The castle was built in the 12th century to guard the road from Chur over the alpine passes. The oldest part of the castle, the ring wall, was built in the second half of the 12th century. The main tower was added in the early 13th century. The Lords of Strassberg first appear in the historical record in 1253.
The ring wall around the main castle originally had a residential building along the north side and still shows signs of windows and privies. In the 13th century a large, square, four-story tower was added on the west side of the ring wall. East of the main ring wall was another, larger ring wall which may have included a gate house. Very little of this outer wall remains and it is unclear how it connected to the main castle.
The castle is first mentioned in a record in 1275 as castrum dictum Strasceberch and at that time it was owned by the powerful Freiherr von Vaz. The Strassberg family appear to have been ministerialis, unfree knights in service to a higher noble, or vassals of the Vaz family. Strassberg castle allowed the Vaz to collect taxes from trade along the road. In addition, it protected nearby Churwalden Abbey, which was the burial place of the family. After the extinction of the Vaz family, in 1339, the castle was inherited by the Counts of Toggenburg.
The Toggenburg counts received imperial permission to establish a customs station at Strassberg in April 1348. However, the Bishop of Chur objected and by December of the same year, the Toggenburg permission was revoked. Over sixty years later, in 1413, they were able to acquire customs rights from Emperor Sigismund, which when the bishop objected, ended up with Zürich having to arbitrate between the Toggenburgs and the bishop.
In 1360 the last Strassberg died out and the castle passed fully to the Toggenburgs. For the next three quarters of a century several different Toggenburg vassals held Strassberg as a fief. When the last Toggenberg count, Frederick VII, died the castle was inherited by the Counts of Montfort. Probably due to the power of the League of the Ten Jurisdictions Monfort granted the town of Churwalden its freedom and a promise that the castle would always stand open to Churwalden and that the vogt would only live in the castle if the town granted its permission. In 1466 the Counts of Montfort sold the castle to Archduke Sigismund of Austria. A few years later, in 1471 Sigismund sold the castle to Ulrich von Matsch and then inherited it back in 1479.
The castle began to fall into ruin and in 1491 Vogt Disch Ammann von Rhäzüns reported that the castle was somewhat damaged. On 5 March 1499, during the Swabian War, the castle was burned by retreating League troops to prevent it from falling into Austrian hands. By the 16th century it was already a ruin.References:
The Château de Foix dominates the town of Foix. An important tourist site, it is known as a centre of the Cathars. Built on an older 7th-century fortification, the castle is known from 987. In 1002, it was mentioned in the will of Roger I, Count of Carcassonne, who bequeathed the fortress to his youngest child, Bernard. In effect, the family ruling over the region were installed here which allowed them to control access to the upper Ariège valley and to keep surveillance from this strategic point over the lower land, protected behind impregnable walls.
In 1034, the castle became capital of the County of Foix and played a decisive role in medieval military history. During the two following centuries, the castle was home to Counts with shining personalities who became the soul of the Occitan resistance during the crusade against the Albigensians. The county became a privileged refuge for persecuted Cathars.
The castle, often besieged (notably by Simon de Montfort in 1211 and 1212), resisted assault and was only taken once, in 1486, thanks to treachery during the war between two branches of the Foix family.
From the 14th century, the Counts of Foix spent less and less time in the uncomfortable castle, preferring the Governors' Palace. From 1479, the Counts of Foix became Kings of Navarre and the last of them, made Henri IV of France, annexed his Pyrrenean lands to France.
As seat of the Governor of the Foix region from the 15th century, the castle continued to ensure the defence of the area, notably during the Wars of Religion. Alone of all the castles in the region, it was exempted from the destruction orders of Richelieu (1632-1638).
Until the Revolution, the fortress remained a garrison. Its life was brightened with grand receptions for its governors, including the Count of Tréville, captain of musketeers under Louis XIII and Marshal Philippe Henri de Ségur, one of Louis XVI's ministers. The Round Tower, built in the 15th century, is the most recent, the two square towers having been built before the 11th century. They served as a political and civil prison for four centuries until 1862.
Since 1930, the castle has housed the collections of the Ariège départemental museum. Sections on prehistory, Gallo-Roman and mediaeval archaeology tell the history of Ariège from ancient times. Currently, the museum is rearranging exhibits to concentrate on the history of the castle site so as to recreate the life of Foix at the time of the Counts.