Medieval castles in 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

Wil Castle

During the Middle Ages, Wil Castle was built near the village and it became the seat of the Herrschaft of Schlosswil. The lords of the fort, the Freiherren von Wiler, were first mentioned in 1146. The von Wiler family died out around 1300, and the village and associated territory passed through several noble families, including the Freiherren von Signau and eventually the Senn von Münsingen family. The territory was spl ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Schlosswil, 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

Amsoldingen Castle

Amsoldingen Castle and the neighboring was built in the 10th century. The castle was built as the residence of the wealthy provost of the collegiate church of Amsoldingen. However, the provost and church gradually became impoverished and in 1484 ownership of the castle was given to St. Vincent"s cathedral in Bern. The college of canons in Bern sold the castle and surrounding lands in 1496 to the wealthy merchant Bart ...
Founded: 10th century AD | Location: Amsoldingen, 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

Strättligen Castle

Strättligen Castle was built by the barons of Strättligen in the 13th century. Today the ruins are well-preserved with a powder tower dating from 1699.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Thun, Switzerland

Trachselwald Castle

The name of the rulers of the Trachselwald Castle was first mentioned in 1131. The castle itself may date back to the 10th century but the 11th or 12th century is more likely. At first it belonged to the barons of Trachselwald, then to the barons of Rüti bei Lyssach, and then those of Sumiswald. The barons of Sumiswald sold the castle and surrounding lands to the city of Bern. Bern turned the castle into a sheriffhood. ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Trachselwald, 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

Attinghausen Castle

The first castle was built before 1100 on a hill in the middle of the village of Attinghausen. Virtually nothing is known about the first owners of the castle, although they were probably knights in the service of the Counts of Zähringen and they may have used the name von Attinghausen. By the 13th century, the original owners were gone from the castle and the von Schweinsberg family had come to own it, possibly through ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Attinghausen, Switzerland

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Quimper Cathedral

From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.

The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.

At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.

The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.

The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.

Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).

The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.

At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».

The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.