Medieval castles in 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

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

Aarwangen Castle

The lords of Aarwangen were first mentioned between 1194 and 1212 as a Ministerialis (unfree knights in the service of a feudal overlord) family in service to the Kyburgs. Starting in 1266, Walter of Aarwangen was in the service of the future King of the Romans Rudolph I. Initially they owned land in the Emmental, but in 1276 they sold the land to Trub monastery. Around 1300 they built the tower of Aarwangen Castle along ...
Founded: c. 1300 | Location: Aarwangen, Switzerland

Old Bümpliz Castle

The first structure on the site of Old Bümpliz Castle was a Burgundian royal estate which was built around 900. Around 1250-1270 a round stone tower was built in the center of the site. This round tower was quite unusual for Bernese castles but may indicate a savoyard influence. Since Peter II of Savoy held authority over Bern at the time, it is likely, but not confirmed, that the round tower was built as a symbol of Sav ...
Founded: c. 1250 | Location: Bern, Switzerland

Grynau Castle

Grynau castle tower is situated at the then only bridge over the Linth river. Built probably in the early 13th century by the House of Rapperswil, the castle secured the strategically important river crossing in the area between the Grafschaft Rapperswil and the House of Toggenburg. The property was documented in 1311, when the castle was taken by force by Rudolf von Laufenburg-Rapperswil probably from the Toggenburg fam ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Tuggen, Switzerland

Grasburg Castle

According to legend, the first castle on the site of Grasburg was built by a Roman hunter who saw the massive sandstone spire on an island in the Sense river. He saw a red deer on the cliff over the river and went to catch it. As he rode after the deer a dragon roared out of a cave, but the hunter quickly killed the dragon. The deer then walked up to the hunter and offered his life to the hunter. The hunter allowed the de ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Schwarzenburg, 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

Holligen Castle

The first recorded mention of Holligen is in 1257, when it was owned by the Teutonic Knights commandry of Köniz. It is likely that there was a castle here to control the Bümpliz-Köniz road and administer the estates. However, very little is known of this building. The current castle was built around 1500 by the Bernese Schultheiss Wilhelm von Diesbach. It was built in the style of a typical Burgundian castle, with a sq ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Bern, 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

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Hagios Demetrios

The Church of Saint Demetrius, or Hagios Demetrios, is the main sanctuary dedicated to Saint Demetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki. It is part of the site Palaeochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1988.

The first church on the spot was constructed in the early 4th century AD, replacing a Roman bath. A century later, a prefect named Leontios replaced the small oratory with a larger, three-aisled basilica. Repeatedly gutted by fires, the church eventually was reconstructed as a five-aisled basilica in 629–634. This was the surviving form of the church much as it is today. The most important shrine in the city, it was probably larger than the local cathedral. The historic location of the latter is now unknown.

The church had an unusual shrine called the ciborium, a hexagonal, roofed structure at one side of the nave. It was made of or covered with silver. The structure had doors and inside was a couch or bed. Unusually, it did not hold any physical relics of the saint. The ciborium seems to have been a symbolic tomb. It was rebuilt at least once.

The basilica is famous for six extant mosaic panels, dated to the period between the latest reconstruction and the inauguration of the Byzantine Iconoclasm in 730. These mosaics depict St. Demetrius with officials responsible for the restoration of the church (called the founders, ktetors) and with children. An inscription below one of the images glorifies heaven for saving the people of Thessalonica from a pagan Slavic raid in 615.

Thessaloniki became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1430. About 60 years later, during the reign of Bayezid II, the church was converted into a mosque, known as the Kasımiye Camii after the local Ottoman mayor, Cezeri Kasım Pasha. The symbolic tomb however was kept open for Christian veneration. Other magnificent mosaics, recorded as covering the church interior, were lost either during the four centuries when it functioned as a mosque (1493–1912) or in the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917 that destroyed much of the city. It also destroyed the roof and upper walls of the church. Black-and-white photographs and good watercolour versions give an idea of the early Byzantine craftsmanship lost during the fire.

Following the Great Fire of 1917, it took decades to restore the church. Tombstones from the city"s Jewish cemetery - destroyed by the Greek and Nazi German authorities - were used as building materials in these restoration efforts in the 1940s. Archeological excavations conducted in the 1930s and 1940s revealed interesting artifacts that may be seen in a museum situated inside the church"s crypt. The excavations also uncovered the ruins of a Roman bath, where St. Demetrius was said to have been held prisoner and executed. A Roman well was also discovered. Scholars believe this is where soldiers dropped the body of St. Demetrius after his execution. After restoration, the church was reconsecrated in 1949.