Zwing Uri is a ruined medieval castle north of Amsteg, today in the territory of the municipality of Silenen.
The castle is notable for its role in Swiss historiography as the first fortress destroyed in the Burgenbruch at the beginning of the Swiss Confederacy. The slighting of Zwing Uri (Twing Üren) is mentioned in the White Book of Sarnen, a Swiss chronicle of 1470. The event is placed in the year 1307 by the Chronicon Helveticum (1570).
The site had been occupied since the Bronze Age. By 1150, there had been a farmstead with three buildings. By the early 13th century, the dwelling was replaced by a defensive tower. During the period of 1310 to 1320, the tower was still standing, and there are traces of a planned expansion into a full castle with a ring wall and a moat. This expansion was interrupted at about six weeks into the construction work, and the castle was abandoned in ca. 1320, i.e. 13 years after the traditional date of the Burgenbruch.
The site remained unoccupied until 1868, when a restaurant was built, using stones from the ruin. The remains were secured in 1928, when the ruin was acquired by the Schweizerischer Burgenverein. Archaeological excavations of the ruin were performed in 1978.References:
Dating from the 15th century, Kisimul is the only significant surviving medieval castle in the Outer Hebrides. It was the residence of the chief of the Macneils of Barra, who claimed descent from the legendary Niall of the Nine Hostages. Tradition tells of the Macneils settling in Barra in the 11th century, but it was only in 1427 that Gilleonan Macneil comes on record as the first lord. He probably built the castle that dominates the rocky islet, and in its shadow a crew house for his personal galley and crew. The sea coursed through Macneil veins, and a descendant, Ruari ‘the Turbulent’, was arrested for piracy of an English ship during King James VI’s reign in the later 16th century.
Heavy debts eventually forced the Macneil chiefs to sell Barra in 1838. However, a descendant, Robert Lister Macneil, the 45th Chief, repurchased the estate in 1937, and set about restoring his ancestral seat. It passed into Historic Scotland’s care in 2000.
The castle dates essentially from the 15th century. It takes the form of a three-storey tower house. This formed the residence of the clan chief. An associated curtain wall fringed the small rock on which the castle stood, and enclosed a small courtyard in which there are ancillary buildings. These comprised a feasting hall, a chapel, a tanist’s house and a watchman’s house. Most were restored in the 20th century, the tanist’s house serving as the family home of the Macneils. A well near the postern gate is fed with fresh water from an underground seam. Outside the curtain wall, beside the original landing-place, are the foundations of the crew house, where the sailors manning their chief’s galley had their quarters.