Castles in Graubünden canton

Wildenberg Castle

The Wildenberg family was a cadet branch of the Greifenstein family of Filisur. In addition to Wildenberg Castle in Falera, they owned castles and estates throughout the valleys of Graubünden. Wildenberg Castle in Zernez was first mentioned as the home of the family in 1280/90. In 1296 the Bishop of Chur took the right to collect tithes from Wildenberg and pledged it to the Lords of Planta. It is unclear if the castle we ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Zernez, Switzerland

Bishop's Castle

The Bishop"s Castle in Fürstenau dates to the mid-to-late 13th century, while the current structure is from the early 18th century.
Founded: 18th century | Location: Fürstenau, Switzerland

Mesocco Castle

Mesocco Castle ruins are among the largest in the canton. Originally the seat of the noble family von Sax, from the 12th century until 1480 it was held by the Freiherr of Misox/Mesocco. From 1480 until 1549 it was held by the Trivulzio family. A small fortified church, the Church of S. Carpoforo, was built on the hill top around the 7th century as a refuge castle for the surrounding villages. Around 1000, the fortifi ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Mesocco, Switzerland

Tarasp Castle

Tarasp Castle was probably built in the 11th century or possibly as early as the 10th century. The name comes from terra aspera or wild earth, which may refer to the newly lands in the Inn river valley. They had adopted the name of the castle by 1089 when Ulrich von Tarasp was mentioned in a papal mandate to the Bishop of Chur. Around the same time the family founded Scuol Monastery, which later moved to Marienberg Abbey ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Tarasp, Switzerland

Brandis Castle

The Maienfeld area was an important Roman era customs station on the road between Turicum (Zurich) and Brigantium (Bregenz). After the Fall of the Western Roman Empirethe area probably remained a local population center and retained some of the Roman buildings and fortifications. During the High Middle Ages the Carolingian royal estate of curtis Lupinis was built in the area and the town of Maienfeld grew up ar ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Maienfeld, Switzerland

Alt-Süns Castle

Alt-Süns Castle was built around 1200 by the Freiherr von Vaz as the center of their estates in the Domleschg valley. Their Herrschaft of Paspels/Süns was first mentioned in a record in 1237, but the castle wasn"t mentioned until 1285. When the last male heir of the Vaz line, Donat von Vaz, died in 1338, the castle and lands were inherited by the Counts of Werdenberg-Sargans. They sold it to the von Matsch family i ...
Founded: 1200 | Location: Domleschg, Switzerland

Norantola Castle

The oldest parts of the Norantola Castle were probably built in the 12th century for a local noble family. In 1248 Locarnus de Norantola is mentioned in a record and in 1295 Petrus de Norantola is mentioned. However, by around 1300 the castle was owned by the powerful Counts of Sax/Misox and the Norantola family vanished from historical records. In 1324 Ugolinus von Sax was listed as the owner of the castle. In the early ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Cama, Switzerland

Steinsberg Castle

During the High Middle Ages a fortified church with a ring wall and perhaps a tower was built near the current Steinsberg Castle. By the end of the 12th century, these fortifications were demolished and a new castle was built above formerly fortified plateau and the Church of St. Lazius. It was probably built for a local noble family. In 1209 Albert von Frickingen sold all his estates and villages as well as the castle ab ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Scuol, Switzerland

Santa Maria in Calanca Castle

The Santa Maria in Calanca castle ruins are located on a hill top at the entrance to the Calanca valley. The hill top was inhabited prehistorically and by the late Roman era was home to the Church of Santa Maria. By the High Middle Ages it was the political center of the entire valley. By the 12th century the first castle was built on the hill below the church. This castle was probably built for the de Calanca family, of ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Santa Maria in Calanca, Switzerland

Hohenrätien Castle

Hohenrätien Castle was built on a rock wall that rises 250 m above the Viamala river and the important roads over the San Bernardino and Splügen Passes. The area was inhabited during the Bronze and Iron Ages. During the Roman era the current castle site was a religious site and by the 4th or 5th century there was a church on the site. It is unknown whether the church was originally built as a Christian church or was a t ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Sils im Domleschg, Switzerland

Castelmur Castle

The fortifications at Castelmur may be, after the Three Castles of Bellinzona, the most important example of medieval valley fortifications in modern Switzerland. The castle site has been occupied and fortified since at least the Roman era. The important trade road over the Septimer Pass runs through the Val Bregaglia. The Romans built a guard station and village named 'Murus' according to the 3rd century Itinerarium Ant ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Bondo, Switzerland

Baldenstein Castle

Baldenstein Castle was the family castle for the Knights of Baldenstein, the first of which was mentioned in 1246. The central tower which now forms part of the castle was built around the same time. Very little is recorded about the Baldenstein family and by 1289 the castle was owned by the Freiherr von Löwenstein. Before 1289 he lost the castle in a war with the Freiherr von Rhäzüns, but in the peace treaty of that y ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Sils im Domleschg, Switzerland

Jörgenberg Castle

Jörgenberg Castle was built in the 8th century as a fortified church, on lands donated by the Frankish kings. In the 765 testament of Bishop Tello it was referred to as a castellum on Jörgenberg hill. At the beginning of the 9th century it was called ecclesia sancti Georgii in Castello or St. George's Church in a Castle. The current castle and church were probably built on the site of an earlier walled church. Th ...
Founded: 8th century AD | Location: Waltensburg/Vuorz, 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

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

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

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

Haldenstein Castle

Haldenstein Castle was probably built in the 10th or 11th century as the family castle of the Ministerialis Haldenstein family, who were in service of the Lord of Vaz. By the 12th century the family had split into two lines, the Haldenstein family and the Lichtenstein family (who inhabited the nearby Lichtenstein Castle. Each family ruled over part of the nearby village and farms. By the end of the 13th century the Lichte ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Haldenstein, Switzerland

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a baroque French château built between 1658-1661 for Nicolas Fouquet. It was made for Marquis de Belle Île, Viscount of Melun and Vaux, the superintendent of finances of Louis XIV, the château was an influential work of architecture in mid-17th century Europe. At Vaux-le-Vicomte, the architect Louis Le Vau, the landscape architect André le Nôtre, and the painter-decorator Charles Le Brun worked together on a large-scale project for the first time. Their collaboration marked the beginning of the 'Louis XIV style' combining architecture, interior design and landscape design. The garden's pronounced visual axis is an example of this style.

To secure the necessary grounds for the elaborate plans for Vaux-le-Vicomte’s garden and castle, Fouquet purchased and demolished three villages. The displaced villagers were then employed in the upkeep and maintenance of the gardens. It was said to have employed eighteen thousand workers and cost as much as 16 million livres. The château and its patron became for a short time a focus for fine feasts, literature and arts. The poet La Fontaine and the playwright Molière were among the artists close to Fouquet. At the inauguration of Vaux-le-Vicomte, a Molière play was performed, along with a dinner event organized by François Vatel, and an impressive firework show.

After Fouquet was arrested and imprisoned for life, and his wife exiled, Vaux-le-Vicomte was placed under sequestration. The king seized, confiscated or purchased 120 tapestries, the statues, and all the orange trees from Vaux-le-Vicomte. He then sent the team of artists (Le Vau, Le Nôtre and Le Brun) to design what would be a much larger project than Vaux-le-Vicomte, the palace and gardens of Versailles.

The Marshal Villars became the new owner without first seeing the chateau. In 1764, the Marshal's son sold the estate to the Duke of Praslin, whose descendants would maintain the property for over a century. It is sometimes mistakenly reported that the château was the scene of a murder in 1847, when duke Charles de Choiseul-Praslin, killed his wife in her bedroom, but this did not happen at Vaux-le-Vicomte but at the Paris residence of the Duke.

In 1875, after thirty years of neglect, the estate was sold to Alfred Sommier in a public auction. The château was empty, some of the outbuildings had fallen into ruin, and the famous gardens were totally overgrown. The huge task of restoration and refurbishment began under the direction of the architect Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur, assisted by the landscape architect Elie Lainé. When Sommier died in 1908, the château and the gardens had recovered their original appearance. His son, Edme Sommier, and his daughter-in-law completed the task. Today, his descendants continue to preserve the château, which remains privately owned by Patrice and Cristina de Vogüé, the Count and Countess de Vogüé. It is now administered by their three sons Alexandre, Jean-Charles and Ascanio de Vogüé. Recognized by the state as a monument historique, it is open to the public regularly.

Architecture

The chateau is situated near the northern end of a 1.5-km long north-south axis with the entrance front facing north. Its elevations are perfectly symmetrical to either side of this axis. Somewhat surprisingly the interior plan is also nearly completely symmetrical with few differences between the eastern and western halves. The two rooms in the center, the entrance vestibule to the north and the oval salon to the south, were originally an open-air loggia, dividing the chateau into two distinct sections. The interior decoration of these two rooms was therefore more typical of an outdoor setting. Three sets of three arches, those on the entrance front, three more between the vestibule and the salon, and the three leading from the salon to the garden are all aligned and permitted the arriving visitor to see through to the central axis of the garden even before entering the chateau. The exterior arches could be closed with iron gates, and only later were they filled in with glass doors and the interior arches with mirrored doors. Since the loggia divided the building into two halves, there are two symmetrical staircases on either side of it, rather than a single staircase. The rooms in the eastern half of the house were intended for the use of the king, those in the western were for Fouquet. The provision of a suite of rooms for the king was normal practice in aristocratic houses of the time, since the king travelled frequently.

Another surprising feature of the plan is the thickness of the main body of the building (corps de logis), which consists of two rows of rooms running east and west. Traditionally the middle of the corps de logis of French chateaux consisted of a single row of rooms. Double-thick corps de logis had already been used in hôtels particuliers in Paris, including Le Vau's Hôtel Tambonneau, but Vaux was the first chateau to incorporate this change. Even more unusual, the main rooms are all on the ground floor rather than the first floor (the traditional piano nobile). This accounts for the lack of a grand staircase or a gallery, standard elements of most contemporary chateaux. Also noteworthy are corridors in the basement and on the first floor which run the length of house providing privacy to the rooms they access. Up to the middle of the 17th century, corridors were essentially unknown. Another feature of the plan, the four pavilions, one at each corner of the building, is more conventional.

Vaux-le-Vicomte was originally planned to be constructed in brick and stone, but after the mid-century, as the middle classes began to imitate this style, aristocratic circles began using stone exclusively. Rather late in the design process, Fouquet and Le Vau switched to stone, a decision that may have been influenced by the use of stone at François Mansart's Château de Maisons. The service buildings flanking the large avant-cour to the north of the house remained in brick and stone, and other structures preceding them were in rubble-stone and plaster, a social ranking of building materials that would be common in France for a considerable length of time thereafter.

The main chateau is constructed entirely on a moated platform, reached via two bridges, both aligned with the central axis and placed on the north and south sides. The moat is a picturesque holdover from medieval fortified residences, and is again a feature that Le Vau may have borrowed from Maisons. The moat at Vaux may also have been inspired by the previous chateau on the site, which Le Vau's work replaced.

Gardens

The château rises on an elevated platform in the middle of the woods and marks the border between unequal spaces, each treated in a different way. This effect is more distinctive today, as the woodlands are mature, than it was in the seventeenth century when the site had been farmland, and the plantations were new.

Le Nôtre's garden was the dominant structure of the great complex, stretching nearly a mile and a half (3 km), with a balanced composition of water basins and canals contained in stone curbs, fountains, gravel walks, and patterned parterres that remains more coherent than the vast display Le Nôtre was to create at Versailles.

Le Nôtre created a magnificent scene to be viewed from the house, using the laws of perspective. Le Notre used the natural terrain to his advantage. He placed the canal at the lowest part of the complex, thus hiding it from the main perspectival point of view. Past the canal, the garden ascends a large open lawn and ends with the Hercules column added in the 19th century. Shrubberies provided a picture frame to the garden that also served as a stage for royal fêtes.

From the top of the grand staircase, this gives the impression that the entire garden is revealed in one single glance. Initially, the view consists of symmetrical rows of shrubbery, avenues, fountains, statues, flowers and other pieces developed to imitate nature – these elements exemplify the Baroque desire to mold nature to fit its wishes, thus using nature to imitate nature. The centerpiece is a large reflecting pool flanked by grottos holding statues in their many niches. The grand sloping lawn is not visible until one begins to explore the garden, when the viewer is made aware of the optical elements involved and discovers that the garden is much larger than it looks.