Standing on a marked, rocky promontory, Ussel castle overlooks the south side of the residential area of Châtillon. Built by Ebalo II of Challant in the mid-14th century, the castle marks a change in Valdostan fortress architecture. Indeed, it is the first single body castle in Val d’Aosta, which was the last evolutionary phase of medieval castles, and marked the passage between the contemporary castle in Fénis and the rigid forms in Verrès. Having passed on numerous occasions from the Challants to the Savoys and vice versa, the castle then became a prison, until it was abandoned completely. Having bought the castle from the Passerin d’Entrèves family, heirs to the Challants, in 1983 Baron Marcel Bich donated it to the regional authority, which restored it and earmarked it as an exhibition centre.
With a large, rectangular layout, the castle is an example of good masonry that culminates in blind arcades, not present on the north side, and beautiful mullioned windows each different from the next, with floral and geometric decorations. The corners on the south side (facing the mountain) have two round towers, which were originally connected via a walkway, protected by battlements. The south side also has an entrance with an overhead machicolation. The north side, which faces Châtillon, has two four-sided towers, with a slightly projecting watchtower in between, a symbolic element of feudal power.
The monumental fireplaces remain, with large shelves placed on the same ascending line, exploiting a single flue, and traces of the stairs and floor divisions.Before restoration work began, the manor was mostly in ruins; however a precise archaeological assessment enabled identification and reintegration of the missing parts. A picturesque walkway was added along the battlement, where visitors can admire the Châtillon plain and its historic buildings.
The castle host exhibitions and it’s open only when exhibitions take place in it.References:
The Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg is situated in a strategic area on a rocky spur overlooking the Upper Rhine Plain, it was used by successive powers from the Middle Ages until the Thirty Years' War when it was abandoned. From 1900 to 1908 it was rebuilt at the behest of the German kaiser Wilhelm II. Today it is a major tourist site, attracting more than 500,000 visitors a year.
The first records of a castle built by the Hohenstaufens date back to 1147. The fortress changed its name to Koenigsburg (royal castle) around 1157. The castle was handed over to the Tiersteins by the Habsburgs following its destruction in 1462. They rebuilt and enlarged it, installing a defensive system designed to withstand artillery fire.
The fortification work accomplished over the 15th century did not suffice to keep the Swedish artillery at bay during the Thirty Years War, and the defences were overrun.