Medieval castles in Switzerland

Angenstein Castle

Angenstein castle was founded in the middle of the 13th century by the  for a strategic outpost between Basel and the Jura area. It was owned by the Counts of Pfirt, but half of it was apparently ceded in 1271 to the Bishop of Basel. After 1557 the castle was destroyed by fires (1494 and 1517) and turned into a residence. The four-storey residential tower was built, which still characterize the appearance of Angenstei ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Aesch, Switzerland

Landenberg Castle

The earliest fortifications on Landenberg hill probably date back to the early 11th century, when the Counts of Lenzburg built a wooden fort there. After the Lenzburg line died out in 1173 their estates around Sarnen were inherited by the Habsburgs. The Habsburgs built a stone ring wall around much of the crown of the hill. While parts of the wall are still visible, very little is known about the buildings inside the wall ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Sarnen, Switzerland

Steinsberg Castle

During the High Middle Ages a fortified church with a ring wall and perhaps a tower was built near the current Steinsberg Castle. By the end of the 12th century, these fortifications were demolished and a new castle was built above formerly fortified plateau and the Church of St. Lazius. It was probably built for a local noble family. In 1209 Albert von Frickingen sold all his estates and villages as well as the castle ab ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Scuol, Switzerland

Lucens Castle

Lucens Castle"s strategic location allowed it to control the Broye valley, which was an important transit corridor. Starting in the Middle Ages and until 1536 it was a residence of the Bishop of Lausanne and served to control the Bishop"s land in the Broye valley. During the 12th century, the castle was repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt. In 1476, it was destroyed by the Swiss Confederation. In 1536 the val ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Lucens, 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

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

Herblingen Castle

Herblingen Castle in Stetten was probably built at the beginning of the 13th century by the Lords of Herblingen. In 1281 Konrad von Herblingen rebuilt the chapel, which may have been existed already in the 11th century. Herblingen family died out in the 15th century and after then castle owners changed many times. The bank director Johann Wilhelm Gestefeld from Vienna acquired the castle in 1733 and converted it into ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Stetten, Switzerland

Gräpplang Castle Ruins

The first documented reference to the Gräpplang castle dates from the year 1249. It was built around 1220 by the Knights of Flums. During the Old Zurich War (1436-1450), the castle was extorted in 1440 to get protection, but it was never attacked or destroyed. In 1528 the property was given to Ludwig Tschudi von Glarus. The castle remained in their family possession until 1767. The Tschudi family gave the castle its ...
Founded: c. 1220 | Location: Flums, Switzerland

Aarburg Castle

Aarburg Castle is located high above the town Aarburg on a steep, rocky hillside. The castle was built around a medieval castle, which controlled the narrow point on the Aare river and served as the seat of Aarburg Vogt. Today it houses the Kantonale Jugendheim, for holding and rehabilitating juvenile offenders. The exact year of construction of the castle is not known. However, it was probably built around 1200 b ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Aarburg, Switzerland

Santa Maria in Calanca Castle

The Santa Maria in Calanca castle ruins are located on a hill top at the entrance to the Calanca valley. The hill top was inhabited prehistorically and by the late Roman era was home to the Church of Santa Maria. By the High Middle Ages it was the political center of the entire valley. By the 12th century the first castle was built on the hill below the church. This castle was probably built for the de Calanca family, of ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Santa Maria in Calanca, Switzerland

Les Clées Castle

Chateau des Clées is located above the village. Built probably in the 11th century, it guarded the traffic through the Jougne Pass and collected tolls on the pass road. Les Clées is first mentioned in 1134 when Pope Innocent II tried in vain to prohibit the reconstruction of the castle.  The chapel of Les Clées was built before the 14th century and rebuilt in 1738-1740. In 1444 the Duke Louis I of Savoy comm ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Les Clées, Switzerland

Compesières Commandry

The Compesières Commandry is the main Commandry of the Order of Malta in the Canton of Geneva in Switzerland. The village of Compesières existed since the 12th Century and was also mentioned as the family name of the local noble family. In 1270 the Bishop of Geneva, Aymo of Menthonay, granted the village church to the Order of Saint John. They then expanded the church into a Commandery. It is likely that the o ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Bardonnex, Switzerland

Alt-Regensberg Castle Ruins

Alt-Regensberg Castle was built about the mid-11th century AD by the House of Regensberg in the municipality of Regensdorf. The decline in importance of the castle had been shown already in the Old Zürich War, when Zürich"s opponent Alt-Regensberg occupied without resistance. Later the ruins served as a quarry. The quadratic keep dates from the first construction phase. The exterior of the residential tower ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Regensdorf, Switzerland

Wartenberg Castle Ruins

Right at the top of the Wartenberg near Muttenz there are three castle ruins which can be visited. Archaeological findings prove that it was already in use during the New Stone Age (around 2000 BC). During the Bronze Age (1800-800 BC) a fortified settlement stood here. Presumably the Burgundians built a king’s castle on the northernmost spur in the 10th century. Today the front Wartenberg is situated here. It had been ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Muttenz, Switzerland

Hohenrätien Castle

Hohenrätien Castle was built on a rock wall that rises 250 m above the Viamala river and the important roads over the San Bernardino and Splügen Passes. The area was inhabited during the Bronze and Iron Ages. During the Roman era the current castle site was a religious site and by the 4th or 5th century there was a church on the site. It is unknown whether the church was originally built as a Christian church or was a t ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Sils im Domleschg, Switzerland

Gorgier Castle

Gorgier Castle was first time mentioned in 1299. It was owned by the lords of Estavayer and Neuchâtel. The drawbridge, ditches, gardens and outbuildings date from the 16th century. In the 19th century the castle become the home of rich merchants and industrialists. Following the successive works, the castle is decorated with an architecture combining medieval and Neo-Renaissance features.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Gorgier, Switzerland

Wyher Castle

Wyher Castle is a moated castle, which lies south of the village center of Ettiswil. It was first mentioned in 1304 as the home of the Freiherr von Wediswil. After passing through several owners, around the end of the 15th century it was acquired by the Feer family. Around 1510, Petermann Feer rebuilt it into a late-Gothic castle. In 1588 it was inherited by Ludwig Pfyffer von Altishofen, whose descendants adopted the nam ...
Founded: c. 1304 | Location: Ettiswil, Switzerland

Valangin Castle

Valangin castle was a residence of the local lords from mid-12th century to 1566. The oldest visible remains date from the 13th century. It consists of a courtyard surrounded by a rampart and a 'donjon' (keep), which hosts the current museum. Since 1430 the castle was altered with semicircular towers to be defended against the firearms. The castle was damaged by fire in 1747 which destroyed a whole wing. The ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Valangin, Switzerland

Alt-Wartburg Castle

Alt-Wartburg Castle was built around c. 1200 by the lords of Ifenthal. It was significanly extended in 1325. In the mid-14th century Alt-Wartburg became the property of the Büttikon family and later Hallwyler family. When the Confederates conquered Aargau in 1415, Bernese troops burned down the castle. Alt-Wartburg was left ruined.
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Oftringen, Switzerland

Castelmur Castle

The fortifications at Castelmur may be, after the Three Castles of Bellinzona, the most important example of medieval valley fortifications in modern Switzerland. The castle site has been occupied and fortified since at least the Roman era. The important trade road over the Septimer Pass runs through the Val Bregaglia. The Romans built a guard station and village named 'Murus' according to the 3rd century Itinerarium Ant ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Bondo, 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.