Hohenrätien Castle was built on a rock wall that rises 250 m above the Viamala river and the important roads over the San Bernardino and Splügen Passes. The area was inhabited during the Bronze and Iron Ages. During the Roman era the current castle site was a religious site and by the 4th or 5th century there was a church on the site. It is unknown whether the church was originally built as a Christian church or was a temple to Mithras that was converted into a church. By the 5th century a baptistery had been added and it was known as the Church of St. John. The church remained in operation over the next 1000 years. It was the parish church for the left side of the Rhine river until 1500. A first ring wall was probably added around the same time.

By the High Middle Ages the church was the center of a large parish and was also used as a refuge from attack. A number of fortifications were built in the 11th century for the parish vogt. They included a two-story stone house which eventually became the main tower, repairs and expansion of the outer ring wall and may have included the south-east tower and the priest's tower. In the 13th century the main tower was expanded and surrounded with an inner wall. Storage and work shops were added around the tower. This inner castle became known as Hochrialt, possibly connected with the Lords of Rialt who first appeared in 1170 at Niederrialt Castle in Cazis. Despite the expansion of the 13th century, much of the castle was abandoned at the beginning of the 14th. Possibly an earthquake in 1295 may have damaged the castle enough to make it uninhabitable. Another theory is that the castle needed a nearby town to support it and the lack of water combined with a drop in traffic over the Viamala road led to the town and then the castle being abandoned. After the castle was abandoned, the bishop's representatives left the priest's tower and moved to Fürstenau Castle

In the 14th century the Rialt family apparently died out. Around the same time, in 1359, the patronage rights over the church were granted to Cazis Priory. In 1410 a register of church property recorded that Hoch-Rialt was an abandoned fortress. At some point in the late 14th or early 15th century the south-east was destroyed in a fire. In 1473 the communities of Thusis, Masein and Cazis agreed to build a road on the other side of the river which completely bypassed Hohenrätien and removed any motivation to rebuild. In 1480 the castle ruins were inherited by the Jecklin family. The priest's tower continued to be the home of the parish priest until 1505 when the last priest left. In 1573 the name Hohenrätien was first given to the castle by a humanist scribe who tried to connect the castle to Raetus, the legendary ancestor of the Rhaetian people. In 1581 the von Hohenrealta family inherited the castle and surrounding lands.

In the late 19th century a project to build an aerial tramway from Thusis to Hohenrätien was considered, but not built. However, developers built an alpine restaurant in an arched roof basement in the castle ruins. It remained in operation until 1914 and traces of the restaurant are still visible today. In 1973 the Hohenrealta family foundation began working with cantonal authorities and local volunteers to restore and excavate the castle. In more than a dozen stages roofs were built over the buildings and the towers were cleaned and reinforced. Archaeological excavations in 1997 and 2001 explored the Roman and early medieval ruins around the castle site. Today, the church, baptistry and castle can be rented for a variety of events.

Castle site

The Inner Castle is on the south western side of the ridge. In the center of the castle is the main tower, which has a cistern on the ground floor that could hold about 30,000 l. The second story was used for storing supplies. The main entrance and reception hall was on the third story, along with a large fireplace and a latrine. The fourth story was a single, large bedroom. The modern renovations of the tower changed the interior, while leaving the exterior unchanged. The tower was roofed over with a glass roof. Wooden platforms were built around the walls at the same height as the original floor, though the center was left open to allow light into the entire tower.

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Founded: 11th century
Category: Castles and fortifications in Switzerland

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Wawel Castle

Wawel Hill – a Jurassic limestone rock, a dominant feature in the landscape of Kraków, have provided a safe haven for people who have settled here since the Paleolithic Age. It is supposed that the Slav people started living on Wawel hill as early as the 7th century. Early medieval legends tell stories about a dreadful dragon that lived in a cave on Wawel Hill, about his slayer Krakus, and about the latter’s daughter Wanda, who drowned herself in the Vistula rather than marry a German knight. Towards the end of the first millennium A.D Wawel began to play the role of the centre of political power.In the 9th century it became the principal fortified castrum of the Vislane tribe. The first historical ruler of Poland, Miesco I (c.965-992) of the Piast dynasty as well as his successors: Boleslas the Brave (992-1025) and Miesco II (1025-1034) chose Wawel Hill as one of their residences.

At that time Wawel became one of the main Polish centres of Christianity. The first early Romanesque and Romanesque sacral buildings were raised here, including a stone cathedral that was erected after the bishopric of Kraków was established in the year 1000.

During the reign of Casimir the Restorer (1034-1058) Wawel became a significant political and administrative centre for the Polish State. Casimir’s son, Boleslas the Bold (1058-1079) began the construction of a second Romanesque cathedral, which was finished by Boleslas the Wrymouth (1102-1138). In his last will of 1138, this prince divided Poland into districts, and provided that Kraków was to be the residence of the senior prince. In 1291 the city of Kraków along with Wawel Hill temporarily fell under the Czech rule, and Wenceslas II from the Premysl dynasty was crowned King of Poland in Wawel cathedral.

In 1306 the Duke of Kuyavia Ladislas the Short (1306-1333) entered Wawel and was crowned King of Poland in the Cathedral in 1320. It was the first historically recorded coronation of a Polish ruler on Wawel Hill. Around that time, at the initiative of Ladislas the Short, the construction of the third Gothic cathedral began, the castle was expanded and the old wooden and earthen fortifications were replaced by brick ones. The tomb of Ladislas the Short in the cathedral started a royal necropolis of Polish kings in Krakow.The last descendant of the Piast dynasty, Casimir the Great (1333-1370) brought Wawel to a state of unprecedented splendour. In 1364 the expanded gothic castle witnessed the marriage of Casimir’s granddaughter Elizabeth to Charles IV accompanied by a famous convention of kings and princes, subsequently entertained by a rich burgher Wierzynek. The accession to the throne in 1385 of Jadwiga from the Hungarian dynasty of Andegavens, and her marriage to a Lithuanian prince Ladislas Jagiello (1386-1434) started another era of prosperity for Wawel. The royal court employed local and western European artists and also Rus painters. During the reign of Casimir Jagiellon (1447-1492) the silhouette of the hill was enriched by three high brick towers: the Thieves’ Tower, the Sandomierz Tower and the Senatorial Tower. The first humanists in Poland and tutors to the king’s sons: historian Jan Długosz and an Italian by the name Filippo Buonacorsi (also known as Callimachus) worked there at that time.

The Italian Renaissance arrived at Wawel in the early 16th century. King Alexander (1501-1506) and his brother Sigismund I the Old (1506-1548) commissioned the construction of a new palace in place of the Gothic residence, with an impressive large courtyard with arcaded galleries which was completed about 1540. Sigismund’s patronage also left an indelible impression in the cathedral, where a family chapel was erected, known today as Sigismund’s Chapel - the work of Bartolomeo of Berrecci Florence, and through various foundations, one of which was that of a large bell, called the Sigismund to commemorate the king. Close artistic and cultural relations with Italy were strengthened in 1518 by the king’s marriage to Bona Sforza. Alongside Italian artists, German architects, wood workers, painters and metal smiths worked for the king. The last descendant of the Jagiellonian dynasty, Sigismund II Augustus (1548-1572), enriched the castle’s interiors with a magnificent collection of tapestries woven in Brussels. In the “Golden Age” of Polish culture Wawel became one of the main centres of humanism in Europe.

The reign of Sigismund III Waza (1587-1632) also made a strong impression on the history of Wawel. After a fire in the castle in 1595 the king rebuilt the burned wing of the building in the early Baroque style. The relocation of the royal court to Warsaw was the cause of a slow but nevertheless steady deterioration in the castle’s condition. The monarchs visited Kraków only occasionally. Restoration of the castle was undertaken during the reign of John III Sobieski, the Wettins and Stanislas Augustus to counteract neglect.

After Poland had lost its independence in 1795, the troops of partitioning nations, Russia, Prussia and Austria, subsequently occupied Wawel which finally passed into the hands of the Austrians. The new owners converted the castle and some of the secular buildings into a military hospital, and demolished some others, including churches. After the period of the Free City of Kraków (1815-1846) Wawel was once more annexed by Austria and turned into a citadel dominating the city. By the resolution passed by the Seym of Galicia in 1880, the castle was presented as a residence to the Emperor of Austria Franz Josef I. The Austrian troops left the hill between 1905-1911. At the turn of the 20th century a thorough restoration of the cathedral was conducted, and shortly afterwards a process of restoration of the royal castle began which lasted several decades.

When Poland regained its independence in 1918, the castle served as an official residence of the Head of State, and as a museum of historic interiors. During the Nazi occupation the castle was the residence of the German governor general, Hans Frank. Polish people managed to remove the most valuable objects, including the tapestries and the “Szczerbiec” coronation sword to Canada, from where they returned as late as 1959-1961. At present, the main curators of Wawel are Wawel Royal Castle – State Art Collection and the Metropolitan Basilica Board on Wawel Hill.