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.

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

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