Medieval castles in Switzerland

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

Gruyères Castle

The Castle of Gruyères is one of the most famous in Switzerland. It was built between 1270 and 1282, following the typical square plan of the fortifications in Savoy. It was the property of the Counts of Gruyères until the bankruptcy of the Count Michel in 1554. His creditors the cantons of Fribourg and Bern shared his earldom. From 1555 to 1798 the castle became residence to the bailiffs and then to the prefect ...
Founded: 1270-1282 | Location: Gruyères, Switzerland

Castelgrande Castle

The site of Castelgrande has been fortified since at least the late 1st century BC and until the 13th century it was the only fortification in Bellinzona. During its history the castle has been known as the stronghold (before the 13th century), the Old Castle in the 14–15th centuries, Un Castle after 1506 and Saint Michael"s Castle from 1818. The Castelgrande hill includes a nearly vertical side on the north and ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Bellinzona, Switzerland

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

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

Majorie Castle

Majorie castle served as a residence for bishops of Sion since 1373. In 1529 and 1788 it was damaged by fire. Today it houses the cantonal museum of fine arts.
Founded: 14th century | Location: Sion, Switzerland

Wörth Castle

The Wörth water castle is built on a small island in the Rhine river at the municipality of Neuhausen am Rheinfall, opposite of the Laufen Castle in the canton of Zürich. Wörth was first mentioned in the 13th century, serving up to the middle of the 19th century as a major transhipment point on the east-west trade route, that led from Lake Constance and Basel, and was interrupted by the Rheinfall waterfalls. Th ...
Founded: 1348 | Location: Neuhausen am Rheinfall, Switzerland

Rapperswil Castle

Rapperswil Castle was built in the early 13th century AD by the House of Rapperswil. It is surrounded on three sides by the Lake Zürich and by those upper section on the northwestern Seedamm area. Thus, the castle was well protected, dominating the old town of Rapperswil, and controlling the water way between Walensee and Lake Zürich on its most narrow part, as well as the medieval Gotthard Pass route betwee ...
Founded: 1200-1220 | Location: Rapperswil-Jona, Switzerland

Thun Castle

During the Early Middle Ages there was a small fort and church on the top of the Thun castle hill. The castle was built between 1180 and 1190 by Duke Berthold V of Zähringen, who constructed the still preserved keep to the level of the Knights' Hall (Rittersaal). The 14 m tall Knights' Hall was built as the centerpiece of a monument to Zähringen power. However, the family never lived in the castle, preferring Burgdorf C ...
Founded: 1180-1190 | Location: Thun, 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

Neuchâtel Castle

Neuchâtel castle adjoins the collegiate church and overlooks the city. By following the circular path at the base of the outer walls, you get a general idea of the different parts of the building erected around a large courtyard and a smaller one, to the south. It can be accessed from Rue de la Collégiale or the cloisters. The castle history dates back to the Roman age, but the first stone castle was probably built i ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Neuchâtel, 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

Oberhofen Castle

During the High Middle Ages the Freiherr von Oberhofen built Balm Castle on a hill above the village. In 1200, a daughter of the family, Ita, married into the von Eschenbach family and gave this family the castle and village. In the 13th century they began a new, moated castle on the shores of Lake Thun. One of the last owners of the castle, Walter IV von Eschenbach, was assassinated along with King Albert I in ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Oberhofen am Thunersee, Switzerland

Montebello Castle

The Castles of Bellinzona are a group of fortifications located around the town of Bellinzona. Situated on the Alpine foothills, the group is composed of fortified walls and three castles named Castelgrande, Montebello and Sasso Corbaro. The Castles of Bellinzona with their defensive walls have been an UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000. Montebello Castle is located to the east of the town center. It was bu ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Bellinzona, Switzerland

Spiez Castle

According to Elogius Kiburger, the author of the Strättliger Chronicle, in 933 the King of Burgundy, Rudolph II, built the Spiez Castle. Shortly thereafter, the Freiherr von Strättligen settled in the castle. Portions of the current castle shield walls and main tower were built during the 12th century and by the 13th century the town of Spiez existed outside the castle walls. By 1280 the castle was listed as an Imperial ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Spiez, Switzerland

Visconteo Castle

While there was a royal palace in Locarno in 866 and a noble family with a castle in the 10th century, the oldest remaining parts of the Castello (part of the ring wall and residential tract and foundation of a tower) date to the late 12th or 13th century. In 1164 Emperor Frederick Barbarossa granted Locarno the right to hold a market and for the first time mentioned the Capitanei di Locarno or noble families ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Locarno, 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

Stein Castle

Stein Castle was built on a rocky promontory above Baden gorge some time before 1000. In the late 11th century the castle came to the Lenzburg family. By the early 12th Century, the cadet line that lived in the castle called themselves the Counts of Baden. In 1172, the castle was inherited by the Kyburg family. When that family died out in 1263, the castle was inherited by the Habsburgs in 1264. The castle was occup ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Baden, Switzerland

Zug Castle

The first castle in Zug was probably a wooden manor house built around 1000 and owned by a ministerialis family in service to either the Counts of Aargau or of Lenzburg. Based on archeological excavations, it was built on an island between two small streams and surrounded by a wooden palisade. While the local nobleman occupied the house and island, his men built a village along the streams. Later the steams were dammed to ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Zug, Switzerland

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Trinity Sergius Lavra

The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius is a world famous spiritual centre of the Russian Orthodox Church and a popular site of pilgrimage and tourism. It is the most important working Russian monastery and a residence of the Patriarch. This religious and military complex represents an epitome of the growth of Russian architecture and contains some of that architecture’s finest expressions. It exerted a profound influence on architecture in Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe.

The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, was founded in 1337 by the monk Sergius of Radonezh. Sergius achieved great prestige as the spiritual adviser of Dmitri Donskoi, Great Prince of Moscow, who received his blessing to the battle of Kulikov of 1380. The monastery started as a little wooden church on Makovets Hill, and then developed and grew stronger through the ages.

Over the centuries a unique ensemble of more than 50 buildings and constructions of different dates were established. The whole complex was erected according to the architectural concept of the main church, the Trinity Cathedral (1422), where the relics of St. Sergius may be seen.

In 1476 Pskovian masters built a brick belfry east of the cathedral dedicated to the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. The church combines unique features of early Muscovite and Pskovian architecture. A remarkable feature of this church is a bell tower under its dome without internal interconnection between the belfry and the cathedral itself.

The Cathedral of the Assumption, echoing the Cathedral of the Assumption in the Moscow Kremlin, was erected between 1559 and 1585. The frescoes of the Assumption Cathedral were painted in 1684. At the north-western corner of the Cathedral, on the site of the western porch, in 1780 a vault containing burials of Tsar Boris Godunov and his family was built.

In the 16th century the monastery was surrounded by 6 meters high and 3,5 meters thick defensive walls, which proved their worth during the 16-month siege by  Polish-Lithuanian invaders during the Time of Trouble. They were later strengthened and expanded.

After the Upheaval of the 17th century a large-scale building programme was launched. At this time new buildings were erected in the north-western part of the monastery, including infirmaries topped with a tented church dedicated to Saints Zosima and Sawatiy of Solovki (1635-1637). Few such churches are still preserved, so this tented church with a unique tiled roof is an important contribution to the Lavra.

In the late 17th century a number of new buildings in Naryshkin (Moscow) Baroque style were added to the monastery.

Following a devastating fire in 1746, when most of the wooden buildings and structures were destroyed, a major reconstruction campaign was launched, during which the appearance of many of the buildings was changed to a more monumental style. At this time one of the tallest Russian belfries (88 meters high) was built.

In the late 18th century, when many church lands were secularized, the chaotic planning of the settlements and suburbs around the monastery was replaced by a regular layout of the streets and quarters. The town of Sergiev Posad was surrounded by traditional ramparts and walls. In the vicinity of the monastery a number of buildings belonging to it were erected: a stable yard, hotels, a hospice, a poorhouse, as well as guest and merchant houses. Major highways leading to the monastery were straightened and marked by establishing entry squares, the overall urban development being oriented towards the centrepiece - the Ensemble of the Trinity Sergius Lavra.

In 1993, the Trinity Lavra was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.