Chillon Castle is an island castle located on Lake Geneva. It is situated at the eastern end of the lake, on the narrow shore between Montreux and Villeneuve, which gives access to the Alpine valley of the Rhone. Chillon is amongst the most visited castles in Switzerland and Europe.

Chillon began as a Roman outpost, guarding the strategic road through the Alpine passes. The later history of Chillon was influenced by three major periods: the Savoy Period, the Bernese Period, and the Vaudois Period.

The first written mention of the castle appears in 1150. At that time, the Counts of Savoy controlled the fort, as well as the path between the lake and the mountains. From the 13th century onwards, the castle was extended, and under Pierre II of Savoy, it became the summer residence of the Counts. Little by little, the Chillon Castle started to be neglected as the court of Savoy favored other castles.

The Swiss, or more precisely, the Bernese, conquered the Pays de Vaud as well as Chillon castle in 1536. Under the Counts of Savoy, the castle was divided into two parts, one for the castellan bailiff, and the other for the Counts, when they resided at Chillon. This division was no longer useful, and the Bernese took possession of all the space in the castle. Concerning the defensive aspects, the fortress was adapted to the then new firearms. In 1733, the bailiffs left the castle, which had become isolated and uncomfortable, and moved on to a more modern residence in Vevey.

The patriots of Vevey and Montreux occupied the fortress in January 1798. The castle became national property during the Vaudois Revolution, and belongs since then to the Canton of Vaud, from the date of its foundation in 1803. This old building was first used to stock weapons and ammunitions, and as a State prison. The medieval fortress attracted the Romantics. During his visit in 1816, Lord Byron, the British poet, found inspiration in the story of Chillon inmate François Bonivard to write his poem The Prisoner of Chillon, which made the castle famous. Many other artists were fascinated by Chillon and the landscape over which it towers.

Today, Chillon is currently open to the public for visits and tours. Inside the castle there are several recreations of the interiors of some of the main rooms including the grand bedroom, hall, and cave stores. Inside the castle itself there are four great halls, three courtyards, and a series of bedrooms open to the public. One of the oldest is the Camera domini, which was a room occupied by the Duke of Savoy - it is decorated with 14th Century medieval murals.

References:

Comments

Your name

Website (optional)



Details

Founded: 12th century
Category: Castles and fortifications in Switzerland

Rating

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Powered by Google

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.