Marschlins Castle was built in the 13th century, though there may have been 11th or 12th century castles on the site and local legend claims it dates back to the Carolingian era. However, the 13th century castle was probably built for the Bishop of Chur. The castle is built in the Savoyard style, a square castle with corner towers, one of which is enlarged to serve as the donjon. This style of castle is unique in Graubünden and how the design was imported is unknown. One theory for a Savoy connection is that between 1233 and 1237 the Bishop of Chur was Ulrich IV of Kyburg whose brother Hartmann IV was married to Margarethe of Savoy.

The castle was first mentioned on 12 May 1324 as the death place of the knight Jacob von Marmels. In 1336 the Bishop and Count Ulrich von Montfort were quarreling over the castle, which was decided by the courts in the Bishop's favor. However, in the following year he granted the castle as a fief to Duke Albert II of Austria. The Austrian duke granted it to several of his knights, until on 3 October 1354 it was granted to the Counts of Toggenburg in exchange for their support against Zürich and the Old Swiss Confederation. After the death of the last Count of Toggenburg, Frederick VII, in 1436 the fief passed back to the Austrians who granted it to the Brandis family to hold for the Bishop of Chur. In 1442 they used the castle as collateral for a loan from Heinrich von Sigberg. In 1460 the castle was partly destroyed in a fire. Because of the complex ownership (owned by the Bishop of Chur, granted as a fief to the Brandis family, collateral to the Sigberg family), a quarrel broke out between the Brandis and Sigberg families over the cost of repairs. A mediator from the Three Leagues determined that the Brandis family needed to repay the loan and that the repair costs would be shared equally.

In 1462 the Duke of Austria acquired the castle and estates from the Bishop of Chur and sold it to Ulrich von Brandis, who began rebuilding. In 1467 the duke expanded the estates attached to Marschlins by adding Malans, Untervaz and Valzeina. In 1498 the Brandis family began trying to sell the castle and estates, but the outbreak of the Swabian War in the following year broke the deal. After the war, in 1509, they pawned the castle to Ulrich Goeldin and in 1518 the Gugelberg family bought it outright. Around 1600 the moat was drained. In 1633 it was acquired by a branch of the Salis family, who adopted the name Salis-Marschlins. Two years later Ulysses Salis began renovating the castle and turned it from a more military fortification into an elegant house with a french garden. In 1771 the bell tower on the chapel was added. From 1771 until 1777 the castle became a philanthropinist school. Later, it was a tobacco factory and a silk spinning mill. After the French invasion of Switzerland the castle became an army camp. A total of about 10,000 soldiers and 3,000 horse passed through the castle between March 1799 and December 1800.

In 1905 the Salis family had the castle rebuilt under the guidance of the architect Eugen Probst. Probst, the controversial founder of the Schweizerischer Burgenverein, made little effort to preserve the historic structures or preserve the medieval appearance of Marschlins. An additional floor was added to the tower and many new windows were added. Today the castle is still privately owned.

Castle site

The castle is surrounded by two moats which were filled with water during the middle ages. Originally the moats were spanned with a drawbridge, which was replaced with a stone bridge in the 17th century. It is rectangular and about 34 m × 39 m in size. Each corner has a round tower with the 11 m in diameter south tower being the largest and main tower. The other three towers are 8.7 m in diameter. The oldest residence building in the castle is on the north side. The current triumphal arch like gate is in the center of the western wall, but was originally further south. In the courtyard is a cannon from the Salis regiment from 1676.

There are three highly decorated, 17th century furnished rooms in the castle. The Marschallstübli was built around 1633 and features richly carved paneling with inlaid marquetry and a carved wooden coffered ceiling. The tile stovewas built in 1638 by the Pfau workshop and the cabinets decorated with the alliance arms of Heinrich Hirzel-Yolanda von Salis are from 1674. The Offiziersstube was completed in 1638 and is paneled in stone pine. The coffered ceiling is decorated with a carved Salis coat of arms. A Steckborn oven from the first half of the 18th century warmed the room. The third room, the Goldene Stübli in the north-east tower was completed around 1670. The carved paneling is painted with hunting scenes. The coffered roof is decorated with 43 constellations and the four winds. The room is decorated with a collection of gothic sculptures. The chapel was built in the main tower in 1771. The interior is decorated with paintings of the Four Evangelists from the mid-17th century and with stained glass from the same era.

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Founded: 13th century
Category: Castles and fortifications in Switzerland

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The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a baroque French château built between 1658-1661 for Nicolas Fouquet. It was made for Marquis de Belle Île, Viscount of Melun and Vaux, the superintendent of finances of Louis XIV, the château was an influential work of architecture in mid-17th century Europe. At Vaux-le-Vicomte, the architect Louis Le Vau, the landscape architect André le Nôtre, and the painter-decorator Charles Le Brun worked together on a large-scale project for the first time. Their collaboration marked the beginning of the 'Louis XIV style' combining architecture, interior design and landscape design. The garden's pronounced visual axis is an example of this style.

To secure the necessary grounds for the elaborate plans for Vaux-le-Vicomte’s garden and castle, Fouquet purchased and demolished three villages. The displaced villagers were then employed in the upkeep and maintenance of the gardens. It was said to have employed eighteen thousand workers and cost as much as 16 million livres. The château and its patron became for a short time a focus for fine feasts, literature and arts. The poet La Fontaine and the playwright Molière were among the artists close to Fouquet. At the inauguration of Vaux-le-Vicomte, a Molière play was performed, along with a dinner event organized by François Vatel, and an impressive firework show.

After Fouquet was arrested and imprisoned for life, and his wife exiled, Vaux-le-Vicomte was placed under sequestration. The king seized, confiscated or purchased 120 tapestries, the statues, and all the orange trees from Vaux-le-Vicomte. He then sent the team of artists (Le Vau, Le Nôtre and Le Brun) to design what would be a much larger project than Vaux-le-Vicomte, the palace and gardens of Versailles.

The Marshal Villars became the new owner without first seeing the chateau. In 1764, the Marshal's son sold the estate to the Duke of Praslin, whose descendants would maintain the property for over a century. It is sometimes mistakenly reported that the château was the scene of a murder in 1847, when duke Charles de Choiseul-Praslin, killed his wife in her bedroom, but this did not happen at Vaux-le-Vicomte but at the Paris residence of the Duke.

In 1875, after thirty years of neglect, the estate was sold to Alfred Sommier in a public auction. The château was empty, some of the outbuildings had fallen into ruin, and the famous gardens were totally overgrown. The huge task of restoration and refurbishment began under the direction of the architect Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur, assisted by the landscape architect Elie Lainé. When Sommier died in 1908, the château and the gardens had recovered their original appearance. His son, Edme Sommier, and his daughter-in-law completed the task. Today, his descendants continue to preserve the château, which remains privately owned by Patrice and Cristina de Vogüé, the Count and Countess de Vogüé. It is now administered by their three sons Alexandre, Jean-Charles and Ascanio de Vogüé. Recognized by the state as a monument historique, it is open to the public regularly.

Architecture

The chateau is situated near the northern end of a 1.5-km long north-south axis with the entrance front facing north. Its elevations are perfectly symmetrical to either side of this axis. Somewhat surprisingly the interior plan is also nearly completely symmetrical with few differences between the eastern and western halves. The two rooms in the center, the entrance vestibule to the north and the oval salon to the south, were originally an open-air loggia, dividing the chateau into two distinct sections. The interior decoration of these two rooms was therefore more typical of an outdoor setting. Three sets of three arches, those on the entrance front, three more between the vestibule and the salon, and the three leading from the salon to the garden are all aligned and permitted the arriving visitor to see through to the central axis of the garden even before entering the chateau. The exterior arches could be closed with iron gates, and only later were they filled in with glass doors and the interior arches with mirrored doors. Since the loggia divided the building into two halves, there are two symmetrical staircases on either side of it, rather than a single staircase. The rooms in the eastern half of the house were intended for the use of the king, those in the western were for Fouquet. The provision of a suite of rooms for the king was normal practice in aristocratic houses of the time, since the king travelled frequently.

Another surprising feature of the plan is the thickness of the main body of the building (corps de logis), which consists of two rows of rooms running east and west. Traditionally the middle of the corps de logis of French chateaux consisted of a single row of rooms. Double-thick corps de logis had already been used in hôtels particuliers in Paris, including Le Vau's Hôtel Tambonneau, but Vaux was the first chateau to incorporate this change. Even more unusual, the main rooms are all on the ground floor rather than the first floor (the traditional piano nobile). This accounts for the lack of a grand staircase or a gallery, standard elements of most contemporary chateaux. Also noteworthy are corridors in the basement and on the first floor which run the length of house providing privacy to the rooms they access. Up to the middle of the 17th century, corridors were essentially unknown. Another feature of the plan, the four pavilions, one at each corner of the building, is more conventional.

Vaux-le-Vicomte was originally planned to be constructed in brick and stone, but after the mid-century, as the middle classes began to imitate this style, aristocratic circles began using stone exclusively. Rather late in the design process, Fouquet and Le Vau switched to stone, a decision that may have been influenced by the use of stone at François Mansart's Château de Maisons. The service buildings flanking the large avant-cour to the north of the house remained in brick and stone, and other structures preceding them were in rubble-stone and plaster, a social ranking of building materials that would be common in France for a considerable length of time thereafter.

The main chateau is constructed entirely on a moated platform, reached via two bridges, both aligned with the central axis and placed on the north and south sides. The moat is a picturesque holdover from medieval fortified residences, and is again a feature that Le Vau may have borrowed from Maisons. The moat at Vaux may also have been inspired by the previous chateau on the site, which Le Vau's work replaced.

Gardens

The château rises on an elevated platform in the middle of the woods and marks the border between unequal spaces, each treated in a different way. This effect is more distinctive today, as the woodlands are mature, than it was in the seventeenth century when the site had been farmland, and the plantations were new.

Le Nôtre's garden was the dominant structure of the great complex, stretching nearly a mile and a half (3 km), with a balanced composition of water basins and canals contained in stone curbs, fountains, gravel walks, and patterned parterres that remains more coherent than the vast display Le Nôtre was to create at Versailles.

Le Nôtre created a magnificent scene to be viewed from the house, using the laws of perspective. Le Notre used the natural terrain to his advantage. He placed the canal at the lowest part of the complex, thus hiding it from the main perspectival point of view. Past the canal, the garden ascends a large open lawn and ends with the Hercules column added in the 19th century. Shrubberies provided a picture frame to the garden that also served as a stage for royal fêtes.

From the top of the grand staircase, this gives the impression that the entire garden is revealed in one single glance. Initially, the view consists of symmetrical rows of shrubbery, avenues, fountains, statues, flowers and other pieces developed to imitate nature – these elements exemplify the Baroque desire to mold nature to fit its wishes, thus using nature to imitate nature. The centerpiece is a large reflecting pool flanked by grottos holding statues in their many niches. The grand sloping lawn is not visible until one begins to explore the garden, when the viewer is made aware of the optical elements involved and discovers that the garden is much larger than it looks.