Verrès Castle has been called one of the most impressive buildings from the Middle Ages in the Aosta Valley. Built as a military fortress by Yblet de Challant in the 14th century, it was one of the first examples of a castle constructed as a single structure rather than as a series of buildings enclosed in a circuit wall. The castle stands on a rocky promonitory on the opposite side of the Dora Baltea from Issogne Castle. The castle dominates the town of Verrès and the access to the Val d'Ayas. From the outside it looks like an austere cube, thirty metres long on each side and practically free of decorative elements.
The earliest documents attesting the existence of a castle at Verrès date to 1287. At that time, control of the area was contested between the Bishop of Aosta and some noble families which were vassals of the Counts of Savoy.
Around the middle of the 14th century, the De Verretio became extinct without leaving any possible heirs, so their property came into the possession of the counts of Savoy, who granted it to Yblet de Challant in 1372 as a reward for diverse duties discharged in their service.
Yblet entirely rebuilt the castle, producing a fortress that was practically impenetrable and distinct from most of the contemporary castles of the region which consisted of a number of buildings surrounded by a circuit wall.
In 1536 the fortress was renovated to take account of the appearance of firearms. The base of the cubic structure was surrounded by a circuit wall with counterforts and polygonal turrets, adapted to cope with cannons and equipped with pieces of artillery. The cannons were brought from Switzerland.
Hovewere, Verrès was abandoned in 1661 after the powerful Fort Bard was built. After a series of transfers it was finally acquired in 1894 by the Italian state which carried out restoration work.
In 2004 the castle was closed to allow strengthening and adjustment of the structure. Since then was reopened and has been open to guided tours.References:
German crusaders known as the Livonian Brothers of the Sword began construction of the Cēsis castle (Wenden) near the hill fort in 1209. When the castle was enlarged and fortified, it served as the residence for the Order's Master from 1237 till 1561, with periodic interruptions. Its ruins are some of the most majestic castle ruins in the Baltic states. Once the most important castle of the Livonian Order, it was the official residence for the masters of the order.
In 1577, during the Livonian War, the garrison destroyed the castle to prevent it from falling into the control of Ivan the Terrible, who was decisively defeated in the Battle of Wenden (1578).
In 1598 it was incorporated into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Wenden Voivodship was created here. In 1620 Wenden was conquered by Sweden. It was rebuilt afterwards, but was destroyed again in 1703 during the Great Northern War by the Russian army and left in a ruined state. Already from the end of the 16th century, the premises of the Order's castle were adjusted to the requirements of the Cēsis Castle estate. When in 1777 the Cēsis Castle estate was obtained by Count Carl Sievers, he had his new residence house built on the site of the eastern block of the castle, joining its end wall with the fortification tower.
Since 1949, the Cēsis History Museum has been located in this New Castle of the Cēsis Castle estate. The front yard of the New Castle is enclosed by a granary and a stable-coach house, which now houses the Exhibition Hall of the Museum. Beside the granary there is the oldest brewery in Latvia, Cēsu alus darītava, which was built in 1878 during the later Count Sievers' time, but its origins date back to the period of the Livonian Order. Further on, the Cēsis Castle park is situated, which was laid out in 1812. The park has the romantic characteristic of that time, with its winding footpaths, exotic plants, and the waters of the pond reflecting the castle's ruins. Nowadays also one of the towers is open for tourists.