Castles in Bern Canton

Grasburg Castle

According to legend, the first castle on the site of Grasburg was built by a Roman hunter who saw the massive sandstone spire on an island in the Sense river. He saw a red deer on the cliff over the river and went to catch it. As he rode after the deer a dragon roared out of a cave, but the hunter quickly killed the dragon. The deer then walked up to the hunter and offered his life to the hunter. The hunter allowed the de ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Schwarzenburg, Switzerland

Holligen Castle

The first recorded mention of Holligen is in 1257, when it was owned by the Teutonic Knights commandry of Köniz. It is likely that there was a castle here to control the Bümpliz-Köniz road and administer the estates. However, very little is known of this building. The current castle was built around 1500 by the Bernese Schultheiss Wilhelm von Diesbach. It was built in the style of a typical Burgundian castle, with a sq ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Bern, Switzerland

Felsenburg Castle

Felsenburg castle was probably built in the 12th century for the Freiherr of Kien. The castle was built on a rocky spire above the road over the Gemmi pass into Valais. It was inherited, along with the rest of the Herrschaft of Frutigen, by the Freiherr of Wädenswil in 1290. The Freiherr of Turn acquired it from Wädenswil in 1312. It was mentioned in a record in 1339 as the castrum de Petra. It was again mentio ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Kandergrund, Switzerland

Münsingen Castle

By the 12th century a castle was built in Münsingen town from which the Senn family ruled the town. However, it was demolished by Bern in 1311. A wooden outbuilding was built on the castle lands three years later, which later became the cantonal psychiatric clinic. In 1550 the Schultheiss Hans Franz Nägeli rebuilt the castle building into its current appearance. It was renovated and repaired in 1749–53. In 1977 the mu ...
Founded: 1550 | Location: Münsingen, Switzerland

Wimmis Castle

By the 12th or 13th century the Lords of Wimmis or Strättligen built Wimmis Castle above the village. The exact relationship between the two families is unclear, but the Wimmis line became extinct in the mid-13th century and by 1260 the Freiherr von Strättligen owned Wimmis Castle and the surrounding lands. A few years later the castle and lands were incorporated into the extensive holdings of the Freiherr von Weissenbu ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Wimmis, Switzerland

Riggisberg Castle

During the Middle Ages the Fribourg noble family of Riggisberg was established with a seat in Riggisberg. The first one that appears in a historical record is Constantin de Rucasperc in 1140. The family soon lost or sold all their rights and land in the village and by the 13th century other nobles and monasteries owned parts of the village. In 1337 the Riggisberg line died out and their remaining estates passed on to othe ...
Founded: 1700 | Location: Riggisberg, Switzerland

Wil Castle

During the Middle Ages, Wil Castle was built near the village and it became the seat of the Herrschaft of Schlosswil. The lords of the fort, the Freiherren von Wiler, were first mentioned in 1146. The von Wiler family died out around 1300, and the village and associated territory passed through several noble families, including the Freiherren von Signau and eventually the Senn von Münsingen family. The territory was spl ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Schlosswil, Switzerland

Amsoldingen Castle

Amsoldingen Castle and the neighboring was built in the 10th century. The castle was built as the residence of the wealthy provost of the collegiate church of Amsoldingen. However, the provost and church gradually became impoverished and in 1484 ownership of the castle was given to St. Vincent"s cathedral in Bern. The college of canons in Bern sold the castle and surrounding lands in 1496 to the wealthy merchant Bart ...
Founded: 10th century AD | Location: Amsoldingen, Switzerland

Strättligen Castle

Strättligen Castle was built by the barons of Strättligen in the 13th century. Today the ruins are well-preserved with a powder tower dating from 1699.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Thun, Switzerland

Trachselwald Castle

The name of the rulers of the Trachselwald Castle was first mentioned in 1131. The castle itself may date back to the 10th century but the 11th or 12th century is more likely. At first it belonged to the barons of Trachselwald, then to the barons of Rüti bei Lyssach, and then those of Sumiswald. The barons of Sumiswald sold the castle and surrounding lands to the city of Bern. Bern turned the castle into a sheriffhood. ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Trachselwald, Switzerland

Wittigkofen Castle

Wittigkofen Castle was originally built as a residence for a farm and was awarded to the followers of the Zähringians. In the mid-13th century Heinricus Wittenchoven managed the farm. He was a member of the council and the first documented feudal superior. The property was also home to the monastery of Interlaken. The castle had several owners and belonged to different families. Beat Ludwig von Mülinen (1521-1597) purch ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Bern, Switzerland

Worb Castle

The Freiherr de Worvo was first mentioned in 1127, a couple of years before the village appeared in the record. By the second half of the 13th century the Freiherr von Kien had inherited village, lands and Worb Castle. The family ruled over the Worb Herrschaft until 1336 when they became citizens of Bern and the territory came under Bernese authority. Over the following centuries several Bernese noble families ruled o ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Worb, Switzerland

Thielle Castle

Thielle Castle was built by Berchtold, the count of Neuchâtel in 1270-1300. In 1320-1325 it was reconstructed in Gothic style and later it got also Baroque elements. In the 19th century the castle was used as prison and restored in 1960-1980s.
Founded: 1270-1300 | Location: Gals, Switzerland

Burgistein Castle

The first castle at Burgistein was built by Jordan I of Thun (later of Burgistein) in 1260. Jordan III of Burgistein fought on the losing side in the Battle of Laupen in 1339. In retaliation a Bernese army attacked and destroyed the castle in 1340. It was rebuilt in the following years. In 1397 the Burgistein family died out and the castle was inherited by Werner Münzer. Over the following century it passed through nume ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Burgistein, Switzerland

Restiturm

The Restiturm, or Burgruine Resti, is a ruined castle in the municipality of Meiringen. The original castle was built in the 13th century and has been rebuilt several times. The castle is situated at the foot of the Hasliberges. The best preserved part of the castle is its tower, which still stands to this day. An examination of the castle interior reveals that the castle was constructed inside out, with the core"s c ...
Founded: c. 1250 | Location: Meiringen, Switzerland

Weissenburg Castle

In 1175 the Freiherr von Weissenburg was first mentioned as a land holder and vassal of Duke Berthold IV of Zähringen. Whether they had a castle at this time is not recorded. When he assumed the title in 1259, Rudolf III of Weissenburg expanded and repaired Weissenburg Castle to its full size. Beginning in the 13th century, the Weissenburgs began to expand their Herrschaft. Around 1250 they added Wimmis to their territor ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Weissenburg, Switzerland

Alt-Signau Castle Ruins

Alt-Signau castle was the ancestral home of the Barons of Signau. The family was first mentioned in 1130 when Werner von Signau appeared in a historical record. The castle was designed to protect and control the road between the Emmental and the Aare river. In the mid-14th century the castle was abandoned when the family moved to Neu-Signau Castle on a hill across the valley. The ruin is relatively well preserved.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Signau, Switzerland

Spittel Castle

Spittel Castle was established in 1225 by Lüthold von Sumiswald as a hospital, hence the name. The current appearance dates from the restoration made after the great fire in 1730.
Founded: 1730 | Location: Sumiswald, Switzerland

Allmendingen Castle

The original Allmendingen Castle was built during the High Middle Ages probably for the Lords of Allmendingen or Alwandingen. Between 1239 and 1256 Rudolf von Alwandingen was mentioned in the record. In 1256 the Lords of Allmendingen sold both Allmendingen and the neighboring hamlet of Märchligen to Interlaken Abbey. The castle fell into disrepair and during the 16th century the cartographer Thomas Schöpf referred to it ...
Founded: 17th century | Location: Allmendingen, Switzerland

Rümligen Castle

During the High Middle Ages the Freiherr von Rümligen owned a vast swathe of land between the Gürbe and Sense rivers. The first appearance of the family in the historical record is in 1076 when Lütold von Rümligen founded Rüeggisberg Priory. By the 13th century they were allied with Bern and in 1320-21 Berchtold von Rümligen (1294-1337) was the Schultheiss in Bern. The Simmental and Summerau lines of the Rümligen f ...
Founded: c. 1076 | Location: Rümligen, 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.