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.
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.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.