Medieval castles in Switzerland

Farnsburg Castle Ruins

Farnsburg  castle ruins are the remains from the 14th century. It was built by the Counts of Thierstein between 1319-1342. In the 15th century Farnsburg lost its military purpose. The buildings were left to decay and it was easily conquered in 1653 (the Peasants' War) and finally in 1798 (by the revolting farmers). In 1798 the city Vogt was finally expelled and the castle was set on fire by landowners. The ruin was the ...
Founded: 1319-1342 | Location: Ormalingen, Switzerland

Frohberg Castle Ruins

The ruins of Frohberg castle is on a rocky ridge at the upper end of the Klus valley on the way to the old Platten pass road. The stronghold at Frohberg was first mentioned in 1292 when Conrad I Schaler 'de Vroberg' was mentioned. It is likely that the castle was built by the Schaler family in the second half of the 13th Century. Although the castle dominated the way across the Platten pass (between Birseck an ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Aesch, Switzerland

Alt-Schauenburg Castle

Alt-Schauenburg is a ruined castle in the commune of Frenkendorf. It is located near the border of France and Germany, and little of the castle remains because of geological events. There were two Schauenburg castles near Frenkendorf, Alt-Schauenburg about 1 km southwest of the village on the top of Chleiflüeli hill and Neu-Schauenburg to the west. Alt-Schauenburg was probably built around 1275 as the seat of a jun ...
Founded: c. 1275 | Location: Frenkendorf, 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

Wartenstein Castle Ruins

Wartenstein castle was built around 1206 by Konrad von Zwiefalten. The castle is mentioned for the first time in 1208 and later owned for several families. In 1341  it was rebuilt and repaired by abbot Hermann II of Arbon. After the middle of the 16th century sources describe the castle dilapidated. The Abbey Pfäfers gave in 1586 the worthless site to the local residents as a quarry.
Founded: 1206 | Location: Pfäfers, Switzerland

Rouelbeau Castle Ruins

First wooden Rouelbeau Castle was built in 1318 by the lords of Faucigny.  It was rebuilt as a stone castle probably between 1339 and 1355 whose ruins appear still today.
Founded: 1318 | Location: Meinier, Switzerland

Radegg Castle Ruins

Radegg was a spur castle built around the year 1200 and destroyed around the year 1300. It is located high above the Wangental on a spur of the Rossberg which drops off steeply on three sides in Osterfingen in the municipality of Wilchingen. Little is known about their origin and destruction nor about those who had built the castle, the barons von Radegg. This family is first mentioned in 1188 with a reference to Heinr ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Wilchingen, Switzerland

Hohensax Castle Ruins

Hohensax is a ruined castle in the Sennwald. The castle was built around 1200 by the barons of Sax, and was destroyed in 1446. In 1248, the castle passed to Ulrich von Sax, founder of the Sax-Hohensax line of the noble family. The castle was plundered in a feud of 1393, and sold together with the villages of Sax and Gams to the dukes of Austria. In the Old Zürich War, the people of Appenzell captured and slighte ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Sennwald, Switzerland

Forstegg Castle Ruins

Forstegg Castle is a ruined castle in the municipality of Sennwald. It was built around 1200 by the Barons of Sax/Misox, was abandoned in the 19th century and fell into ruin in 1894.
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Sennwald, 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

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

Sasso Corbaro Castle

Sasso Corbaro, known as Unterwalden Castle after 1506 and Saint Barbara's Castle after 1818, is about 600 m south-east of town on a rocky hill. Unlike the other two castles Sasso Corbaro is not integrated into the city walls. The first part of the castle was the north-eastern tower which was built in 1478 to close a gap in the defenses of the city. In 1479 a small garrison was moved to the tower. During peacetime the tow ...
Founded: 1478 | Location: Bellinzona, 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

Attalens Castle

Attalens Castle was built in the 12th century, but it was destroyed in the Burgundian Wars. Later rebuilt, it has been since 1969 used as private residences and concerts venue.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Attalens, Switzerland

Bossonnens Castle Ruins

Bossonnens Castle was built in the 12th century. It burned down in 1475. The ruins still contains the square and round (so-called Savoyard type, built around 1260) towers.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Bossonnens, Switzerland

Bulle Castle

The town of Bulle initially developed around its church which was, in 9th century, an ecclesiastical center of importance. The construction of the castle began certainly under the episcopate from Boniface (1231-1239). After the annexation of Bulle by the town of Freiburg, the castle became, since 1537, residence of the bailiffs". Since 1848, it is the seat of the Prefecture of the Gruyère and receives the Court, the ...
Founded: 1230s | Location: Bulle, Switzerland

Surpierre Castle

Surpierre castle was a bailiff"s castle in the Canton of Fribourg. In the 12th century there was a fort at Surpetra, though whether that was at the current castle site or another nearby location is unknown. The fief of Surpierre was owned by a noble family of the same name from 1142 until 1233. In the 13th century the de Cossonay family owned Surpierre and a number of surrounding villages. In the late 13th cen ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Surpierre, Switzerland

Chenaux Castle

Chenaux castle was built in 1392 by Chevalier Pierre and his brother Guillaume. Humbert, the bastard of Savoie, acquired the fortress in 1432 and completed it by an advanced defense. The castle was set on fire during the wars of Bourgogne. Today the castle of Chenaux is occupied by the prefecture but can be visited.
Founded: 1392 | Location: Estavayer-le-Lac, 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

Illens Castle

The ruins of Illens castle stand on a rock wall above a loop of the Saane river. The castle stands on the opposite side of the river from the fortified town of Arconciel. The two castles secured both sides of a crossing (either a ford or a bridge) over the river. The castle is first mentioned between 1150 and 1276. In 1366, the notoriously violent Count Peter of Aarberg moved into the castle and remained there for a s ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Rossens, Switzerland

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.