Tourbillon Castle

Sion, Switzerland

Tourbillon Castle was built sometime between 1290 and 1308 by the Bishop of Sion, Boniface de Challant, as his principal residence. After Boniface died in 1308, his successor Aymon II de Châtillon probably finished the castle. In 1352 the Upper Valais revolted against Bishop Guichard Tavel. Led by Peter de la Tour, in November of that year, they marched on Sion, burned the town and unsuccessfully besieged the castle. In 1373, the Prince-Bishop bought Majorie Castle and moved his residence off the rocky spire. However, Bishop Tavel was not able to enjoy his new palace for long. In 1375 he was captured and murdered by rebels led by Peter's son, Anton de la Tour, in 1375.

Tourbillon became the Prince-Bishop's summer residence and remained a visible symbol of secular and ecclesiastical power. In 1384 a group of rebels attacked Sion and captured Tourbillon and Majoria. Bishop Eduard of Savoy had to request soldiers from Count Amadeus VII of Savoy and Bern to retake his castles.

A large part of the castle was destroyed during the Raron affair in 1417 and Bishop Wilhelm V of Raron had to flee to Bern. The castle was then rebuilt in the 1440s to 1450s by Bishop Guillaume VI of Raron. As part of the reconstruction, the chapel was repaired and painted with Gothic frescoes which are still visible. It remained the administrative center of the diocese but in later centuries the military importance of the castle decreased. On 24 May 1788, a gigantic fire in Sion reduced the castle to ashes. The Bishop planned to rebuilt Tourbillon, but the revolutions sweeping through Europe ended the plans. The castle was excavated and restored in the 20th century.

Castle site

The castle ruins are located on a rocky spire above the city of Sion. Reaching the site requires climbing steep stairs that wind around the hill. The castle is surrounded by a ring wall that follows the irregular top of the spire. On the west side of the complex is a pentagonal fortified building. The 15th century chapel is located in the south-east corner. The chapel's frescoes are still intact despite the fire that destroyed the castle. A slender watch tower still stands in this corner as well. The southern wall is fortified with a square gate house. The keep is rectangular and many of the interior walls still stand.

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Details

Founded: 1290-1308
Category: Castles and fortifications in Switzerland

Rating

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Sílvia Santos (11 months ago)
The guided tour was amazing and Cèdric is such an amazing host. It was an amazing hour walking around,listening to the stories of many centuries ago and entering every hidden corner. Super worth the small hike up the castle. The views are absolutely amazing as well.
Andrei Barcan (11 months ago)
Beautiful view of the city! We didn't catch the guided tours but it was still amazing. Be ready for ~15 min of up hill walking on steps and rocky paths :)
Kimberly S (13 months ago)
Beautiful view of the valley. Be prepared for the hike up, but completely worth it. Many thanks to Cedric who offered us a personalized tour. The tour was one of the best we've been on, and it was great to see the places that are otherwise off limits!
D D (13 months ago)
Magnificent piece of medieval architecture. Highly recommend to visit with a guided tour of the castle which is available few times a day. Special thanks goes to Cedric who made this tour an inspiration for an entire family (not to mention monopolised an attention of our son - world record). Thanks a million and again, highly recommended especially for scenery and history parts. Lausanne family
David Elizondo (14 months ago)
Unexpected history gem. Cedric, who lives there, gave us an insider tour into the chapel and up the tower. Worth the hike with great views over one of the oldest Swiss towns.
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