Castles in Vaud Canton

Chillon Castle

Chillon Castle is an island castle located on Lake Geneva. It is situated at the eastern end of the lake, on the narrow shore between Montreux and Villeneuve, which gives access to the Alpine valley of the Rhone. Chillon is amongst the most visited castles in Switzerland and Europe. Chillon began as a Roman outpost, guarding the strategic road through the Alpine passes. The later history of Chillon was influ ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Veytaux, Switzerland

Morges Castle

In 1286, Louis of Savoy founded a city of Morges in a pasture where a gallows previously stood. A castle was built to protect the city, which quickly developed into an administrative and market center as well as a hub for transporting goods by land and sea. The castle in the south of the town square was built with a square floor plan and four round corner towers. It resembles the castle of Yverdon, which may have se ...
Founded: 1286 | Location: Morges, Switzerland

Saint-Maire Castle

Château Saint-Maire ('Saint-Maire Castle') was built from 1397 to 1425 by the Bishops of Lausanne to serve as their fortified residence. Begun under Guillaume of Menthonay, it was completed under his successor, Guillaume of Challant, and named after Saint Marius, the first Bishop of Lausanne. It served as the bishop"s residence until 1536, when Bern captured Lausanne and secularized the bishopric ( ...
Founded: 1397-1425 | Location: Lausanne, Switzerland

Nyon Castle

Nyon Castle is first mentioned in 1272, but probably dates back to the Lords of Prangins. It was rebuilt by Ludwig I of Savoy. The rectangular building was built in a variety of building styles. In 1463, it was extensively rebuilt. Following the Swiss Confederation invasion of Vaud in 1530, the Bernese bailiff was at Nyon. In 1574-80 the castle was converted into the seat of the bailiff. It remained the seat of the b ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Nyon, Switzerland

Avenches Castle

Dating back to the 13th century, the castle of Avenches features a renovated Renaissance-style façade, one of the most beautiful testimonies of this type of architecture in Switzerland. Today, the castle accommodates offices, classrooms, a theatre, an art gallery and a library. Located next door to the arenas, the castle of Avenches dominates the capital of Roman Switzerland. This public and historic building boasts an ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Avenches, Switzerland

Yverdon-les-Bains Castle

The imposing main walls and their four towers of Yverdon-les-Bains castle follow the geometric characteristics used for lowland castles. It was planned out between 1260-1270 by the young mason and architect James of St. George. He would later travel to England where he would become the master castle builder for King Edward I. James would be responsible for building a series of castles (known as the 'Iron Ring') in No ...
Founded: 1260-1270 | Location: Yverdon-les-Bains, Switzerland

Grandson Castle

The Lords of Grandson were first mentioned in the second half of the 11th century, when the castle was built. It was sited on the shore of Lake Neuchâtel to control the coast road. The House of Grandson sired a number of powerful scions, including bishops of Basel, Lausanne, Toul and Verdun. Over the following century, as the Lords of Grandson expanded their power, they often came into conflict with the nearby monast ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Grandson, Switzerland

Aigle Castle

The Barons of Aigle were first mentioned in 1179. At that time they had a small fortification, that became the center of the modern castle, along the road over the Col du Pillon and Col des Mosses passes of the Rhone. However, only traces of this first castle have been archaeologically discovered. Some time before 1200, the Barons of Aigle ended up as vassals of the powerful Counts of Savoy. In 1232, Count Thomas of ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Aigle, Switzerland

La Tour-de-Peilz Castle

Built in the 13th century by Pierre de Savoie, the castle of La Tour-de-Peilz served as a fortress and refuge, as an observation post of traffic along lake Geneva, and as a customs post. In 1476, during the Burgundy wars, it was heavily damaged. It was nearly three centuries later, that in 1747 the French officer Jean Grésier purchased and transformed the building. It remained private property until 1979, when the city ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: La Tour-de-Peilz, Switzerland

Rolle Castle

In 1261, the Lords of Mont planned to build a city along the lake that would compete with the Aubonne and Saint-Prex. By around 1264, Rolle Castle was built to protect the pier at the lake. However, the planned city was never built by the Mont family. In 1291, the castle was in possession of Count Amadeus V of Savoy, who granted it to several different families as a fief. In the course of the rivalry between the Count ...
Founded: 1264 | Location: Rolle, Switzerland

L'Isle Castle

L'Isle Castle was built in 1696 by Charles de Chandieu, lieutenant general of the Swiss Guards of Louis XIV, on plans Hardouint Jules Mansard, nephew of the great Mansard. After the hands of different families, it was bought by the municipality of L'Isle in 1876 which transforms it into school classes and as home town. L'Isle Castle draws a U-shaped plan, between courtyard and garden, with a main building, where are the ...
Founded: 1696 | Location: L'Isle, Switzerland

Prangins Castle

Prangins Castle is home to one part of the Swiss National Museum. At Prangins, the displays focus mainly on daily life in the castle and the region. There are also displays relating to Swiss history, as well as temporary exhibitions and cultural events. There is a café, serving drinks, snacks and lunch. The terrace has views of Lake Geneva and the Alps. Prangins Castle has been a seat of power for centuries. The firs ...
Founded: 1732 | Location: Prangins, Switzerland

Glérolles Castle

Glérolles (Latin glerula, 'gravel') Castle was erected by the bishop of Lausanne in 1150 to protect a road from north to south of the Alps. It was built on the site of an ancient Gallo-Roman town devastated by the tsunami in 563. Glérolles was given in 1303 to the family Palézieux who strengthened it. Bought in private use in 1802 , the castle was transformed to the modern appearance.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Saint-Saphorin, Switzerland

Vufflens Castle

Vufflens castle was built in 1425 on the site of a previous medieval castle by Henri de Colombier. It is the most significant example of a small group of fortified Romandy castles from the middle ages, characterised above all by its brick construction. In 1530, it was set on fire by Bernese troops. In 1641 it was acquired by the de Senarclens family. The castle is currently privately owned and cannot be visited. A plea ...
Founded: 1425 | Location: Vufflens-le-Château, Switzerland

Aubonne Castle

The castle of Aubonne was built before 1197. The castle stands on a hill overlooking the town and the Aubonne ravine. The castle was acquired in 1670 by Jean-Baptiste Tavernier. He kept his property for nearly thirty years, and finally sell it to Henri Duquesne.The last renovation of the castle, owned by the municipality, lasted eight years and ended in 1988. It is currently listed as a Swiss cultural property of national ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Aubonne, Switzerland

Châtelard Castle

The first wooden castle on the site of current Châtelard castle was built by the Burgundians around 1000. The current castle was built in the 13th and 14th centuries. It was looted and partially burned in 1476 during the wars of Burgundy.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Clarens, Switzerland

La Sarraz Castle

Built in 1049 on a rocky spur between Morges and Yverdon-les-Bains, La Sarraz Castle dominates the Vaudois countryside. Now a museum, it includes a collection of valuable objects acquired over the centuries by the generations of La Sarraz barons. From its construction until it was turned into a museum, La Sarraz Castle has always belonged to the barons of La Sarraz, unlike the majority of castles that pass from hand to h ...
Founded: 1049 | Location: La Sarraz, Switzerland

Oron Castle

Oron Castle was built in the 13th century. It was totally rebuilt in second half of the 15th century and renovated several times in the 17th century. In 1801 it was acquired the Roberti family of Moudon, and in 1870 it was bought by Adolphe Gaiffe. Beginning in 1880, a library was built in the castle. Today it houses 17,000 volumes and is one of the largest private collections of French novelists of the 18th Century in E ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Oron-le-Châtel, Switzerland

Lucens Castle

Lucens Castle"s strategic location allowed it to control the Broye valley, which was an important transit corridor. Starting in the Middle Ages and until 1536 it was a residence of the Bishop of Lausanne and served to control the Bishop"s land in the Broye valley. During the 12th century, the castle was repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt. In 1476, it was destroyed by the Swiss Confederation. In 1536 the val ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Lucens, Switzerland

Les Clées Castle

Chateau des Clées is located above the village. Built probably in the 11th century, it guarded the traffic through the Jougne Pass and collected tolls on the pass road. Les Clées is first mentioned in 1134 when Pope Innocent II tried in vain to prohibit the reconstruction of the castle.  The chapel of Les Clées was built before the 14th century and rebuilt in 1738-1740. In 1444 the Duke Louis I of Savoy comm ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Les Clées, Switzerland

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.