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

Wawel Castle

Wawel Hill – a Jurassic limestone rock, a dominant feature in the landscape of Kraków, have provided a safe haven for people who have settled here since the Paleolithic Age. It is supposed that the Slav people started living on Wawel hill as early as the 7th century. Early medieval legends tell stories about a dreadful dragon that lived in a cave on Wawel Hill, about his slayer Krakus, and about the latter’s daughter Wanda, who drowned herself in the Vistula rather than marry a German knight. Towards the end of the first millennium A.D Wawel began to play the role of the centre of political power.In the 9th century it became the principal fortified castrum of the Vislane tribe. The first historical ruler of Poland, Miesco I (c.965-992) of the Piast dynasty as well as his successors: Boleslas the Brave (992-1025) and Miesco II (1025-1034) chose Wawel Hill as one of their residences.

At that time Wawel became one of the main Polish centres of Christianity. The first early Romanesque and Romanesque sacral buildings were raised here, including a stone cathedral that was erected after the bishopric of Kraków was established in the year 1000.

During the reign of Casimir the Restorer (1034-1058) Wawel became a significant political and administrative centre for the Polish State. Casimir’s son, Boleslas the Bold (1058-1079) began the construction of a second Romanesque cathedral, which was finished by Boleslas the Wrymouth (1102-1138). In his last will of 1138, this prince divided Poland into districts, and provided that Kraków was to be the residence of the senior prince. In 1291 the city of Kraków along with Wawel Hill temporarily fell under the Czech rule, and Wenceslas II from the Premysl dynasty was crowned King of Poland in Wawel cathedral.

In 1306 the Duke of Kuyavia Ladislas the Short (1306-1333) entered Wawel and was crowned King of Poland in the Cathedral in 1320. It was the first historically recorded coronation of a Polish ruler on Wawel Hill. Around that time, at the initiative of Ladislas the Short, the construction of the third Gothic cathedral began, the castle was expanded and the old wooden and earthen fortifications were replaced by brick ones. The tomb of Ladislas the Short in the cathedral started a royal necropolis of Polish kings in Krakow.The last descendant of the Piast dynasty, Casimir the Great (1333-1370) brought Wawel to a state of unprecedented splendour. In 1364 the expanded gothic castle witnessed the marriage of Casimir’s granddaughter Elizabeth to Charles IV accompanied by a famous convention of kings and princes, subsequently entertained by a rich burgher Wierzynek. The accession to the throne in 1385 of Jadwiga from the Hungarian dynasty of Andegavens, and her marriage to a Lithuanian prince Ladislas Jagiello (1386-1434) started another era of prosperity for Wawel. The royal court employed local and western European artists and also Rus painters. During the reign of Casimir Jagiellon (1447-1492) the silhouette of the hill was enriched by three high brick towers: the Thieves’ Tower, the Sandomierz Tower and the Senatorial Tower. The first humanists in Poland and tutors to the king’s sons: historian Jan Długosz and an Italian by the name Filippo Buonacorsi (also known as Callimachus) worked there at that time.

The Italian Renaissance arrived at Wawel in the early 16th century. King Alexander (1501-1506) and his brother Sigismund I the Old (1506-1548) commissioned the construction of a new palace in place of the Gothic residence, with an impressive large courtyard with arcaded galleries which was completed about 1540. Sigismund’s patronage also left an indelible impression in the cathedral, where a family chapel was erected, known today as Sigismund’s Chapel - the work of Bartolomeo of Berrecci Florence, and through various foundations, one of which was that of a large bell, called the Sigismund to commemorate the king. Close artistic and cultural relations with Italy were strengthened in 1518 by the king’s marriage to Bona Sforza. Alongside Italian artists, German architects, wood workers, painters and metal smiths worked for the king. The last descendant of the Jagiellonian dynasty, Sigismund II Augustus (1548-1572), enriched the castle’s interiors with a magnificent collection of tapestries woven in Brussels. In the “Golden Age” of Polish culture Wawel became one of the main centres of humanism in Europe.

The reign of Sigismund III Waza (1587-1632) also made a strong impression on the history of Wawel. After a fire in the castle in 1595 the king rebuilt the burned wing of the building in the early Baroque style. The relocation of the royal court to Warsaw was the cause of a slow but nevertheless steady deterioration in the castle’s condition. The monarchs visited Kraków only occasionally. Restoration of the castle was undertaken during the reign of John III Sobieski, the Wettins and Stanislas Augustus to counteract neglect.

After Poland had lost its independence in 1795, the troops of partitioning nations, Russia, Prussia and Austria, subsequently occupied Wawel which finally passed into the hands of the Austrians. The new owners converted the castle and some of the secular buildings into a military hospital, and demolished some others, including churches. After the period of the Free City of Kraków (1815-1846) Wawel was once more annexed by Austria and turned into a citadel dominating the city. By the resolution passed by the Seym of Galicia in 1880, the castle was presented as a residence to the Emperor of Austria Franz Josef I. The Austrian troops left the hill between 1905-1911. At the turn of the 20th century a thorough restoration of the cathedral was conducted, and shortly afterwards a process of restoration of the royal castle began which lasted several decades.

When Poland regained its independence in 1918, the castle served as an official residence of the Head of State, and as a museum of historic interiors. During the Nazi occupation the castle was the residence of the German governor general, Hans Frank. Polish people managed to remove the most valuable objects, including the tapestries and the “Szczerbiec” coronation sword to Canada, from where they returned as late as 1959-1961. At present, the main curators of Wawel are Wawel Royal Castle – State Art Collection and the Metropolitan Basilica Board on Wawel Hill.