Medieval castles in Switzerland

Romont Castle

A document from 1177 from the Abbey of Hauterive mentions the Romont as a wooded hill. In 1239, Anselme (or Nantelme) sold the rights to Romont hill to Peter II of Savoy. At that time, Romont was part of the territory of the Bishop of Lausanne. In 1240, Peter II sent a castellan to Romont to build a castle and found a village. The main castle (Grand Donjon), with a typical Savoy square floor plan, was completed befo ...
Founded: 1240 | Location: Romont, Switzerland

Rue Castle

Rue castle was built originally in the 12th century (the keep with three storeys), but the other buildings were destroyed in the 1230s. Peter II of Savoy rebuilt the castle between 1260-1268, but it was again destroyed in 1476 in the Burgundian Wars. The current residence dates from 1619-1763.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Rue, Switzerland

Petit-Vivy Castle

Petit-Vivy Castle is located near the dike surrounding the Schiffenensee and northeast of Barberêche. It is among the oldest preserved castles in the region. The still-preserved, mighty, four-sided keep was built in the second half of the 13th century, and has 3.5 m thick walls. Around the keep are the remains of former surrounding walls, arranged in triangular form. The residential buildings were built in the 16th ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Courtepin, Switzerland

Arbon Castle

A castle in Arbon is first mentioned in 720 in a history of St. Gall Abbey. It stood on or near the site of the Roman era Arbor Felix fortress from 250 AD. After the Romans retreated south of the Alps around 400, the old fortress was abandoned. Sometime later a Frankish castle was built in Arbon probably for the Frankish royal family. By around 700, Arbon and presumably the castle, were the property of the diocese ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Arbon, Switzerland

Bischofszell Castle

Bischofszell castle was built in the 12th/13th century. It was damaged by the city fire in 1419 and repaired soon thereafter. During the 17th and 18th century the castle was expanded and totally renovated. The newly founded Canton of Thurgau took over the castle in 1798, but sold it in 1811 again. About 1838 the west part collapsed, and in 1843 the keep was broken up. Since 1930, the castle has been owned by the municipal ...
Founded: 1419 | Location: Bischofszell, Switzerland

Frauenfeld Castle

Frauenfeld castle was founded by the counts of Kyburg in the 13th century. The massive tower dates from 1227. The exhibit of the Thurgau History Museum in castle illustrates the time after 1415 that was so important for the region. It offers both children and adults an insightful and playful gateway to the Middle Ages. The modern arrangements, interactive animation and the artwork shining in new splendour are the highli ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Frauenfeld, 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

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

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

Sonnenberg Castle

Sonnenberg Castle site was first time mentioned in 1242. The original castle was destroyed in 1407 during the Appenzell Wars and rebuilt by Landenberg family. It was again rebuilt in 1596 after a fire. Today Sonnenberg is restored and houses a restaurant.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Stettfurt, 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

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

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

Porte du Scex Castle

Porte du Scex Castle was originally built to protect the territory of Vouvre and collect tolls. In the Middle Ages it was owned by Savoy and Tavelli de la Tour families. The castle was rebuilt between 1591 and 1609 and again in 1678. The museum opened in the Porte-du-Scex castle in 2008. It houses an interactive and in 3D model of the Chablais region, that is part of the permanent collection. Other rooms are dedicated to ...
Founded: 1591 | Location: Vouvry, Switzerland

Saint-Maurice Castle

Started at the end of the 15th century, between 1476 and 1482, the construction of St-Maurice castle took place in several stages.  They began by building a tower with doors, then a crenellated enclosure and guard towers. This led to the construction of the main body of the building and, at the beginning of the 16th century, a large retaining wall to which a new tower with a large ogival door was added. A fire destroyed ...
Founded: 1476 | Location: Saint-Maurice, Switzerland

Monthey Castle

Monthey Castle was built in the early 15th century by Duke of Savoy. It was damaged by fire in 1607. Today Monthay castle is a museum. 
Founded: 15th century | Location: Monthey, Switzerland

Majorie Castle

Majorie castle served as a residence for bishops of Sion since 1373. In 1529 and 1788 it was damaged by fire. Today it houses the cantonal museum of fine arts.
Founded: 14th century | Location: Sion, Switzerland

Tourbillon Castle

Tourbillon Castle was built sometime between 1290 and 1308 by the Bishop of Sion, Boniface de Challant, as his principal residence. After Boniface died in 1308, his successor Aymon II de Châtillon probably finished the castle. In 1352 the Upper Valais revolted against Bishop Guichard Tavel. Led by Peter de la Tour, in November of that year, they marched on Sion, burned the town and unsuccessfully besieged the castle. In ...
Founded: 1290-1308 | Location: Sion, Switzerland

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

São Jorge Castle

São Jorge Castle is a Moorish castle occupying a commanding hilltop overlooking the historic centre of the Portuguese city of Lisbon and Tagus River. The strongly fortified citadel dates from medieval period of Portuguese history, and is one of the main tourist sites of Lisbon.

Although the first fortifications on this hilltop date from the 2nd century BC, archaeological excavations have identified a human presence in the Tagus valley as far back as the 6th century BC. The first fortification was, presumably, erected in 48 BC, when Lisbon was classified as a Roman municipality.

The hill was first used by indigenous Celtic tribes, then by Phoenicians, Greeks, and Carthaginians as a defensible outpost that was later expropriated by Roman, Suebic, Visigothic, and Moorish peoples. During the 10th century, the fortifications were rebuilt by Muslim Berber forces, these included the walls or Cerca Moura ("Moorish Encirclement").

Kingdom

In the context of the Christian Reconquista, the castle and the city of Lisbon were freed from Moorish rule in 1147 by Afonso Henriques and northern European knights in the Siege of Lisbon during the Second Crusade; this victory was the only notable success of that failed crusade. According to an oft-repeated legend, the knight Martim Moniz, noticing that one of the doors to the castle was open, prevented the Moors from closing it by throwing his own body into the breach, thus allowing Christian soldiers to enter at the cost of his own life. With the taking of the castle Christian forces were able to maintain the defense of Lisbon until the end of the 12th century.

When Lisbon became the capital of the kingdom in 1255, the castle served as the alcáçova, a fortified residence for Afonso III, in his role as governor. It was extensively renovated around 1300 by King Denis I, transforming the Moorish alcáçova into the Royal Palace of the Alcáçova. Between 1373 and 1375, King Ferdinand I ordered the building of the Cerca Nova or Cerca Fernandina, the walled compound that enclosed the entirety of the castle. The master builders João Fernandes and Vasco Brás were responsible for its construction. This wall, which partially replaced the old Moorish walls, was designed to encircle previously unprotected parts of the city. Completed in two years, it had 77 towers and a perimeter of 5,400 metres.

The castle and the city resisted the forces of Castile several times during the 14th century (notably in 1373 and in 1383–1384). It was during this period (the late 14th century) that the castle was dedicated to Saint George by King John I, who had married the English princess Philippa of Lancaster. Saint George, the warrior-saint, was normally represented slaying a dragon, and very was popular in both countries.

From this point onward many of the kingdom's records were housed in the Torre de Ulisses, also known as the Torre Albarrã, until the reign of Manuel I. The Portuguese National Archive is still referred to as the Torre do Tombo. Between 1448 and 1451, the master builder was paid several stipends for his work on the palace. These public works continued until 1452, with additional payments being made for labor and materials to convert the building from a fortified castle to a royal residence.

Around the early 16th century, following the construction of the Ribeira Palace beside the Tagus river, the Palace of Alcáçova began to lose its importance. An earthquake occurring in 1531 further damaged the old castle, contributing further to its decay and neglect. In 1569, King Sebastian ordered the rebuilding of the royal apartments in the castle, intending to use it as his official residence. As part of the rebuilding, in 1577 Filippo Terzi demolished one of the towers near the principal facade of the Church of Loreto. However, many of the works were never completed after the young king's apparent death during the Battle of Alcácer Quibir. The following Portuguese dynastic crisis opened the way for sixty years of Spanish rule and the castle was converted into military barracks and a prison. On 30 December 1642, Teodósio de Frias the Younger was appointed master builder to continue the works begun by his father, Luís de Frias, and his grandfather, Teodósio de Frias. This was part of a greater plan by the Spanish forces to recommission the fortification.

However, after Portugal regained its independence following the Portuguese Restoration War, the works were taken over by the Portuguese government. On 6 November 1648, Nicolau de Langres was called upon to take over the design, execution and construction of a new fortification that would surround the Castle of São Jorge and the city walls of Lisbon. In 1650 the military architect Mateus do Couto was named master builder of the project and reconstruction took on a new formality: although the military engineer João Gillot built new walls in 1652, construction again followed Couto's plans between 1657 and 1733. In 1673, the Soldiers' Hospital, dedicated to São João de Deus, was installed on the grounds beside the Rua do Recolhimento. At the end of the 17th century the Recolhimento do Castelo was constructed along the southeast angle of the courtyard, and in 1733, new projects were initiated by master Custódio Vieira.

The 1755 Lisbon earthquake severely damaged the castle and contributed to its continuing decay: apart from the walls of the old castle, the soldier's hospital and the Recolhimento were left in ruins. The necessity of maintaining a supporting military force within the capital city required expansion of the site's role of garrison and presidio. From 1780 to 1807, the charitable institution Casa Pia, dedicated to the education of poor children, was established in the citadel, while soldiers continued to be garrisoned on site. Inspired by the events of the earthquake and the following tsunami, the first geodetic observatory in Portugal was constructed in 1788 at the top of one of the towers of the castle, later referred to as the Torre do Observatório.

Republic

As part of the commemorative celebrations marking the foundation of nationhood and restoration of independence, the government of António de Oliveira Salazar initiated extensive renovations at the site. Most of the incongruous structures added to the castle compound in previous centuries were demolished and there was a partial restoration of the Recolhimento. In addition, on 25 October 1947, a monument dedicated to Afonso Henriques, presented by the city of Porto, of a replica created by Soares dos Reis (in 1887) was installed on the grounds.