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

Sanket patil (15 months ago)
To get the best view of Sion, its a must visit place.. You get to see the landscapes of vineyards that are on the mountains.. and the castles are so well built... It takes around 20minutes from city center to reach top. Rocky Stairs before the main gate of old castle are quite slippery, so stay careful Must visit place
Ben (15 months ago)
Not immediately obvious how to get there from the Google map instructions (brought us to the wrong side). Get directions for Valais History Museum and walk up. Neat little castle, a tour guide was available to discuss the area. Background music was playing.
jeremy terry (15 months ago)
Short hike but fairly steep and uneven trail, but it leads to a beautiful view and a great place for a picnic
Andrew Howarth (17 months ago)
Can be seen from 50km away and lit up beautifully every evening. Walk through Sion old town and and then up to the ruins. Amazing views both directions down the Rhone Valley. Free entrance and well worth the hike!!
Arian Kulp (2 years ago)
Great place! Lots to see. There's some steep climbing to get to the top (not hiking, all paths, fine if you are in moderately good shape). The castle is definitely in ruins, but there's a lot of structure left to see. The chapel is amazing looking with some intact frescoes still visible on the walls. Lots of great views to the surrounding countryside. Very peaceful. Take a lunch with you and have an amazing picnic!
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