Medieval castles in Switzerland

Leuk Castle

Leuk castle consists of an early-Romanesque tower (11th-13th century), an attached dwelling house and a curtain wall. It has undergone repeated conversion and extension. The castle was the scene of witch trials in the 17th century.
Founded: 11th century | Location: Leuk, Switzerland

Birseck Castle

Birseck Castle is also called Vordere Burg Birseck and is one of four castles on a slope called Birseck that confines the plain of the Birs river. Burg Reichenstein sits on a higher slope to the north. The origins of the castle probably date back to the age of Counts of Frohburg in the 12th century. Bishop Lüthold of Basel bought the castle hill from the Niedermünster monastery in 1239 and built the present cas ...
Founded: 1243-1244 | Location: Arlesheim, Switzerland

Willdegg Castle

Willdegg castle in the midst of gardens, meadows and vineyards was founded in the first half of the 13th century by the Habsburgs. For eleven generations Wildegg Castle was owned by the Effinger family. During that time the castle was expanded several times. The gardens in their seasonal change are an oasis of calm and an invitation to stroll, smell and marvel. The site consists of a well-preserved 13th-century keep and ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Wildegg, Switzerland

Wildenberg Castle

The Wildenberg family was a cadet branch of the Greifenstein family of Filisur. In addition to Wildenberg Castle in Falera, they owned castles and estates throughout the valleys of Graubünden. Wildenberg Castle in Zernez was first mentioned as the home of the family in 1280/90. In 1296 the Bishop of Chur took the right to collect tithes from Wildenberg and pledged it to the Lords of Planta. It is unclear if the castle we ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Zernez, Switzerland

Seeburg Castle

The site of current Seeburg castle was mentioned first time in 740 AD. The construction of current castle was started in the 11th century (around 1036). It was largely extended by Wichmann von Seeburg, later Archbishop of Magdeburg (1115-1192). The next renovations took place in the 14th and 15th centuries, when the castle was flanked by towers and a gatehouse under the rule of Counts of Mansfeld. Later Seeburg was l ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Kreuzlingen, Switzerland

Gottlieben Castle

Gottlieben village is first mentioned around the end of the 10th Century as Gotiliubon. It was originally part of the land owned by the Bishop of Constance. In 1251, Eberhard von Waldburg built a castle that served as the residence of the Bishops. After the Swabian War in 1499 the episcopal chief constable managed the village and the local low court from the castle until 1798. The court included Engwilen, Siegershau ...
Founded: 1251 | Location: Gottlieben, Switzerland

La Bâtiaz Castle

The La Bâtiaz castle was built in 1260 and is the only remaining witness to the medieval era. It was an object of envy, and passed from the House of Savoie to the Sion bishops (and vice versa) many times. Dishes influenced by medieval flavours are served during the summer season. There are panoramic view over the surrounding vineyards and Rhône Valley from the castle tower. The castle also hosts collection of medieval ...
Founded: 1260 | Location: Martigny, Switzerland

Buonas Castle

Buonas Castle was probably built in the 11th century. In 1478 the castle burned down and the reconstruction began until 1494. The new building was completed in 1498 and received another floor. So-called new castle was built next to the medieval one in 1877. Today the castle site is a training center.
Founded: 1494 | Location: Buonas, Switzerland

Hohenklingen Castle

The history of Hohenklingen castle is closely linked to the small town Stein am Rhein and the monastery St. Georgen. Around 1200, Walter von Klingen erected a residential tower on the site of the present castle. Around 1460, the battlements against firearms were installed.  In 1499, at the time of the Swabian war, and from 1618 to 1648 during the Thirty Years" War, the castle played an important role and was en ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Stein am Rhein, Switzerland

Grüningen Castle

Grüningen castle was built before 1229. It was in early times owned by the Counts of Regensberg. From the original castle only the Palas exists. At the place of the today"s church stood a chapel since at least 1396, which was extended 1610. In 1782 it was demolished and rebuilt in its early Classicist style. For centuries, the castle has been the residence of bailiffs. They have been assigned for the administrat ...
Founded: before 1229 | Location: Grüningen, Switzerland

Bottmingen Castle

Dating from the 13th century, Bottmingen castle is one of the few such buildings in Switzerland that are still intact. The first recorded mention dates from 1363, when it was owned by the Kämmerer family. These aristocratic servants to the Bishops of Basel are thought to have built the castle. In 1720, Johannes Deucher transformed the castle into an early-Baroque country manor in the French style. Although this structure ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Bottmingen, 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

Mesocco Castle

Mesocco Castle ruins are among the largest in the canton. Originally the seat of the noble family von Sax, from the 12th century until 1480 it was held by the Freiherr of Misox/Mesocco. From 1480 until 1549 it was held by the Trivulzio family. A small fortified church, the Church of S. Carpoforo, was built on the hill top around the 7th century as a refuge castle for the surrounding villages. Around 1000, the fortifi ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Mesocco, Switzerland

Tarasp Castle

Tarasp Castle was probably built in the 11th century or possibly as early as the 10th century. The name comes from terra aspera or wild earth, which may refer to the newly lands in the Inn river valley. They had adopted the name of the castle by 1089 when Ulrich von Tarasp was mentioned in a papal mandate to the Bishop of Chur. Around the same time the family founded Scuol Monastery, which later moved to Marienberg Abbey ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Tarasp, Switzerland

Dardagny Castle

During the 13th century Dardagny Castle, along with Bruel, La Corbière and Malval, formed a ring of castles, which secured the western boundary of the lands of the Bishop of Geneva. In 1298 there were two castles, which were separated by a small road. Each one belonged to one of the two noble families in Dardagny. In the 14th century, the south building was over two stories high and had a tower. In 1646, the Favre famil ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Dardagny, Switzerland

Porrentruy Castle

Construction of the Porrentruy castle took place between the mid-13th century and the beginning of the 18th century. The oldest part is the thirteenth century Réfous Tower. 14th century ramparts survive on the western and northern sides. During the reign of Prince-Bishop Jacob-Christoph Blarer of Wartensee, the castle underwent an extensive period of reconstruction by the architect Nicolas Frick around 1588. In 1697, it ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Porrentruy, Switzerland

Habsburg Castle

Habsburg Castle near the Aare River was the original seat of the House of Habsburg, which became one of the leading imperial and royal dynasties in Europe. At the time of its construction, the location was part of the Duchy of Swabia. Around 1020–1030 Count Radbot, of the nearby county of Klettgau in the Duchy of Swabia, had the castle erected. It is believed that he named the castle after a hawk (Habicht ...
Founded: 1020-1030 | Location: Habsburg, Switzerland

Vaumarcus Castle

Vaumarcus Castle is a medieval castle, which hosts today a shopping center. Vaumarcus is a good example of the transformation, which took place in most castles in the 13th century when they were protected to defend agains new weapons, such as throwing machines. There was initially an entrance to the castle more than 7 m above ground level. It was undoubtedly reached from the outside by a wooden stairs, which were remov ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Vaumarcus, Switzerland

Binningen Castle

Schloss Binningen was built in the 1290s, originally as a moated castle. Two earthquakes destroyed the foundation walls, and the castle was almost burned to the ground. The castle was rebuilt as of 1414 but destroyed again in the wake of the Battle of St. Jakob in 1444. Over time, the castle has had several owners. A chronological list of the owners, along with their coats of arms, is displayed in the castle"s galler ...
Founded: 1290s | Location: Binningen, 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.