin V"s library and palace, contains frescoes by Pinturicchio, Antonio Tempesta, Crescenzio Onofri, Giacinto Gimignani, and Carlo Cesi. It contains a collection of landscapes and genre scenes by painters like Gaspard Dughet, Caspar Van Wittel (Vanvitelli), and Jan Brueghel the Elder.

Along with the possessions of the Doria-Pamphilij and Pallavacini-Rospigliosi families, this is one of the largest private art collections in Rome.