Medieval castles in Switzerland

Münchenstein Castle

Münchenstein Castle is a landmark above the village. The ruins can still be visited and viewed, but are under private ownership. Around 1260, the up-rising cavalier family Münch acquired the village on the hills adjacent to the river Birs and established their estate there. The exact dates of the castle erection remains unclear, but most likely building began in the time between 1260 and 1270. The founders of the ca ...
Founded: 1260-1270 | Location: Münchenstein, Switzerland

Hagenwil Castle

Hagenwil is the only remaining intact water castle in eastern Switzerland. The first mention of the castle dates from 1264 when Rudolf von Hagenwil donated it to the Abbey of St. Gall. The donation was made in gratitude to the Abbot of St. Gall for rescuing Rudolf from his sons in law, who were holding him prisoner at Heitnau Castle in an attempt to receive their inheritance early. The donation included the right for ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Amriswil, Switzerland

Brandis Castle

The Maienfeld area was an important Roman era customs station on the road between Turicum (Zurich) and Brigantium (Bregenz). After the Fall of the Western Roman Empirethe area probably remained a local population center and retained some of the Roman buildings and fortifications. During the High Middle Ages the Carolingian royal estate of curtis Lupinis was built in the area and the town of Maienfeld grew up ar ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Maienfeld, Switzerland

St. Andreas Castle

St. Andreas Castle is a privately owned castle located in Cham, in the Canton of Zug. The castle hill has been used since at least 400 AD, based on Roman artifacts found there. The site of the neighboring chapel has been used for religious ceremonies since the Roman era. During the 8th century the chapel site was used by a 'holy bishop without a name' for Christian services. Today the castle and chapel are located on a ...
Founded: 9th century AD | Location: Cham, Switzerland

Heidegg Castle

The first surviving document, which mentions the Lords of Heidegg, dates from 1185. For many centuries feudal Heidegg Castle, built in the 12th and 13th centuries was their home. Century. Today it houses the history and culture center of the Seetal valley. A living museum in which you learn stories and customs of aristocratic families, with the spirit of the past further rekindled with a stroll in the large park with its ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Hitzkirch, Switzerland

Aubonne Castle

The castle of Aubonne was built before 1197. The castle stands on a hill overlooking the town and the Aubonne ravine. The castle was acquired in 1670 by Jean-Baptiste Tavernier. He kept his property for nearly thirty years, and finally sell it to Henri Duquesne.The last renovation of the castle, owned by the municipality, lasted eight years and ended in 1988. It is currently listed as a Swiss cultural property of national ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Aubonne, Switzerland

Colombier Castle

Colombier Castle was built in the 11th or 12th century as a fortified tower over the ruins of the Roman villa. It expanded in the 13th Century and by the 16th century had reached its present appearance.  One of the largest Roman era villas in Switzerland was excavated from under the castle in 1840-42 by Frédéric Dubois de Montperreux. It was built in multiple stages between the 1st and 3rd centuries AD into a palat ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Colombier, Switzerland

Hegi Castle

Hegi Castle, which dates from the 13th century, is situated to the east of Winterthur. The well preserved castle complex has 1,6m thick walls, and thanks to its 10m tall tower can be seen from a long way off. The castle complex includes a residential tower built in 1200, a knights’ house added later, and a farm building. The interior will transport you to the Late Middle Ages – as the furniture, stoves, ceramic items, ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Winterthur, Switzerland

Pfeffingen Castle Ruins

Pfeffingen Castle is one of the largest castle ruins in the canton Basel-Land. In the area around Aesch and Pfeffingen existed originally a Franconian royal court. However, no remains have preserved from this time. In 1135 Notker von Pfeffingen was mentioned for the first time, which was probably related to Count von Saugers. At the end of the 12th century, the Pfeffingen castle fell to the Count of Thierstein. In ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Pfeffingen, 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

Wildenstein Castle

Wildenstein Castle consists of a residential and fortified tower. Unlike other castles of its kind, the tower remained intact after losing its military and residential functions in the 15th and 17th centuries. The history of castle dates back to the 13th century. In 1293 Heinrich von Eptingen took the name von Wildenstein. Under his son Gottfrid Wildenstein defended the castle against the the Bern and Solothurn armi ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Bubendorf, Switzerland

Iberg Castle

Iberg Castle is located south-west of the town of Wattwil. The central keep is six stories tall and has an entrance on the north-west corner. The keep is surrounded by a curtain wall. The castle hill is protected by moats and some walls. Iberg Castle was built in 1240 by Heinrich von Iberg who was a vassal of the Prince-Abbot of St. Gallen. The castle was briefly conquered in 1249 following the Toggenburg fra ...
Founded: 1240 | Location: Wattwil, Switzerland

Châtelard Castle

The first wooden castle on the site of current Châtelard castle was built by the Burgundians around 1000. The current castle was built in the 13th and 14th centuries. It was looted and partially burned in 1476 during the wars of Burgundy.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Clarens, Switzerland

Alt-Süns Castle

Alt-Süns Castle was built around 1200 by the Freiherr von Vaz as the center of their estates in the Domleschg valley. Their Herrschaft of Paspels/Süns was first mentioned in a record in 1237, but the castle wasn"t mentioned until 1285. When the last male heir of the Vaz line, Donat von Vaz, died in 1338, the castle and lands were inherited by the Counts of Werdenberg-Sargans. They sold it to the von Matsch family i ...
Founded: 1200 | Location: Domleschg, Switzerland

Neu-Homburg Castle Ruins

Homburg or Neu-Homburg Castle was the seat of the Froberg family since the 13th century until it was destroyed in 1798. Count Hermann IV of Frohburg settled in 1240 in the Läufelfingen valley. The castle was built by Hermann. The Bishop of Basel acquired Homburg in 1303 and built a new castle with the mighty residential tower as the seat of his Vogts. After the French Revolution, many of the rural people rebelled agains ...
Founded: c. 1240 | Location: Läufelfingen, Switzerland

Reichenstein Castle

Reichenstein Castle is one of four castles on a slope called Birseck that confines the plain of the Birs river and is the sister castle to Birseck Castle. Between 1245-1813 the castle was a property of the Swiss noble family Reich von Reichenstein. Today Reichenstein hosts various birthday celebrations, concerts, and weddings throughout the year.
Founded: 1239 | Location: Arlesheim, Switzerland

Schenkenberg Castle

Schenkenberg castle was probably built in the early 13th century for the Habsburgs dynasty, both as a headquarters and to protect core areas around Brugg. The first written mention of the castle took place in 1243 when the Lords of Schenkenberg, a Habsburg vassel, were granted land around the castle. The ownership changed multiple times as the Habsburgs granted it to other vassels. After the Habsburg defeat at the Bat ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Thalheim, Switzerland

Norantola Castle

The oldest parts of the Norantola Castle were probably built in the 12th century for a local noble family. In 1248 Locarnus de Norantola is mentioned in a record and in 1295 Petrus de Norantola is mentioned. However, by around 1300 the castle was owned by the powerful Counts of Sax/Misox and the Norantola family vanished from historical records. In 1324 Ugolinus von Sax was listed as the owner of the castle. In the early ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Cama, Switzerland

La Sarraz Castle

Built in 1049 on a rocky spur between Morges and Yverdon-les-Bains, La Sarraz Castle dominates the Vaudois countryside. Now a museum, it includes a collection of valuable objects acquired over the centuries by the generations of La Sarraz barons. From its construction until it was turned into a museum, La Sarraz Castle has always belonged to the barons of La Sarraz, unlike the majority of castles that pass from hand to h ...
Founded: 1049 | Location: La Sarraz, Switzerland

Oron Castle

Oron Castle was built in the 13th century. It was totally rebuilt in second half of the 15th century and renovated several times in the 17th century. In 1801 it was acquired the Roberti family of Moudon, and in 1870 it was bought by Adolphe Gaiffe. Beginning in 1880, a library was built in the castle. Today it houses 17,000 volumes and is one of the largest private collections of French novelists of the 18th Century in E ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Oron-le-Châtel, 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.