Einsiedeln Abbey was granted farms at Pfäffikon along with surrounding land along Lake Zurich by Emperor Otto I in 965. Soon thereafter the abbot built a large granary in Pfäffikon. Between 1233 and 1266 Abbot Anshelm von Schwanden replaced the old granary with stone tower which was designed as a watch tower, granary and residence. In 1299 the Prince-Abbot Johann von Schwanden added walls, ramparts and a moat to the tower during the Marchenstreit conflict between the Schwyz and the Abbey over grazing rights. On the night of Epiphany in 1314 a mob from Schwyz attacked the Abbey attempting to destroy the land and tax records. They hoped to destroy any records of the Abbey's counterclaims to the Schwyz grazing rights. However, the Abbot, perhaps anticipating the attack, had already moved himself and the important documents to Pfäffikon Castle.
By 1359 the castle was being used as the Abbot's summer residence as well as for its original purposes. In the 15th century Abbot Burkard von Weissenburg-Krenkingen (1418-1438) expanded the castle and changed its name to Weissenburg. He built a residential wing on one side of the tower and a chapel on the other. In 1480 the election of a new Abbot for the Abbey took place at Pfäffikon. In 1528 the castle was renovated and the walls and moat were repaired. Abbot Joachim Eichhorn (1544-1569) built a new Gothic chapel and expanded the granary in the castle. In 1577 a fire destroyed much of the Abbey and the village of Einsiedeln. The monks and villagers moved to the Castle for 7 months until the Abbey and their homes were repaired. Around 1760 Eichhorn's granary expansion was demolished and replaced with another residential wing. In 1785 the Gothic chapel was renovated in the Baroque style.
Following the 1798 French invasion and the creation of the Helvetic Republic Pfäffikon Castle was heavily damaged and declared the property of the Canton of Linth. Following the collapse of the Republic and the 1803 Act of Mediation the castle was returned to the Abbey and once again became religious property. In 1820 the remainder of the curtain wall was demolished while the tower, chapel and residential wings were rebuilt. In 1839 the rotten tower roof and overhand were replaced with the current roof. In 1928 the chapel was renovated and in 1986-88 the chapel, tower and moat were repaired and renovated. Today the castle and its restaurant are available for conferences, piano concerts, meetings and events, while the residential wings are used for municipal administration.
The main tower is a square 12.3 meters on each side and 13 m tall. The walls are made of massive stone blocks and are 2.3 m thick at the base, tapering to 1.4 m thick on the top floor. The main entrance is located on the west side of the first floor and was reached by a wooden staircase that could be pulled up if needed. The second story was built as a large living area and included large windows with built in seating that overlooked the lake. The third story was also probably used as living quarters. The tower was probably originally topped with a wooden structure that overhung the stone walls, before it was replaced with the current roof.
In the 15th century a two-story fortification was built near the tower and protected with a series of moats. In the 16th century, however, it was demolished and replaced with the current chapel. The moats were filled in and today only the main moat remains.
The chapel has a rectangular nave with a small polygonal choir. The portal is Gothic, while the interior was decorated in the Baroque style in 1780-85, which was partly replaced in 1893-95. The stucco is Neo-classical while the wall murals are from the late 19th century. The mahogany altars were built by Father Rudolf Blättler in 1892.References:
The Château d'Olhain is probably the most famous castle of the Artois region. It is located in the middle of a lake which reflects its picturesque towers and curtain walls. It was also a major stronghold for the Artois in medieval times and testimony to the power of the Olhain family, first mentioned from the 12th century.
The existence of the castle was known early in the 13th century, but the present construction is largely the work of Jean de Nielles, who married Marie d’Olhain at the end of the 15th century.
The marriage of Alix Nielles to Jean de Berghes, Grand Veneur de France (master of hounds) to the King, meant the castle passed to this family, who kept it for more than 450 years. Once confiscated by Charles Quint, it suffered during the wars that ravaged the Artois. Besieged in 1641 by the French, it was partly demolished by the Spaniards in 1654, and finally blown-up and taken by the Dutch in 1710. Restored in 1830, it was abandoned after 1870, and sold by the last Prince of Berghes in 1900. There is also evidence that one of the castles occupants was related to Charles de Batz-Castelmore d'Artagnan, the person Alexandre Dumas based his Three Musketeers charictor d'Artagnan on.
During the World War I and World War II, the castle was requisitioned first by French troops, then Canadian and British soldiers. The current owner has restored the castle to its former glory.