During the Middle Ages the Fribourg noble family of Riggisberg was established with a seat in Riggisberg. The first one that appears in a historical record is Constantin de Rucasperc in 1140. The family soon lost or sold all their rights and land in the village and by the 13th century other nobles and monasteries owned parts of the village. In 1337 the Riggisberg line died out and their remaining estates passed on to other owners.
The castle was inherited by various families and relatives over the following centuries. In 1686, Hans Rudolf von Erlach lost the rights to the castle due to a judgement of the court. The castle was sold to Gabriel von Wattenwyl and he became the Schultheiss and owner of Riggisberg. Four months later he sold the estate and title to Albrecht von Erlach and the estate came back under the Erlach name. Around 1700 Albrecht decided to build a new, more comfortable castle near the First or Long Castle. In 1700 Albrecht von Erlach's new and more comfortable castle was finished.
The Steiger family opposed the new Helvetic Republic and Karl Friedrich stayed in Prussian controlled Neuchâtel while plotting the overthrow of the new Republic. The weak Republic government was unable to enforce its will and finally collapsed in 1802. Karl Friedrich joined the Committee that managed the country until the Act of Mediation in 1803. Switzerland remained a vassal state of the French Republic until Napoleon's defeat and the Congress of Vienna in 1815. Karl Friedrich Steiger became a Bernese Senator, an office that he held until his retirement in 1826. After retiring he spent his summers at Riggisberg Castle until he sold it to his youngest son Franz Georg von Steiger in 1830.
On 31 August 1832, weapons and ammunition were discovered at the Erlacherhof, which had been stockpiled by the 'Council of the Sevens' who planned to overthrow the reform-minded government. Franz Georg von Steiger was wrongly suspected as a co-conspirator, arrested and then set free after he paid a fine of fifty francs.
In 1869, his cousin, Robert Pigott from Ireland, inherited the estate. About a decade later, in 1880, he sold the castles to the Canton of Bern, who converted it into a poorhouse. In 1965-70 the new castle was renovated and converted into a district administration building.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.