Castles in Zürich Canton

Laufen Castle

Laufen Castle is a castle in the municipality of Laufen-Uhwiesen in the Swiss canton of Zurich. It is a Swiss heritage site of national significance overlooking the Rhine Falls. The first documented reference to the castle dates to the year 858 when it was the home of the Barons of Laufen. It passed through several owners until the Old Zürich War (1439-1450) when the castle was acquired by the Fulach family, ...
Founded: 9th century AD | Location: Laufen-Uhwiesen, Switzerland

Kyburg Castle

Kyburg Castle overlooks the Töss river some 3 km south-east of Winterthur. The first fortification at this site was likely built in the second half of the 10th century by the counts of Winterthur. It is first mentioned in 1027 under the name of Chuigeburg ('cows-fort'), which name points to an original use as a refuge castle for livestock. The early castle was destroyed in 1028 or 1030 by emperor Conrad II. ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Kyburg, Switzerland

Regensberg Castle

Either Lütold V von Regensberg or his son Ulrich established the fortified town of (Neu)-Regensberg around 1250. Ulrich died around 1280, and his son Lütold VIII had to sell Regensberg to Habsburg-Austria in 1302. The Habsburgs mortgaged the castle and town several times, and in 1407 the so-called Herrschaft Regensberg was acquired by the city of Zürich. From 1417 the castle became the seat of the bailiff of the ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Regensberg, Switzerland

Greifensee Castle

The Counts of Rapperswil probably built a defense tower in the early 12th century on the site of today"s Greifensee Castle. The beginnings of Greifensee Castle, which was partially destroyed in May 1444 (during the so-called Old Zürich War), date back to around 1250. The castle complex consisted of a Palas on a rock , which at the time stood directly on the lake shore and was protected on the other sides by ...
Founded: c. 1250 | Location: Greifensee, Switzerland

Hegi Castle

Hegi Castle, which dates from the 13th century, is situated to the east of Winterthur. The well preserved castle complex has 1,6m thick walls, and thanks to its 10m tall tower can be seen from a long way off. The castle complex includes a residential tower built in 1200, a knights’ house added later, and a farm building. The interior will transport you to the Late Middle Ages – as the furniture, stoves, ceramic items, ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Winterthur, Switzerland

Uster Castle

Uster Castle was built probably around 1200 by the House of Rapperswil. After the Appenzell wars Hans von Bonstetten concluded a pact with Zürich, and became a citizen of the city of Zürich respectively claimed the so-called Burgrecht in 1407. From that moment, the castle in time of war could be strengthened by a Zürich garrison. As an Austrian vassal, Zürich guaranteed a neutral status to the Bonstetten family, ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Uster, Switzerland

Alt-Regensberg Castle Ruins

Alt-Regensberg Castle was built about the mid-11th century AD by the House of Regensberg in the municipality of Regensdorf. The decline in importance of the castle had been shown already in the Old Zürich War, when Zürich"s opponent Alt-Regensberg occupied without resistance. Later the ruins served as a quarry. The quadratic keep dates from the first construction phase. The exterior of the residential tower ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Regensdorf, 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

Wulp Castle Ruins

Wulp Castle was built during the high Middle Ages. Despite this, the castle is documented only in a few found texts, and much of the castle"s history is not known. However, in the chronicle of Muri Abbey, a castle that could perhaps fit Ruine Wulp"s description - a castle in proximity to Zurich and Lake Zurich - was mentioned, but this has not been confirmed by other findings and is mere speculation. Also, ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Küsnacht, 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.