Medieval castles in Switzerland

Bischofstein Castle

Lords of Eptingen built the Bischofstein castle around 1250. It seemed to be damaged in 1356 in the earthquake of Basel. Today the tower, curtain wall, Palas and gatehouses are still quite clearly visible.
Founded: c. 1250 | Location: Sissach, Switzerland

Alt-Schauenburg Castle

Alt-Schauenburg is a ruined castle in the commune of Frenkendorf. It is located near the border of France and Germany, and little of the castle remains because of geological events. There were two Schauenburg castles near Frenkendorf, Alt-Schauenburg about 1 km southwest of the village on the top of Chleiflüeli hill and Neu-Schauenburg to the west. Alt-Schauenburg was probably built around 1275 as the seat of a jun ...
Founded: c. 1275 | Location: Frenkendorf, Switzerland

Neu-Schauenburg Castle

There were two Schauenburg castles near Frenkendorf, Alt-Schauenburg about 1 km southwest of the village on the top of Chleiflüeli hill and Neu-Schauenburg to the west. A first castle was probably built for the Lords of Schauenburg in the 11th century, however nothing is known about it. In the 13th century the original castle was replaced by a new castle. The 1356 Basel earthquake destroyed much of it, but unlike Alt- ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Frenkendorf, Switzerland

Radegg Castle Ruins

Radegg was a spur castle built around the year 1200 and destroyed around the year 1300. It is located high above the Wangental on a spur of the Rossberg which drops off steeply on three sides in Osterfingen in the municipality of Wilchingen. Little is known about their origin and destruction nor about those who had built the castle, the barons von Radegg. This family is first mentioned in 1188 with a reference to Heinr ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Wilchingen, Switzerland

Wulp Castle Ruins

Wulp Castle was built during the high Middle Ages. Despite this, the castle is documented only in a few found texts, and much of the castle"s history is not known. However, in the chronicle of Muri Abbey, a castle that could perhaps fit Ruine Wulp"s description - a castle in proximity to Zurich and Lake Zurich - was mentioned, but this has not been confirmed by other findings and is mere speculation. Also, ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Küsnacht, Switzerland

Forstegg Castle Ruins

Forstegg Castle is a ruined castle in the municipality of Sennwald. It was built around 1200 by the Barons of Sax/Misox, was abandoned in the 19th century and fell into ruin in 1894.
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Sennwald, Switzerland

Hohensax Castle Ruins

Hohensax is a ruined castle in the Sennwald. The castle was built around 1200 by the barons of Sax, and was destroyed in 1446. In 1248, the castle passed to Ulrich von Sax, founder of the Sax-Hohensax line of the noble family. The castle was plundered in a feud of 1393, and sold together with the villages of Sax and Gams to the dukes of Austria. In the Old Zürich War, the people of Appenzell captured and slighte ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Sennwald, Switzerland

Attalens Castle

Attalens Castle was built in the 12th century, but it was destroyed in the Burgundian Wars. Later rebuilt, it has been since 1969 used as private residences and concerts venue.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Attalens, Switzerland

Bossonnens Castle Ruins

Bossonnens Castle was built in the 12th century. It burned down in 1475. The ruins still contains the square and round (so-called Savoyard type, built around 1260) towers.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Bossonnens, Switzerland

Surpierre Castle

Surpierre castle was a bailiff"s castle in the Canton of Fribourg. In the 12th century there was a fort at Surpetra, though whether that was at the current castle site or another nearby location is unknown. The fief of Surpierre was owned by a noble family of the same name from 1142 until 1233. In the 13th century the de Cossonay family owned Surpierre and a number of surrounding villages. In the late 13th cen ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Surpierre, 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

Auenstein Castle

Auenstein Castle was built on a rocky hill above the Aare river in the 13th century for a local nobleman named Gowenstein. Around 1300 it was acquired by the Lord of Rinach. During a war between the Habsburgs and the Old Swiss Confederacy in 1389, a Bernese army sacked and burned the castle. Following the Bernese conquest of the Aargau in 1415, Auenstein became a part of the Landvogtei of Lenzburg. Over the fol ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Auenstein, Switzerland

Bellikon Castle

Bellikon Castle, which features in the municipal coat of arms, is a small castle that was built in the 13th century by the Habsburgs and was known as Rotten Hus. From 1314 to 1640, the patrician Krieg family of Zurich owned the castle. The chapel dates from 1676.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Bellikon, Switzerland

Brunegg Castle

Brunegg castle was built on a hill at the edge of the Jura mountains in the 13th century. This castle was probably built, together with near Wildegg castle, as part of the Habsburg border defenses. The castle was occupied by Habsburg knights, including Schenken von Brunegg and Gessler von Meienberg. In 1415 the castle was besieged by Bernese troops, but they lifted siege after a counterattack. However, Bern conqu ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Brunegg, Switzerland

Kasteln Castle

About 1200 the original fortress Kasteln was built in the middle Schenkenberger valley, a few kilometers away from Schenkenberg Castle. In 1238 the castle is first mentioned in a deed of gift to the residents of the castle who were vassals of the Kyburgs. In 1262 Ruchenstein castle was built on the cliff directly behind the fort for the Knight of Ruchenstein. After the extinction of the Kyburg line in 1264, the cast ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Oberflachs, Switzerland

Trostburg Castle

Trostburg castle was probably built in the 12th century, though nothing is known of its early history. At some point in the 12th or early 13th century a junior line moved a short distance away and built Liebegg Castle near Gränichen. On 28 May 1241 Burkhart I of Trostberg and his relative Ludwig of Liebegg appear in a document as witnesses and unfree knights in service to the Counts of Kyburg. Eventually they passe ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Teufenthal, Switzerland

Neu-Aspermont Castle

The Lords of Aspermont first appear in the historical record in 1120 as ministerialis or unfree knights in service to the Bishop of Chur, living at their castle Alt-Aspermont near Trimmis. Over the following centuries, they rose to become one of the main noble families in the region, with ties to the powerful Hohenstaufen family. In the early 13th century they built Neu-Aspermont north-east of the village of Jenins. The o ...
Founded: c. 1235 | Location: Landquart, Switzerland

Bernegg Castle

Bernegg Castle was built in the mid to late 13th century for the Freiherr von Calfreisen, though it was probably called Calfreisen Castle until the 15th century. A mention of Otto von Calfreisen in 1231 indicates that the family lived in the area before the castle was built. They may have lived in an earlier castle which was replaced in the mid 13th century or in the village. In 1259 and again in 1286 the Freiherr was men ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Arosa, Switzerland

Heinzenberg Castle

Heinzenberg Castle was built on the western side of the Domleschg Valley in the 12th century by the Freiherr von Vaz. In contrast to the small landholdings of other castles in the region, Heinzenberg was the political and judicial center over much of the valley. Though the first mention of the castle was in 1394, by 1380 the name was applied to the river and the entire side of the valley. The castle was the center of the ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Cazis, Switzerland

Innerjuvalt Castle

Innerjuvalt was built about 2 km south-east of the older Hochjuvalt Castle by the Freiherr von Juvalt. It was built in two parts on a narrow rocky outcropping above the entrance to the Domleschg Valley. The upper castle was first built around 1250 and was expanded around 1273. In 1342 two of the von Juvalt family, Albrecht and Bertram, appeared in a probate court to settle their inheritance, with Bertram giving up his rig ...
Founded: c. 1250 | Location: Rothenbrunnen, 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.