Medieval castles in 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

Böttstein Castle

Böttstein Castle was built in the 12th century for the Barons of Böttstein. After the extinction of the Böttstein line, the castle became the property of the Barons of Tiefenstein in the 13th century. In 1361 the Lords of Wessenberg were granted the castle and surrounding villages as a fief by Duke Rudolf of Austria. After the Old Swiss Confederacy conquered the Aargau in 1415, the local rulers and their jurisdi ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Böttstein, Switzerland

Baldenstein Castle

Baldenstein Castle was the family castle for the Knights of Baldenstein, the first of which was mentioned in 1246. The central tower which now forms part of the castle was built around the same time. Very little is recorded about the Baldenstein family and by 1289 the castle was owned by the Freiherr von Löwenstein. Before 1289 he lost the castle in a war with the Freiherr von Rhäzüns, but in the peace treaty of that y ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Sils im Domleschg, Switzerland

Jörgenberg Castle

Jörgenberg Castle was built in the 8th century as a fortified church, on lands donated by the Frankish kings. In the 765 testament of Bishop Tello it was referred to as a castellum on Jörgenberg hill. At the beginning of the 9th century it was called ecclesia sancti Georgii in Castello or St. George's Church in a Castle. The current castle and church were probably built on the site of an earlier walled church. Th ...
Founded: 8th century AD | Location: Waltensburg/Vuorz, Switzerland

Biberstein Castle

Biberstein estate was first mentioned in 1280 which indicates a late 13th century construction date. The castle was built for the Counts of Habsburg-Laufenburg. In 1335 the Habsburgs sold the castle and town to Rudolf von Büttikon who established a Knights Hospitaller commandry in the castle. After 1368 the Habsburgs attempted to secretly repurchase Biberstein Castle from the Knights by using a minor noble as a str ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Biberstein, Switzerland

Klingnau Castle

The construction of the Klingnau castle, originally the seat of the Klingen family, was started in 1240. Until 1269 a manor house stood on the grounds. After 1331 the outer walls were added. In the second half of the 14th century the Bishop of Constance was often a resident in the castle. He ordered further improvements and expansions. In the late 16th century, the castle, which was the seat of the bailiff from Co ...
Founded: 1240 | Location: Klingnau, Switzerland

Wildenburg Castle

Wildenburg castle was founded in the 13th century by the Lords of Hünenberg, vassals of the counts of Kyburg and Habsburg. The first plant was probably just a stone ring wall with wooden buildings. A round keep and a palas in the northeastern corner were added later. In 1386, the knights of Hünenberg fought against the Confederates at the Battle of Sempach on the side of Habsburg Austria. Wildenburg was destroyed after ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Baar, Switzerland

Freudenberg Castle Ruins

The Freudenberg castle was one of the largest castles in region. The main castle dates from the first half of the 13th century and consists of a keep with a trapezoid floor plan. The curtain wall was 80m long and 60m wide and protected by a round tower in the southwest corner. The castle was built by the Lords of Wildenberg. Later it was owned by several families and the imperial Austria. Because of a dispute over ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Bad Ragaz, 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

Rhäzüns Castle

Rhäzüns Castle may be one of the oldest castles in Switzerland. In 960 Emperor Otto I traded a church in in castello Beneduces et Ruzunnes (in the castle of Bonaduz and Rhäzüns) to the Bishop of Chur and a 976 document by Otto II confirms the trade the existence of the castle. Over the following centuries the fortified church became a feudal castle and in 1139 Arnoldus de Ruzunne appears in the records as a Romans ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Rhäzüns, Switzerland

Tschanüff Castle

The oldest part of the Tschanüff castle is the main tower, which was built as a bergfried (a fighting tower without permanent inhabitants) in the 12th century for the Lords of Ramosch. A ring wall was added in the 13th century. On 12 March 1256 Count Meinhard of Tyrol granted the knight Nannes of Ramosch the right to build a castle at Ramosch. Since there was already a fortification, this permission was probably to expan ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Valsot, Switzerland

Schauensee Castle

Schauensee Castle was first mentioned in the 13th century in connection with the Knight Rudolf von Schauensee (1257-1317) and was probably built in the 13th century. By the beginning of the 14th century it was already in ruins. At the end of the 16th century, Johannes von Mettenwyl acquired the complex and rebuilt it, retaining only the tower from the original castle. In 1750 it was rebuilt to its current appearance under ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Kriens, Switzerland

Allaman Castle

Allaman Castle has its origins in the 11 and 12th centuries but the main components were built by Louis, Duke of Savoy, in 1253. The wealthy Genevan philanthropist Count Jean-Jacques de Sellon, who owned the property until 1839, gave accommodation at the castle to political refugees, such as Napoleon"s brother Joseph Bonaparte, Empress Joséphine de Beauharnais, Voltaire, Franz Liszt and George Sand. In 18 ...
Founded: 1253 | Location: Allaman, Switzerland

Blonay Castle

Blonay Castle was built around 1175 to the site of fortified building dating from the 11th century. It was built by the Blonay noble family, vassals of Counts of Savoy. The castle was in their hands until 1752 when it was sold to Graffenried family who still owns it.
Founded: 1175 | Location: Blonay, Switzerland

Wartensee Castle

The western tower of Wartensee castle was built in 1243 by Ritter Heinrich von Wartensee as a residential tower. By the marriage the tower went in 1377 to the brothers Walter and Diethelm Blarer from St. Gallen. The family Blarer owned Wartensee until 1719. The current appearance dates from the alterations made in 1843-1553 by English composer Robert Lucas Pearsall de Willsbridge. Today Wartensee is a hotel.
Founded: 1243 | Location: Rorschacherberg, Switzerland

Ehrenfels Castle

Ehrenfels Castle was probably built in the first half of the 13th century. The first mention of the Lord of Ehrenfels is in 1257. In 1320 it was owned by Burkhard and Rudolf von Schauenstein, who also used the name Ehrenfels or Herrenfels. They probably expanded the simple bergfried with residential space and a ring wall around that time. The castle was first mentioned in 1423 with Hermann von Ehrenfels as the owner. Towa ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Sils im Domleschg, 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

Wildenstein Castle

Wildenstein Castle"s first mention was in 1301, with no understanding to when was it made or by whom. The two towers were built around 1350 and the construction or expansion of the palas was made around 1400. The medieval castle was restored as a Baroque residence in 1640 by Hans Thüring Effinger. The restoration work started in 2012.
Founded: 14th century | Location: Veltheim, Switzerland

Hochjuvalt Castle

Hochjuvalt Castle consists of two sections, the upper castle on a rocky spur above the valley and the lower castle along the trade road on the valley floor. The spur created a natural pinch point in the valley, forcing traffic from the Septimer, Splügen and San Bernardino Passes to pass through the customs post in the lower castle. The von Juvalt family first appears in records in 1140 and the castle is first mentioned i ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Rothenbrunnen, Switzerland

Wartau Castle

The area around Wartau was first settled around 9000 years ago, culminating in neolithic settlements on the nearby Ochsenberg and Prochna Burg at about 3000 BC. A Merovingian fortress was built at Prochna Burg, but was destroyed around 750. While there are no written records that mention the first owner of the castle or when it was built, the wooden beams in the castle have been dated to about 1225. It was probably ...
Founded: c. 1225 | Location: Wartau, 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.