CASTLES OF FRENCH-SPEAKING SWITZERLAND

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THE CASTLE


The golden age of castles ranges from the 11th to the 13th century when they are built, then declined rapidly from the beginning of the 15th century with the appearance of powder artillery around 1370 and the metal ball around 1450. The vast majority of castles in French-speaking Switzerland are built, financed or inspired by the Counts of Savoy, who became Dukes in 1416. The castles have been relatively well preserved over time, few of them have disappeared like those of Palezieux or Bossonnens in the state of ruins. Some of them cannot be visited because they are in private hands but others in the canton of Fribourg, although they are in public hands, house the administration of the district capitals and are therefore not visitable.

The splendid Chillon castle.
The splendid Chillon castle.

THE INVENTORIED CASTLES


Dozens of castles are listed in French-speaking Switzerland, the Torpille team visits the most important of them and only the castles dating back to the medieval period before 1450.

The following castles are not inventoried by the Torpille team:

  • Buildings named as castles but of recent construction (e.g. Château de l’Aile in Vevey or Château Mercier in Sierre)
  • Old buildings that look more like beautiful houses (e. g. Château de Prangins)
  • Castles in a state of advanced ruins (e.g. Château de Montorge in Sion or Chalais tower)

The tower of Chalais is not inventoried by the Torpille team.
The tower of Chalais is not inventoried by the Torpille team.

CATEGORIZATION


The castles of French-speaking Switzerland may be in different states of conservation and can be categorised as follows:

Large-sized castles which can be visited and kept in their original state:


Chillon, Grandson, Gruyère, Oron, Valangin, La Sarraz.

Oron Castle.
Oron Castle

Castles of important sizes which can be visited but recycled in museums:


Yverdon, Morges, Romont, St-Maurice, Aigle, Nyon, Boudry.

Nyon castle.
Nyon castle.

Private castles not open to visitors:


Blonay, Châtelard, Champvent, Vufflens, Glérolles, Lucens, Les Clées, Vidomnes, Goubing, Vaumarcus, Gorgier, Saint-Barthélémy, Môtiers.

Blonay castle.
Blonay castle.

Castles owned by a canton or commune but not visitable:


Bulle, Châtel-Saint-Denis, Morat, Rolle, Vaulruz, St-Maire, Chenaux, Majorie, Colombier, Tour d’Anniviers, Tour Bertholod.

Bulle castle.
Bulle castle

Castles in ruins with a visitable keep:


Saillon, La Tour-de-Peilz, Ogoz, Saxon, Orbe, St-Martin du Chêne.

The spiral metal stairs inside the keep of the Saxon castle.
The spiral metal stairs inside the keep of the Saxon castle.

COMPARISON TABLE


NamesLinksPicturesAltitude mCantonVisitable?PublicConstructionKeepUnder control in 1400Wars of
Burgundy
VisitRemarks
AigleLinkle château d'Aigle436petit drapeau du canton de vaud VaudYes (Municipality)12th centrurySquareSavoy19.02.2017Musée du vin et de la vigne
Anniviers (Tower)Linkla tour d'anniviers1208petit drapeau du canton du valais ValaisYes (Municipality)13e centrurySquareHauts-Valaisans26.05.2018
Ancien EvêchéLinkl'ancien évêché510petit drapeau du canton de vaud VaudYes11th to 15th centurySquareEvêque de Lausanne21.07.2018Musée Historique de Lausanne.
Possède peu d'éléments d'origine.
AvenchesLinkle château d'Avenches478petit drapeau du canton de vaud VaudYes (Municipality)1175SquareEvêque de Lausanne11.03.2018
Bertholod (Tower)Linkla tour bertholod à lutrypetit drapeau du canton de vaud VaudYes (Municipality of Payerne)13e centruryCircularEvêque de Lausanne11.11.2018
BlonayLinkle château de Blonay646petit drapeau du canton de vaud VaudNo1184SquareVassal de la Savoie19.03.2017Habitation
BulleLinkle château de Bulle769petit drapeau du canton de fribourg FribourgYes (Canton)1301CircularEvêque de Lausanne20.11.2016Administration du district
BoudryLinkle château de Boudry477petit drapeau du canton de neuchâtel NeuchâtelYes (Canton)13th centruryCircularComtes of Neuchâtel?24.03.2018
ChampventLinkle château de Champvent502petit drapeau du canton de vaud VaudNoBeginning of 13th centuryCircularAllies of Burgundy21.01.2018Privé
Châtel-Saint-DenisLinkle château de Châtel-Saint-Denis844petit drapeau du canton de fribourg FribourgYes (Canton)13th centurySquareSavoy11.03.2017Administration du district
Châtelard
(Montreux)
Linkle château du Châtelard à Montreux502petit drapeau du canton de vaud VaudNo13e centurySquare?24.12.2016Habitation
Chenaux
(Estavayer-le-Lac)
Linkle château de Chenaux à Estavayer-le-Lac456petit drapeau du canton de vaud FribourgYes (Canton)1392CircularSavoy21.01.2018Administration du district
Partiellement en brique
Chillon
(Veytaux)
Linkle château de Chillon à Veytaux374petit drapeau du canton de vaud VaudYes (Canton)11e and 12e centrury
Improved during 13th and 14th centuries
SquareSavoy (Baillage)07.04.2016Expositions temporaires
ColombierLinkle château de Colombier531petit drapeau du canton de Neuchâtel NeuchâtelYes12th centurySquareLords of Colombiers Allies to Neuchâtel24.03.2018
Glérolles
(Saint Saphorin)
Linkle château de Glérolles à Saint-Saphorin378petit drapeau du canton de vaud VaudNoKeep in 1150
Castle at the beginning of 14th century.
CircularEvêque de Lausanne ?28.01.2018Possède peu d'éléments d'origine.
GorgierLinkle château de Gorgier524petit drapeau du canton de neuchâtel NeuchâtelNoEn of 12th centurySquareLords of Estavayer Allied of Comtes of Neuchâtel24.03.2018Pas accessible car privé.
Goubing
(Sierre)
Linkle château de Goubing à Sierre565petit drapeau du canton du valais ValaisBourgeoisie de SierreEnf of 12th centurySquareHauts-ValaisansHors Conflit17.03.2018Accès autour impossible car privé
Gourze (Tower)Linkla Tour de Gourze923petit drapeau du canton de vaud VaudYes (Municipality)Before 13th centurySquareEvêque de Lausanne15.04.2018
GrandsonLinkle château de Grandson449petit drapeau du canton de vaud VaudAssociationBefore 1100
Improved at the 13th and 14th century
CircularSavoy05.02.2017Expo anciennes voitures
GruyèresLinkle château de Gruyères832petit drapeau du canton de fribourg FribourgYes11th centuryCircularComte of Gruyère vassal of Savoy09.04.2016Musée Giger
La Bâtiaz
(Martigny)
Linkle château de la Batiaz à Martigny539petit drapeau du canton du valais ValaisAssociation13th centuryCircularSavoy11.06.2017Engins de Siège
La SarrazLinkle château de La Sarraz504petit drapeau du canton de vaud VaudFondation11th to 13th centurySquareVassal of Savoy10.09.2017Musée du Cheval
Les CléesLinkle château des Clées625petit drapeau du canton de vaud VaudPrivéSavoySquareSavoy (Châtellerie)24.02.2018
LucensLinkle château de Lucens551petit drapeau du canton de vaud VaudPrivé13th centuryCircularEvêque de Lausanne24.02.2018
Majorie
(Sion)
Linkle château de Majorie à Sion529petit drapeau du canton du valais Valais?Beginning of 13th centurySquareEvêque de Sion13.02.2018Musée des Beaux-Arts
MoratLinkle château de Morat458petit drapeau du canton de fribourg FribourgYes (Canton)1180SquareSavoy16.04.2017Administration du district
MorgesLinkle château de Morges374petit drapeau du canton de vaud VaudYes (Canton)End of 13th centuryCircularSavoy (Châtellerie)29.04.2017Musées militaires
Parties hautes en brique
MôtiersLinkle château de Môtiers840petit drapeau du canton de Neuchâtel NeuchâtelNo1344CircularComtes of NeuchâtelHors Conflit24.06.2018Montres Bovet
NyonLinkle château de Nyon400petit drapeau du canton de vaud VaudYes (Municipality)13th centurySquareSavoy14.02.2018Musée Historique et de la Porcelaine
OgozLinkle château d'Ogoz685petit drapeau du canton de fribourg FribourgYes (Municipality)13th centurySquareLocal lords21.06.2017Ruines visitables
OrbeLinkle château d'Orbe485petit drapeau du canton de vaud Vaud?13th centuryCircularLords of Chalon, allies of Burgundy24.02.2018
OronLinkle château d'Oron717petit drapeau du canton de vaud VaudAssociation12th centuryCircularVassal of Savoy16.04.2016Ancienne Bibliothèque
RolleLinkle château de Rolle377petit drapeau du canton de vaud VaudYes (Municipality)Around 1290CircularSavoy05.06.2017
RomontLinkle château de Romont782petit drapeau du canton de fribourg FribourgYes (Canton)1240CircularSavoy (Châtellerie)22.10.2016Administration du district
Vitromusée
SaillonLinkle château de Saillon552petit drapeau du canton du valais ValaisYes (Municipality)11th century, improved at 13th, destroyed in 1475.CircularSavoy (Châtellerie)02.04.2017Ruines visitables
SaxonLinkle château de Saxon656petit drapeau du canton du valais ValaisYes (Municipality)13th century
détruit en 1475
CircularSavoy (Châtellerie)08.02.2018Ruines visitables
Saint-BarthélémyLinkle château de Saint-Barthélémy615petit drapeau du canton de vaud Vaud?12th centurySquareVassal of Savoy ??11.04.2018
Saint-Maire
(Lausanne)
Linkle château Saint-Maire à Lausanne533petit drapeau du canton de vaud VaudYes (Canton)1396SquareEvêque de Lausanne02.01.2018Parties hautes en brique
Saint-Martin du Chêne
Molondin
Linkle château de Saint-Martin du Chêne619petit drapeau du canton de vaud VaudYes (Canton)?Enf of 11th centurySquare
22m
Seigneurs vassaux de la Savoie?28.04.2018Ruines visitables
Détruit en 1536 par les Bernois
Saint-MauriceLinkle château de Saint-Maurice417petit drapeau du canton du valais ValaisFondation (Municipality and Canton)15th centurySquareSavoy17.09.2016Exposition dessin et bande dessinée
Saint-TriphonLinkle château de Saint-Triphon477petit drapeau du canton de vaud Vaud?12th centurySquareVassal of Savoy08.02.2018Ruine
Tour non visitable
Tour-de-PeilzLinkle château de la Tour-de-Peilz380petit drapeau du canton de vaud VaudYes (Municipality)13th centuryCircularSavoy (Châtellerie)19.03.2017Ruines visitables
Musée du jeu
Tourbillon
(Sion)
Linkle château de Tourbillon à Sion657petit drapeau du canton du valais Valais?End of 13th centurySquareEvêque de Sion13.02.2018Fermé en hiver
ValanginLinkle château de Valangin665petit drapeau du canton de neuchâtel NeuchâtelSociété12th centurySquareSires of ValanginHors Conflit13.05.2017
Valère
(Sion)
Linkle château de Valère à Sion608petit drapeau du canton du valais Valais?12th and 13th century-Evêque de Sion13.02.2018
VaulruzLinkle château de Valruz843petit drapeau du canton de fribourg FribourgYes (Municipality)13th centurySquareSavoy10.06.2017
VaumarcusLinkle châteu de Vaumarcus481petit drapeau du canton de neuchâtel NeuchâtelNoSquareNeuchâtel24.03.2018
Vidomnes
(Sierre)
Linkle château des Vidomnes à Sierre544petit drapeau du canton du valais ValaisNo1490SquareHauts-ValaisansHors Conflit17.03.2018
VufflensLinkLe château de Vufflens473petit drapeau du canton de vaud VaudNo1415-1430Square? ?28.01.2018Complètement fait en brique
YverdonLinkle château d'Yverdon433petit drapeau du canton de vaud VaudYes (Municipality)13th century
Construction ends around 1265
CircularSavoy (Châtellerie)05.02.2017Musée d'Yverdon et région
NeuchâtelA venir
Tour de la MolièreA venir

Légende:


Icone Croix RougeCastle not open to the public.

Icone Croix RougeIcone point de vue rouge Castle not open to visitors but particularly pretty.
Icone vu vertCastle can be visited but no longer in its original state.
Icone vu vert Icone vu vertVisitable castle in a good state of conservation. To be visited first.
Icone tête de mortDamaged during the Burgundian Wars.
icone smile jaune qui souritSpared during the Burgundian Wars.

THE BURGUNDIAN WARS

INTRODUCTION


The Burgundian Wars were a major event in Swiss history and affected a large number of castles in the Pays de Vaud, which were damaged and plundered very often without a fight. They lasted from 1474 to 1477 and opposed the army of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, to the canton of Berne reinforced by the 7 other cantons of Switzerland at the time. The Swiss cantons in 1474 formed the Confederation of the VIII Cantons and included those of Zurich (1351), Bern (1353), Lucerne (1332), Zug (1352), Glarus (1352) and the founding cantons of 1291 so-called primitive cantons, namely Uri, Schwitz and UnterWald (Nidwlad and Obwalden).

A painting of the Duke of Burgundy at the Museum of the Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy in Dijon.
A painting of the Duke of Burgundy at the Museum of the Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy in Dijon.

Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, is at the head of heterogeneous territorial possessions called Burgundian states stretching from Macon in France to the North Sea and corresponding approximately to the current countries of the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, the French departments of Lorraine, Franche-Comté and part of Burgundy. The Duchy of Savoy, whose territory extends over an alpine area from Nice to Murten, with the Pays de Vaud, Chablais and Bas-Valais in particular, is allied to the Duke of Burgundy and will provide him with men like Jacques de Romont.

A map showing the territory of the belligerents during the Burgundian Wars. The territory of the Swiss Confederation includes its allies and the areas under its control.
A map showing the territory of the belligerents during the Burgundy Wars. The territory of the Swiss Confederation includes its allies and the areas under its control.

THE PRELUDES TO WAR


The growing opposition between Charles the Bold and the Swiss led to the “Burgundian War”. The King of France largely financed the Swiss in their opposition against the Duke of Burgundy in the hope of limiting his influence. Five battles marked the Burgundy Wars, each of which resulted in the victory of the Swiss and their allies.

THE BATTLES


1st. The Battle of Héricourt


The first battle took place at Héricourt near Belfort near the Swiss Jura and was of minor importance.

2nd. The Battle of La Planta


The second battle took place in 1475 at La Planta in Sion in the Valais and opposed Savoy alone to the Bishop of Sion reinforced by the Haut Valaisans. Bernese troops arrived as reinforcements to turn the tide of the battle and the defeat of Savoy led to a territorial retreat for the latter as far as Saint-Maurice.

3rd. The Battle of Grandson


Charles the Bold absent during the first two battles is present during the last 3 battles. The third battle took place near Grandson in 1476. Following the murder of the Swiss garrison of the Grandson Castle, an alliance of cantons marched towards the castle and was victorious because of strategic errors by Charles the Bold. His army was mainly composed of Lombards and equipped with a powerful and modern cavalry and artillery for the time. The Swiss, on the other hand, rely on their soldiers equipped with 5-metre long spikes or halberds that advance towards the enemy like a hedgehog and are particularly effective against cavalry charges.

This undecided battle is the most important of the Burgundian Wars and allows the Swiss to take over their enemy for the rest of the war. During this battle, the Duke of Burgundy did not lose more than 1000 men in battle but, above all, abandoned a considerable amount of loot that went so far as to cause great tensions between the Swiss cantons. Some of the objects captured at that time are now on display in the cities of Bern, Basel, Freiburg or Lucerne.

Reconstructions of the battles of Grandson and Morat presented in Grandson Castle. In the case of Murten, we can see the city’s siege with the setting up of tents.
Morat battle - burgundian wars- grandson castle grandson battle - burgundian wars- grandson castle

4th. The Battle of Murten


To take his revenge, the Duke of Burgundy undertook to attack the city of Bern directly after reorganizing in Lausanne. On his way, he laid siege to the city of Murten during the fourth battle in 1476. The city resisted in numerical inferiority and owes its salvation to the reinforcements coming from the Swiss cantons who reversed the positions of the Duke and his Savoyard ally, Jacques de Romont.

An image of the Confederates’ victory over Charles the Bold at the Battle of Murten at Fort Cindey to motivate the troops stationed there.
An image of the Confederates' victory over Charles the Bold at the Battle of Murten at Fort Cindey to motivate the troops stationed there.

5th. The Battle of Nancy


The fifth battle took place in Nancy in 1477 when the Duke of Burgundy undertook to subdue the rebellious city, reinforced by Confederation soldiers, to ensure continuity on its territory, which was then divided in two. The Duke of Burgundy died on this occasion in a battle lost due to strategic errors.

La bataille de Morat

THE CONSEQUENCES


It was during the years 1474 to 1477 that a large number of castles in the Pays de Vaud were plundered by Bernese who made incursions into the territory and were known to give no quarter.

The Burgundian States


The Burgundian Wars ended after the death of Charles the Bold, with significant consequences for Central Europe and Switzerland. The Burgundian states were severely weakened with the death of the Duke of Burgundy at the Battle of Nancy. They are losing territories to the profile of the Kingdom of France. His daughter, Marie de Bourgogne, succeeded him and by her marriage to Maximilian, the Burgundian states passed to the House of Habsburg.

Tomb of Charles the Bold in Bruges erected by his grandson Philip the Fair in 1562. Photos Flickr Dimitris Kamaras.
Tomb of Charles the Bold in Bruges erected by his grandson Philip the Fair in 1562. Photos Flickr Dimitris Kamaras.

The Swiss


The Swiss, at the summit of their military glory, and in particular the canton of Berne, were strengthened by these victories, which announced the conquest of the Pays de Vaud in 1536. Despite their clear victory, the Swiss enjoyed only minor territorial gains with Berne, which annexed the Chablais and Cerlier, and shared, in the form of a baillage with Fribourg, Grandson, Echallens, Orbe and Morat. On the other hand, the Swiss benefit from significant material gains, notably with the return of the Pays de Vaud to Savoie in exchange for money. Freiburg, stuck between Bern and Savoy, played a somewhat ambiguous role before the Burgundian wars because it established alliances with these two powers and took part in the Battle of Murten alongside the Bernese. It finally joined the Swiss Confederation as a canton in 1481 with Solothurn.

The Aigle Castle annexed by Berne after the Burgundian Wars.
The Aigle Castle annexed by Berne after the Burgundian Wars.

Savoy


Savoy has been deprived of many cities in the Pays de Vaud and no longer has the means to ensure its sovereignty over what remains of its territory. The Pays de Vaud is devastated by looting and suffers from famine as well as severe bleeding in the population, reduced by 2/3. Its territory was returned to Savoy, a former ally of the Duke of Burgundy, with the exception of Aigle and Cerlier, which were transferred to the Bernese, while the cities of Echallens, Orbe, Grandson and Morat were managed by Berne and Fribourg. The retrocession of the Pays de Vaud satisfies the other Swiss cantons, which do not take a very positive view of a canton of Berne that is too powerful.

Geneva


Geneva, an ally of the Duke of Burgundy, was threatened by the Swiss and had to pay a “fine” for its participation in the war. However, it soon became an ally of Berne, marking the beginning of its history with Switzerland.

The Kingdom of France


The Kingdom of France took advantage of the opportunity to annex many territories that had belonged to the Duke of Burgundy, in particular the Duchy of Burgundy, a territory around Dijon.

To conclude, a very good article retraces the Burgundian Wars.