Chillon Castle History
The Chillon Castle (French, Château de
Chillon) is situated in Vaud Canton, Switzerland, on the shore of Lake Geneva (Lake
Leman), between Montreux and Villeneuve.
Much of its reputation is due to literary descriptions, especially those by
Jean-Jacques Rousseau (La Nouvelle Héloïse, 1761), Percy Bysshe Shelley (History of a Six
Weeks’ Tour, London, 1817) and Lord Byron (The Prisoner of Chillon, 1816).
Chillon Castle was first recorded in 1150, but it may
have been constructed several decades earlier, as the lower part of the donjon and the old
chapel appear to date back to the 11th century.
Its position, on a rocky outcrop on the lake, enabled it to control the road
leading to Italy over the Simplon and Great St Bernard passes, at the point where the road is
confined between the steep mountain slopes and the lake shore.
The castle was progressively enlarged and its defences reinforced by the
counts of Savoy, Thomas I and Peter II. By the beginning of the 16th century the power of Savoy
had weakened, and in 1536 Chillon fell to the Bernese after a three-day siege.
It then became a bailiff’s residence. Since 1798 the castle has belonged to
the canton of Vaud; for a long period it was used as an arsenal and a prison, but it was
restored by Albert Naef (1862–1936) and others from 1892 and is now a historic monument.
The shape of Château de Chillon resembles a
ship, 110 m long and 45 m wide at the broadest point. It has a tall, 13th-century donjon, which
gives a commanding viewpoint over the castle and lake.
The donjon is surrounded by ranges of buildings within two circuits of wall,
sheer to the lake and reinforced by two further large towers; on the most vulnerable side
facing the shore, there were three successive baileys to be overcome.
The furnishings and decoration of the various rooms and passages at
Chillon date from both the medieval and Bernese periods. The small chapel
of St George contains beautiful frescoes executed by a follower of Cimabue: large figures,
representing prophets and Apostles, are wrapped in full, brightly coloured robes.
The series of large vaulted cellars, partially excavated from the bedrock,
were used to store the counts’ arsenal and provisions until their conversion into prisons.
Château de Chillon - Visitor info
Today the Château de
Chillon is the most well known and most visited castle in Switzerland.
The castle is open for visitors every day of the year except the 1st of
January and the 25th of December.
A ticket for an adult costs 12 CHF, while children aged 6-16 can visit the
Chillon castle for half that. Guided tours are available in most international languages.
Chillon Castle Map&Location
Address: Château de Chillon, Avenue de Chillon
24, 1820 Veytaux, Switzerland. Get help with directions using the map provided
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