Medieval castles in Aosta Valley

Saint Germain Castle

Saint Germain castle in Montjovet played an important part in the history of Val d’Aosta. Few traces remain of its original structure and its construction date is not known for certain. At the end of the 13th century, the Savoy became the owners, replacing the Montjovet family. As already happened in Bard, in this case too, the pretext was provided by the abuse of power that Feidino Montjovet acted on villagers and wa ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Montjovet, Italy

La Tour de Villa Castle

Originally, La Tour de Villa castle was comprised almost entirely of the central tower. The restoration works did not re-build the western part and the northern part, leaving instead a beautiful court yard with views over the plain. Today, the complex is made up of two well-distinct parts: one part is the 12th century tower and the other inhabited part is a semi-circular structure which dates back to the 15th century. T ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Gressan, Italy

La Mothe Castle

Perched on top of the hill, La Mothe Castle dominates the village of Arvier. Unfortunately only the four sided tower remains intact, while the ruins of the round tower and the perimeter wall are still visible. From its current appearance, construction of the castle is estimated as being between the end of the 12th and the start of the 13th century, with important modifications in the 15th century. It was first mentioned i ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Arvier, Italy

Arnad Upper Castle

The upper castle of Arnad is mentioned first time in a papal letter in 1207, but there is no information about its origins or first owners. It was probably built by Saverio di Arnad in the late 12th or early 13th century. The next owners, Vallaise family, lived in the castle throughout the 14th century. Due to the inadequacy of the structure and the lost military function, the castle was abandoned in the 15th century. T ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Arnad, Italy

Graines Castle

Graines castle occupies the summit of a rocky spur which commands Brusson and most of the Val d"Ayas. In medieval times, it communicated through flag or mirror messages with the nearby Bonot Tower and the Villa Castle in Challand-Saint-Victor. The fief of Graines is documented since 515, when King Sigismund of Burgundy donated it to the newly formed Abbey of St. Maurice. The castle was perhaps built in the 11th ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Brusson, Italy

Montmayeur Castle

Montmayeur Castle was built in 1271 by Anselmo and Aimone D´Avise on a steep promontory over the orographic right bank of the Dora Valgrisenche, in a position dominating the entrance to the valley of the same name. Today it is reduce to ruins, but preserves the cylindrical tower, crowned with beautiful swallowtail battlements. It is still possible to see the remains of the ancient castle and the boundary wall. Access i ...
Founded: 1271 | Location: Arvier, Italy

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Königstein Fortress

Königstein Fortress is located on the left bank of the River Elbe. It is one of the largest hilltop fortifications in Europe. The 9.5 hectare rock plateau rises 240 metres above the Elbe and has over 50 buildings, some over 400 years old, that bear witness to the military and civilian life in the fortress. The rampart run of the fortress is 1,800 metres long with walls up to 42 metres high and steep sandstone faces. In the centre of the site is a 152.5 metre deep well, which is the deepest in Saxony and second deepest well in Europe.

The fortress, which for centuries was used as a state prison, is still intact and is now one of Saxony's foremost tourist attractions, with 700,000 visitors per year.

By far the oldest written record of a castle on the Königstein is found in a deed by King Wenceslas I of Bohemia dating to the year 1233. It is probable that there had been a stone castle on the Königstein as early as the 12th century. The oldest surviving structure today is the castle chapel built at the turn of the 13th century. In the years 1563 to 1569 the 152.5 metre deep well was bored into the rock within the castle - until that point the garrison of the Königstein had to obtain water from cisterns and by collecting rainwater.

Between 1589 and 1591/97 Prince-Elector Christian I of Saxony and his successor had the castle developed into the strongest fortification in Saxony. The hill was now surrounded with high walls. Buildings were erected, including the Gatehouse (Torhaus), the Streichwehr, the Old Barracks (Alte Kaserne), the Christiansburg (Friedrichsburg) and the Old Armoury (Altes Zeughaus). The second construction period followed from 1619 to 1681, during which the John George Bastion was built. The third construction period is seen as the time from 1694 to 1756, which included the expansion of the Old Barracks. From 1722 to 1725, at the behest of August the Strong, coopers under Böttger built the enormous Königstein Wine Barrel, the greatest wine barrel in the world, in the cellar of the Magdalenenburg which had a capacity of 249,838 litres. It cost 8,230 thalers, 18 groschen and 9 pfennigs. The butt, which was once completely filled with country wine from the Meißen vineyards, had to be removed again in 1818 due to its poor condition. Because of Böttger, Königstein Fortress is also the site where European porcelain started.

Even after the expansion during those periods of time there continued to be modifications and additions on the extensive plateau. The Treasury (Schatzhaus) was built from 1854 to 1855. After the fortress had been incorporated in 1871 into the fortification system of the new German Empire, battery ramparts were constructed from 1870 to 1895 with eight firing points, that were to have provided all-round defence for the fortress in case of an attack that, in the event, never came. This was at this time that the last major building work was done on the fortress.

Because Königstein Fortress was regarded as unconquerable, the Saxon monarchs retreated to it from Wittenberg and later Dresden during times of crisis and also deposited the state treasure and many works of art from the famous Zwinger here; it was also used as a country retreat due to its lovely surroundings.

The fortress played an important role in the History of Saxony, albeit less as a result of military action. The Saxon Dukes and Prince-Electors used the fortress primarily as a secure refuge during times of war, as a hunting lodge and maison de plaisance, but also as a dreaded state prison. Its actual military significance was rather marginal.

Since 1955 the fortress has been an open-air, military history museum of high touristic value.