Medieval castles in Switzerland

Brunegg Castle

Brunegg castle was built on a hill at the edge of the Jura mountains in the 13th century. This castle was probably built, together with near Wildegg castle, as part of the Habsburg border defenses. The castle was occupied by Habsburg knights, including Schenken von Brunegg and Gessler von Meienberg. In 1415 the castle was besieged by Bernese troops, but they lifted siege after a counterattack. However, Bern conqu ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Brunegg, Switzerland

Kasteln Castle

About 1200 the original fortress Kasteln was built in the middle Schenkenberger valley, a few kilometers away from Schenkenberg Castle. In 1238 the castle is first mentioned in a deed of gift to the residents of the castle who were vassals of the Kyburgs. In 1262 Ruchenstein castle was built on the cliff directly behind the fort for the Knight of Ruchenstein. After the extinction of the Kyburg line in 1264, the cast ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Oberflachs, Switzerland

Trostburg Castle

Trostburg castle was probably built in the 12th century, though nothing is known of its early history. At some point in the 12th or early 13th century a junior line moved a short distance away and built Liebegg Castle near Gränichen. On 28 May 1241 Burkhart I of Trostberg and his relative Ludwig of Liebegg appear in a document as witnesses and unfree knights in service to the Counts of Kyburg. Eventually they passe ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Teufenthal, Switzerland

Neu-Aspermont Castle

The Lords of Aspermont first appear in the historical record in 1120 as ministerialis or unfree knights in service to the Bishop of Chur, living at their castle Alt-Aspermont near Trimmis. Over the following centuries, they rose to become one of the main noble families in the region, with ties to the powerful Hohenstaufen family. In the early 13th century they built Neu-Aspermont north-east of the village of Jenins. The o ...
Founded: c. 1235 | Location: Landquart, Switzerland

Bernegg Castle

Bernegg Castle was built in the mid to late 13th century for the Freiherr von Calfreisen, though it was probably called Calfreisen Castle until the 15th century. A mention of Otto von Calfreisen in 1231 indicates that the family lived in the area before the castle was built. They may have lived in an earlier castle which was replaced in the mid 13th century or in the village. In 1259 and again in 1286 the Freiherr was men ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Arosa, Switzerland

Heinzenberg Castle

Heinzenberg Castle was built on the western side of the Domleschg Valley in the 12th century by the Freiherr von Vaz. In contrast to the small landholdings of other castles in the region, Heinzenberg was the political and judicial center over much of the valley. Though the first mention of the castle was in 1394, by 1380 the name was applied to the river and the entire side of the valley. The castle was the center of the ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Cazis, Switzerland

Innerjuvalt Castle

Innerjuvalt was built about 2 km south-east of the older Hochjuvalt Castle by the Freiherr von Juvalt. It was built in two parts on a narrow rocky outcropping above the entrance to the Domleschg Valley. The upper castle was first built around 1250 and was expanded around 1273. In 1342 two of the von Juvalt family, Albrecht and Bertram, appeared in a probate court to settle their inheritance, with Bertram giving up his rig ...
Founded: c. 1250 | Location: Rothenbrunnen, Switzerland

Neuburg Castle

Neuburg Castle was first built during the late 13th century or early 14th, most likely for the Baron Tumb von Neuburg from Vorarlberg. It is unclear whether there was an earlier castle or why the Tumb von Neuburg family acquired land in Graubünden. It was first mentioned in 1345 as Nüwburg. In 1360 they had to give the castle to Heinz and Martin Buwix as collateral for a loan, but by 1385 they were back in possession of ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Untervaz, Switzerland

Obertagstein Castle

Obertagstein Castle was probably built in the 13th century by the Masein/Rialt family near Untertagstein Castle. In 1316 Margareta von Rialt left all her properties in Tagstein to her nieces. The first mention of a castle in the area is in 1322, but it probably refers to Untertagstein in Masein. In 1322 the male line of the Rialt family died out and it was inherited by the Bärenburg family. The Bärenburg family were min ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Thusis, Switzerland

Rietberg Castle

The central tower and oldest part of the Rietberg Castle was built in the 13th century, though it may have been built around an earlier 12th-century tower. It was built for the Lords of Rietberg, who in 1286 were vassals of the Freiherr von Sax-Misox. In the 14th century they became vassals of the Bishop of Chur. At that time they held the castle and estates in Schams, Chur and Oberhalbstein and were the bishop"s rep ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Pratval, Switzerland

Strassberg Castle

The castle was built in the 12th century to guard the road from Chur over the alpine passes. The oldest part of the castle, the ring wall, was built in the second half of the 12th century. The main tower was added in the early 13th century. The Lords of Strassberg first appear in the historical record in 1253. The ring wall around the main castle originally had a residential building along the north side and still shows ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Churwalden, Switzerland

Wynegg Castle

Wynegg castle was built in the 13th century for the Wynegg family. The first known member of the family, Ludwig von Wynegg, appears in a record in 1254. The family last appears in 1270 when Ulrich von Wynegg was mentioned. The family probably served the Bishop of Chur or the Freiherr von Vaz. After the family died out, the castle and lands were inherited by Vaz family, though the Bishop also claimed that he owned the cast ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Malans, Switzerland

Bipp Castle

During the 12th century the Bishop of Basel granted the Buchsgau region, which included the village of Oberbipp, to the Count of Froburg to hold as a fief. By 1268 Bipp Castle is first mentioned in a document. During the 13th century the counts of Froburg appear to have gradually lost most of their holdings in the Buchsgau until only the villages of Bipp, Wiedlisbach and Erlinsburg remained. At some point in the following ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Oberbipp, Switzerland

Wartenstein Castle

The area around Lauperswil and Rüderswil was originally part of the Freiherrschaft of Signau. By the 12th century it was controlled by the lords of Ruoderswilare, who ruled out of a castle south-west of Rüderswil. By the 13th century this castle was replaced by the new Wartenstein Castle at Lauperswil. It is unknown when this castle was first built, but by 1228 the knight Swaro von Wartenstein lived there. His descendan ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Lauperswil, Switzerland

Schweinsberg Castle

The Freiherr von Schweinsberg first appears in documents in the 13th century at Wartenstein Castle in the Bernese Emmental. But a branch of the family was in Uri by the mid-13th century and occupied the castle, sometimes adopting the castle"s name as their family name. By 1300 there were two branches, one under Werner II who held the lands in Uri and another under Diethelm I in the Berner Oberland. The Uri branch of ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Attinghausen, Switzerland

Neu-Thierstein Castle

Neu-Thierstein Castle was founded in 1100 and a new building was built around 1294/95. The castle was apparently built by the Saugern-Pfeffingen family as a seat for a Kastvogtei (or a vogt with authority over a religious structure) who ruled over Beinwil Abbey. The first mention of the castle comes from 1321 when it was called Bello. As heirs of the Saugern-Pfeffingen family, in the late 12th Century, the count o ...
Founded: 1100 | Location: Büsserach, Switzerland

Vorburg Castle

During the High Middle Ages the area around Oberurnen was owned by Schänis Abbey and paid taxes to Säckingen Abbey. In 1264 the Habsburgs inherited the bailiwick of Glarus from the Counts of Kyburg. About two decades later, in 1288, Säckingen Abbey granted them a fief over the abbey"s lands as well. To consolidate their control over Glarus, the Habsburgs built Näfels Castle and probably also built or expanded Vor ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Glarus Nord, Switzerland

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Veste Coburg

The Veste Coburg is one of Germany's largest castles. The hill on which the fortress stands was inhabited from the Neolithic to the early Middle Ages according to the results of excavations. The first documentary mention of Coburg occurs in 1056, in a gift by Richeza of Lotharingia. Richeza gave her properties to Anno II, Archbishop of Cologne, to allow the creation of Saalfeld Abbey in 1071. In 1075, a chapel dedicated to Saint Peter and Saint Paul is mentioned on the fortified Coberg. This document also refers to a Vogt named Gerhart, implying that the local possessions of the Saalfeld Benedictines were administered from the hill.

A document signed by Pope Honorius II in 1206 refers to a mons coburg, a hill settlement. In the 13th century, the hill overlooked the town of Trufalistat (Coburg's predecessor) and the important trade route from Nuremberg via Erfurt to Leipzig. A document dated from 1225 uses the term schloss (palace) for the first time. At the time, the town was controlled by the Dukes of Merania. They were followed in 1248 by the Counts of Henneberg who ruled Coburg until 1353, save for a period from 1292-1312, when the House of Ascania was in charge.

In 1353, Coburg fell to Friedrich, Markgraf von Meißen of the House of Wettin. His successor, Friedrich der Streitbare was awarded the status of Elector of Saxony in 1423. As a result of the Hussite Wars the fortifications of the Veste were expanded in 1430.

Early modern times through Thirty Years' War

In 1485, in the Partition of Leipzig, Veste Coburg fell to the Ernestine branch of the family. A year later, Elector Friedrich der Weise and Johann der Beständige took over the rule of Coburg. Johann used the Veste as a residence from 1499. In 1506/07, Lucas Cranach the Elder lived and worked in the Veste. From April to October 1530, during the Diet of Augsburg, Martin Luther sought protection at the Veste, as he was under an Imperial ban at the time. Whilst he stayed at the fortress, Luther continued with his work translating the Bible into German. In 1547, Johann Ernst moved the residence of the ducal family to a more convenient and fashionable location, Ehrenburg Palace in the town centre of Coburg. The Veste now only served as a fortification.

In the further splitting of the Ernestine line, Coburg became the seat of the Herzogtum von Sachsen-Coburg, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg. The first duke was Johann Casimir (1564-1633), who modernized the fortifications. In 1632, the fortress was unsuccessfully besieged by Imperial and Bavarian forces commanded by Albrecht von Wallenstein for seven days during the Thirty Years' War. Its defence was commanded by Georg Christoph von Taupadel. On 17 March 1635, after a renewed siege of five months' duration, the Veste was handed over to the Imperials under Guillaume de Lamboy.

17th through 19th centuries

From 1638-72, Coburg and the Veste were part of the Duchy of Saxe-Altenburg. In 1672, they passed to the Dukes of Saxe-Gotha and in 1735 it was joined to the Duchy of Saxe-Saalfeld. Following the introduction of Primogeniture by Duke Franz Josias (1697-1764), Coburg went by way of Ernst Friedrich (1724-1800) to Franz (1750-1806), noted art collector, and to Duke Ernst III (1784-1844), who remodeled the castle.

In 1826, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was created and Ernst now styled himself 'Ernst I'. Military use of the Veste had ceased by 1700 and outer fortifications had been demolished in 1803-38. From 1838-60, Ernst had the run-down fortress converted into a Gothic revival residence. In 1860, use of the Zeughaus as a prison (since 1782) was discontinued. Through a successful policy of political marriages, the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha established links with several of the major European dynasties, including that of the United Kingdom.

20th century

The dynasty ended with the reign of Herzog Carl Eduard (1884-1954), also known as Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a grandson of Queen Victoria, who until 1919 also was the 2nd Duke of Albany in the United Kingdom. Under his rule, many changes made to the Veste in the 19th century were reversed under architect Bodo Ebhardt, with the aim of restoring a more authentic medieval look. Along with the other ruling princes of Germany, Carl Eduard was deposed in the revolution of 1918-1919. After Carl Eduard abdicated in late 1918, the Veste came into possession of the state of Bavaria, but the former duke was allowed to live there until his death. The works of art collected by the family were gifted to the Coburger Landesstiftung, a foundation, which today runs the museum.

In 1945, the Veste was seriously damaged by artillery fire in the final days of World War II. After 1946, renovation works were undertaken by the new owner, the Bayerische Verwaltung der staatlichen Schlösser, Gärten und Seen.

Today

The Veste is open to the public and today houses museums, including a collection art objects and paintings that belonged to the ducal family of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a large collection of arms and armor, significant examples of early modern coaches and sleighs, and important collections of prints, drawings and coins.