Aarburg Castle is located high above the town Aarburg on a steep, rocky hillside. The castle was built around a medieval castle, which controlled the narrow point on the Aare river and served as the seat of Aarburg Vogt. Today it houses the Kantonale Jugendheim, for holding and rehabilitating juvenile offenders.
The exact year of construction of the castle is not known. However, it was probably built around 1200 by the Lords of Büron. The building was mentioned at the beginning of the 13th Century, in the possession of the Counts of Frohburg. The Vogtei (a bailiff or vogt was an overlord exerting guardianship or military protection as well as secular justice over a certain territory) was created to better control and monitor the important north-south trade route over the Aare River. Together with the Vogt's seat, the high court was also held at the castle. The administration area included the western part of today's District Zofingen, but without the city of Zofingen. In 1299 the Frohburgs sold the castle and the entire Vogtei to the Habsburgs. After about 1330 the Family von Kriech, a lower nobility family in the service of the Habsburgs, lived in the castle.
On 20 April 1415, the castle fell after a brief siege by the town of Bern. The Bernese took over the lower and the high court. Starting in 1416 a Bernese bailiff resided in the castle. The bailiff managed the entire Bernese Aargau. Only later, once Bern had suppressed the rights of the nobility and the clergy, additional bailiwicks were added: Lenzburg (1442), Schenkenberg (1460), Biberstein (1499) Zofingen (1528), Königsfelden (1528) and Kasteln (1732).
The castle was extended in several stages, the first was the rebuilding of the palace in 1470. Subsequent modifications in the 16th century (1534/35) and especially in the 17th Century (1621, 1659–1673) led to the creation of the huge baroque structure. Its purpose was to protect the connection between the Protestant towns of Bern and Zurich at the narrowest point of the Bernese dominion and thus complicate any attacks from Catholic neighbors. From 1666, the fortress was occupied continuously by a garrison, the Governor was now at the same commander. One part of the fortress served as a prison, especially for political prisoners. The best known prisoner is Jacques-Barthélemy Micheli du Crest. On 10 March 1798, the castle fell without a fight to the French Army.
In 1804, the newly created Canton of Aargau took over the castle. Initially it served as an arsenal and barracks, then from 1826 to 1864 as a prison before it was left abandoned. The Cantonal Parliament decided in 1891 to establish an 'institution for juvenile criminals and scoundrels' in the castle. Opened in 1893, compulsory education institution was the first of its kind in Switzerland.
On the narrow, elongated ridge, the core of the castle was built. This core consisted of a keep and a tower house from the 13th Century. The keep's walls are 3 to 3.5 metres thick, and consist entirely of limestone. The bottom floor has been carved directly from the rock. The tent-like roof was built in 1557. In 1621/22 the castle grew toward the south, with an additional living area and stair tower. On the northeast and west side are the large, heavily fortified buildings. The cell block on the south side was replaced in 1954/55 by a house for the educational staff, but it was built in harmony with the historic buildings.References:
The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.
The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.
The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.
The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.
Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.
At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.
In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.