Medieval castles in Switzerland

Altenburg Castle

The exact date of Altenburg Castle construction is unknown, however the traditional date given is during the reign of Valentinian I or around 370. The discovery of several small coin hoards near the ruins may indicate a construction date as early as the beginning of the 4th century AD. The castle was built on a point above the Aar river as part of the Limes Germanicus to protect an easily fordable stretch of the ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Brugg, Switzerland

Freudenau Castle Ruins

Freudenau Castle was built around 1240 to protect the bridge over Aare river. It was left to decay already in 1300 and a large part of the castle was destroyed on 25 December 1351. The remaining buildings were abandoned and decayed over the centuries. Today only ruins remain.
Founded: 1240 | Location: Untersiggenthal, Switzerland

Liebegg Castle

The origins of Liebegg castle and the von Liebegg family are unclear, though they were probably a junior line of the von Trostburg family. The first castle was probably built in the 2nd half of the 12th century. About a century later the second castle was built south of the first. The first mention of the family is in 1241 when Burkhard I and Ludwig von Liebegg appear as witnesses in a document. At that time they were u ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Gränichen, Switzerland

Sogn Parcazi Castle Ruins

Sogn Parcazi castle is known after the hill that it stands on. The early chronicles of the region list Pepin, the father of Charlemagne, as the founder of the castle. While this is unlikely, it has not been conclusively disproven. Regardless of whether it is true, the first church on the site may date to the 8th century and may have been built on an even older pre-Christian cult site. It was originally built as a fortifi ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Trin, Switzerland

Torre Fiorenzana

Torre Fiorenzana is a tower house built in the late 12th century for the local de Grono family. The first mention of the family is 1219. They appear again in local records in 1286 and 1288. The Canon Bernardinus of Grono and the Provost Heinrich appear to have been the last male members of the family. By 1314 it was owned by the powerful Lords of Sax-Misox and a branch of the family inhabited it. In the 14th century they ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Grono, Switzerland

Champvent Castle

Situated on a hill overlooking the valley of Thiele, the Champvent castle of is on of the best preserved medieval castles in Vaud canton. It was probably built around 1250 by Henri de Grandson. His family occupied the castle until 1336. The castle and the lordship then passed in Burgundy until 1476 when it was burned after the Battle of Grandson (in Burgundian Wars). Champvent castle was rebuilt after 1536 and beca ...
Founded: c. 1250 | Location: Champvent, Switzerland

Bubikon Castle

Bubikon Castle (Ritterhaus Bubikon) is a former commandery, a medieval monastery of the Knights Hospitaller. Assumably in compensation of claims related to the Alt-Rapperswil lands and rights, a change of goods occurred between the Counts of Toggenburg and Counts of Rapperswil probably in the early 1190s. To end the disputes about the legacy, the Knights Hospitaller abbey and commandry was given by Diethelm V ...
Founded: 1190s | Location: Bubikon, Switzerland

Haldenstein Castle

Haldenstein Castle was probably built in the 10th or 11th century as the family castle of the Ministerialis Haldenstein family, who were in service of the Lord of Vaz. By the 12th century the family had split into two lines, the Haldenstein family and the Lichtenstein family (who inhabited the nearby Lichtenstein Castle. Each family ruled over part of the nearby village and farms. By the end of the 13th century the Lichte ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Haldenstein, Switzerland

Belfort Castle

Belfort Castle was built in two parts, an upper and a lower castle, on a rocky ridge east. The first castle on the site probably dates to around 1200. In 1222 the castle was first mentioned as the home of the Lords of Vaz. Some parts of the castle have been dated by dendrochronology to 1228-31. The original upper castle consisted of a gatehouse and three story main tower on the north wall. In 1240 the castle was expanded. ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Albula/Alvra, Switzerland

Belmont Castle

Belmont Castle was built in the 10th or 11th century for the Freiherr von Belmont. The first recorded member of the family was Lutefridus de Belmonte in 1137/39. The Belmont family was related to a number of other Raetian noble families including the powerful von Vaz. By the 13th century they were one of the most powerful families in Graubünden. They owned castles and villages throughout the region. Konrad von Belmont wa ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Flims, Switzerland

Castels Castle

Nothing is known about the early history of the Castels Castle in Luzein. Initially it may have been a refuge castle or a fortified church built during the Middle Ages. The oldest part of the ring wallwas probably built during the 12th century. At some point in the High Middle Ages, it became the home of a noble family. By the early 14th century it was the administrative center of all the Aspermont estates in Upper Prätt ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Luzein, Switzerland

Friedau Castle

In 955 Emperor Otto I granted his estates in Zizers to the Bishop of Chur. Friedau Castle may have been built on the site of one of the buildings from this 10th century grant. Construction on the castle begun under Bishop Volkart von Neuenburg (1237-1251) but was completed under Heinrich IV von Montfort (1251-1272). Once it was completed it became the administrative center of the Herrschaft and the home of the bishop" ...
Founded: c. 1250 | Location: Zizers, Switzerland

Marschlins Castle

Marschlins Castle was built in the 13th century, though there may have been 11th or 12th century castles on the site and local legend claims it dates back to the Carolingian era. However, the 13th century castle was probably built for the Bishop of Chur. The castle is built in the Savoyard style, a square castle with corner towers, one of which is enlarged to serve as the donjon. This style of castle is unique in Graubün ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Landquart, Switzerland

Riom Castle

Riom was inhabited during the Roman era, from the 1st century through the 4th. During this time, it was a mansion or way-station along the Julier Pass road. After the Fall of the Western Roman Empire, farmers and herders continued to live here during the Early Middle Ages. In 840 it was personally owned by the king of Raetia Curiensis and was a local administrative center as well as the site of major church. The church wa ...
Founded: c. 1226 | Location: Surses, 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

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

Campell Castle

Campell Castle was probably begun in the early 13th century for the knightly von Campell family. The first mention of the family is from 1289 when Egeno de Campelle appears in a record. The original castle was a four story bergfried. In the 13th or early 14th century it was expanded with a ring wall, gatehouse, ditches and a drawbridgeon the west side and a residential wing on the east. However, the Campell family died ou ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Sils im Domleschg, Switzerland

Kastelen Tower Ruins

Kastelen castle was built in the 13th century by the Counts of Kyburg. At the time of the peasant war in 1653 it was looted and left to decay. Today the tower remains. 
Founded: 13th century | Location: Willisau, Switzerland

Nünegg Castle

Nünegg Castle castle dates from the 13th century and it was built by the counts of Kyburg. The visible remains of the castle today consist of a large keep with annexed buildings such as Palas and ancillary buildings.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Lieli, Switzerland

Pleujouse Castle

Pleujouse was first mentioned in 1105 when a noble family strenghtened the castle. Since then it was owned by the several families until falling into a decay in the 17th century. The castle was restored and transformed into a restaurant in 1988.
Founded: c. 1105 | Location: Pleujouse, Switzerland

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Limburg Cathedral

The Cathedral of Limburg is one of the best preserved late Romanesque style buildings. It is unknown When the first church was built above the Lahn river. Archaeological discoveries have revealed traces of a 9th-century church building in the area of the current chapel. It was probably built in Merovingian times as a castle and the chapel added in the early 9th century.

In 910 AD, Count Konrad Kurzbold (cousin of the future King Konrad I) founded a collegiate chapter of 18 canons, who lived according to the rule of Bishop Chrodegang of Metz, on the hilltop site. The original castle chapel was torn down and a three-aisled basilica was built in its place. The foundations of this basilica have been found beneath the present floor.

The construction of current cathedral is dated to 1180-90. The consecration was performed in 1235 by the archbishop of Trier. It seems certain that the cathedral was built in four stages. The first stage encompassed the west facade, the south side aisle, the choir and the transept up to the matroneum. This section forms the Conradine church. The second stage consisted of the addition of the inner pillars of the south nave. In this stage the bound system was first introduced. In the third phase, the matroneum in the southern nave was built. The fourth stage included the north side of the transept and the choir matroneum. By this stage Gothic influence is very clear.

The interior was destroyed by Swedish soldiers during the Thirty Years War (1618-48) and reconstructed in a late Baroque style in 1749. The Baroque renovation was heavy-handed: the surviving medieval stained glass windows were replaced; all the murals were covered up; the ribs of the vaults and columns of the arcades were painted blue and red; the capstones were gilded; the original high altar was replaced. The colorfully painted exterior was coated in plain white and the central tower was extended by 6.5 meters.

The collegiate chapter of Limburg was dissolved in 1803 during the Napoleonic period, but then raised to the rank of cathedral in 1827 when the bishopric of Limburg was founded. Some renovations in contemporary style followed: the walls were coated white, the windows were redone in blue and orange (the heraldic colors of the Duke of Nassau) and towers were added to the south transept (1865).

Further changes came after Limburg was incorporated into the Kingdom of Prussia in 1866. It was now the Romantic period and the cathedral was accordingly restored to an idealized vision of its original Romanesque appearance. The exterior stonework was stripped of all its plaster and paint, to better conform with the Romantic ideal of a medieval church growing out of the rock. The Baroque interior was stripped away and the wall paintings were uncovered and repainted.

Further renovations came in 1934-35, enlightened by better knowledge of the original art and architecture. Art Nouveau stained glass windows were also added. A major restoration in 1965-90 included replastering and painting the exterior, both to restore it to its original appearance and to protect the stonework, which was rapidly deteriorating while exposed to the elements.

The interior is covered in medieval frescoes dating from 1220 to 1235. They are magnificent and important survivals, but time has not been terribly kind to them - they were whitewashed over in the Baroque period (1749) and uncovered and repainted with a heavy hand in the Romantic period (1870s) before finally being restored more sensitively in the 1980s.