Belmont Castle was built in the 10th or 11th century for the Freiherr von Belmont. The first recorded member of the family was Lutefridus de Belmonte in 1137/39. The Belmont family was related to a number of other Raetian noble families including the powerful von Vaz. By the 13th century they were one of the most powerful families in Graubünden. They owned castles and villages throughout the region. Konrad von Belmont was the Bishop of Chur from 1273 until 1282. In 1267 Heinrich von Belmont was the first student from Raetia to study at University of Bologna. By 1200 the Belmonts appear to have moved to another castle near Castrischand then to Tuma Casti by Domat/Ems, probably leaving a bailiff or vogt at Belmont.

In 1352 Ulrich Walter von Belmont led a successful uprising against the Counts of Werdenberg-Heiligenberg. Together with the armies of the Montalt and the Rhäzüns families they defeated a Werdenberg-Heiligenberg army at Mundaun near Ilanz. In retaliation, soon thereafter, a Werdenberg army burned Ilanz to the ground. It is unknown whether Belmont Castle was also attacked and destroyed or was bypassed, but by the late 14th century it had fallen into ruins. On 11 July 1371 Ulrich Walter von Belmont died childless and the Belmont lands were inherited by the Montalt and Sax-Misox families. In 1380 the Sax-Misox family traded the ruins of Belmont Castle as well as other lands to Brun von Rhäzüns. After the trade the castle remained abandoned and continued to disintegrate. From 1932 through 1936 the ruins were excavated and repaired.

Castle site

The castle was built near the, now abandoned and vanished, Walser village of Fidaz near Flims. It was built on a rocky spire with sheer cliffs on the north and east sides. Very little is known about the construction history and layout of the castle. However, there were two semi-circular ring wall that wrapped around the east, north and north-west sides of the peak with the inner one built first followed by the outer later. The walls connected at least three buildings. The central and eastern building were probably residences. In the center of the half-circle is a 5.7 meters deep cistern. On the southern side of the castle is a smaller rocky peak that stands about 8 m above the castle and has a flat top that is about 10 m × 30 m. No stone ruins have been found on the small peak, so it was probably topped with one or more wooden buildings.

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Founded: 10th century
Category: Castles and fortifications in Switzerland

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Quimper Cathedral

From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.

The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.

At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.

The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.

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Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).

The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.

At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».

The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.