Is this one of the most picturesque locations in the world? In our opinion, it definitely comes close!
This amazing castle in the heart of Europe has seen its share of history, and in this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of Chillon Castle facts.
1. It’s located on a famous lake in Switzerland
Chillon Castle is located on the east side of Lake Geneva, also referred to as “Lac Léman,” right in between the towns of Montreux (to the north) and Villeneuve (to the south).
The castle is located in the Canton of Vaud in the western part of the country. It’s the third-most populated of the regions in Switzerland.
2. It actually stands inside the lake
One of the most amazing Chillon Castle facts is that it’s actually built on an oval-shaped limestone rock that stands inside Lake Geneva.
This makes it a true island castle, even though it’s located just off the narrow shore.
3. It has a very strategic location
The Castle is located in one of the most strategic positions in the region. The shore is very narrow which makes it easy to block the passage, meaning very few people could hold up an entire army here.
To the north, it provides easy access to France and Germany. To the south, it forms a passage to the Rhone Valley which offers easy access to Italy.
To make this even better, it offers amazing views over the entire region as well!
4. It was built on the foundations of a Roman outpost
Excavations in the late 19th century uncovered that the location has been occupied since the Bronze Age. So it’s not surprising that the Romans saw the value of the location as well.
What must have been a wooden fortification initially was fortified by the Romans, and the caste was built on top of these fortifications.
5. The first mention the castle dates back over 1000 years ago
It’s clear that in between Roman and medieval times, the site continued to be occupied, but there is no written history and no archaeological evidence about this.
The first mention of the castle dates back to the year 1005 as it was mentioned that it was owned by the Bishop of Sion and managed by the “d’Alinge family.”
Yes, that’s right, Chillon Castle has a written history of over 1000 years!
6. Chillon Castle has seen 3 different occupants in its modern history
The 1000+ years of history of Chillon Castle can be divided in 3 distinct periods:
- The Savoy Period (12th century – 1536) – When exactly the House of Savoy took over the castle is unknown. The first written document mentioning this dates back to the year 1150 as it was clear that they controlled the area and had a fleet on the lake as well.
- The Bernese Period (1536 – 1798) – The Bernese conquered the area in the year 1536 and kept on using the castle as a fortress to control the area and as a prison as well.
- The Vaudois Period (1798 – Present) – The Bernese were driven out of the region at the end of the 18th century and the castle became the property of the Canton of Vaud in 1803.
During these occupations, the castle was continuously expanded and renovated by the people holding it.
7. It housed a famous prisoner in the 16th century
During the wars in the 16th century, which saw the transition from the Savoy to the Bernese Period, a Genevois monk and politician named François Bonivard was held at the castle from 1530 to the transition in the year 1536.
One of the most fascinating Chillon Castle facts is that the chain and rut to hold him are still visible in the dungeon of the castle!
8. Lord Byron carved his name in the dungeon’s wall
François Bonivard wasn’t just a famous prisoner at the castle, he also became the inspiration of the famous poem by Lord Byron named “The Prisoner Of Chillon” (1816), which doesn’t just tells the story of Bonivard but of his entire family.
Lord Byron spent some time at the castle and got inspired by Bonivard’s story. He left his permanent mark to it by carving his name into one of the pillars in the castle’s dungeon.
9. An association was formed to handle the restoration in the late 19th century
By the late 19th century, it was decided that the castle should be completely restored. It would become one of the first restorations based on scientific historical evidence.
To make this happen, the “Association for the restoration of the castle of Chillon” was formed in 1887 in order to get started with this huge endeavor.
The motto of the association was clear:
“To perform an artistic restoration with the intention of giving back to objects the character with which they were clothed, almost a latent life, a life impression of the ideas of their time.”
It’s fair to conclude that the people involved did an excellent job!
10. Most of the restoration was completed in the early 20th century
The final part of the restoration, which took well over a decade, was completed in the early 20th century. This mostly involved the interior of the castle which was restored with exactly the same motto.
This means that visiting the castle basically means that you are walking in a piece of history that has been excellently preserved due to the elaborate work of the people in charge of the restoration in the early 1900s.
Chillon Castle became a famous tourist attraction and by the year 1939, over 100,000 people visited the castle every single year!
11. It’s one of Switzerland’s most famous tourist attractions
At the moment, the castle is the most popular historical tourist attraction in Switzerland and one of the most-visited castles in Europe.
In the year 2019, it welcomed about 432,000 visitors who come from all over the world, including China, the United States, and South Korea!
12. It was the inspiration for the castle in a famous Disney movie
Apart from being featured in Lord Byron’s poem (1816), being a prominent location in Henry James’s novella Daisy Miller (1878), and being depicted in multiple paintings, The castle was also the inspiration for the castle in a Disney classic.
The castle in the Little Mermaid (1989) was inspired by Chillon Castle, and the resemblance is pretty clear, don’t you think?
This concludes the ultimate list of Chillon Castle facts, one of the most amazing castles in Europe and the most-visited historical building in all of Switzerland!