Château de Chillon has hundreds of years of noteworthy events and enlightening artifacts.
Situated on a rocky island near the banks of Lake Geneva is an approximately 360-foot-long, 148-foot-wide castle dating back to the 12th century. With hundreds of years of noteworthy events and enlightening artifacts, Château de Chillon offers history enthusiasts and casual explorers the opportunity to immerse themselves in an environment suitable for a nobleman.
In 1150, when the first written mention of the castle appeared, the Counts of Savoy used Château de Chillon to strategically control Via Francigena, a route that passed outside of the structure, and gain profits from establishing a toll.
In the following century, Château de Chillon became a summer residence, outfitted with vaulted Gothic ceilings and wine cellars, as well as a prison that housed François Bonivard, a nobleman, ecclesiastic, historian and Geneva patriot, for six years.
Although the castle was neglected for years following the greater valuation of other forts, the Swiss conquered it in 1536, using it as an administration center for Vevey, a nearby town, and a residence for the municipality’s bailiff.
Operating as an arsenal, military stronghold and prison for more than 250 years, Château de Chillon remained in relatively good condition until the 18th century, when the officers withdrew from the castle, thereby allowing it to become a storage house for many years after.
Beginning in 1798, the structure regained importance, as patriots from Vevey and Montreux captured it and provided the canton of Vaud the opportunity to use it as a state prison. Poets and artists such as Lord Byron, Gustave Courbet, Joseph Hornung, Victor Hugo, Leo Tolstoy and J.M.W. Turner drew inspiration from the site, and by the late 19th century, restorative work on Château de Chillon began.
Since archeologist and architect Albert Naef led the excavation of the first floors, walls and moat surrounding the structure, significant artifacts have been assisting visitors in imagining the events that had transpired at Château de Chillon for centuries.
Comprised of approximately 4,000 objects, the castle’s inventory has included fragments of arrows, bowls, coins, combs, dishes, knives, shoes and swords, as well as 80 chests, although only some of the items are on display. One may also see chairs, credenzas and tables while touring the site.
Several frescos and paintings exist in the chapel and Camera Domini, and visitors can diversify their artistic intake by examining the charcoal drawings or graffiti in Château de Chillon’s other rooms.
Located in the structure’s dungeon are rooms containing weapon artifacts dating back to the Middle Ages like arquebuses, halberds and swords, while the castle’s defense tower contains suits of armor. Of particular note are a German double-handed sword from 1536 and an arquebus constructed in Lucerne during the 17th century.
As a waterside castle on Lake Geneva’s eastern edge, Château de Chillon provides travelers the ability to appreciate the land’s history while reveling in the architectural and natural beauty surrounding the structure.
Given restoration work continues on the site, it is possible one learns more about the castle and its inhabitants for years to come.