Chillon Castle/Schloss. Photo/Foto: TES.

Chillon Castle

Lake Leman lies by Chillon´s walls:

A thousand feet in depth below

Its massy waters meet and flow;

Thus much the fathom-line was sent

From Chillon´s snow-white battlement,

Which round about the wave enthrals:

A double dungeon wall and wave

Below the surface of the lake

The dark vault lies wherein we lay.

These were the words by Lord Byron (1788-1824) in his poem “ The prisoner of Chillon” (1816).

The castle is probably one the most interesting of historical monuments of the country and owes its worldwide notoriety also to this poem.

The mediëval fortress stand on a small rocky islet separated from the shore by a narrow natural waterway in the municipality of Veytaux/Montreux, on the other side toward the mountains and home country of the Duchy of Savoy.

The earliest history and human habitation of the islet go back to the Bronze Age, between the 18th and 19th centuries BC. The first fortification dates not later than the 9th century and probably even a Roman building in the 4th century. The oldest historical document bears the date 1005 when the castle on this location belonged to the bishop of Sion.

The period of the Counts and afterwards the Dukes of Savoy lasted from the 12th century till 1536 when Bern conquered Vaud and the castle. The Bernese troops also liberated the subject of the above poem from his dungeon.

François Bonivard (1493-1571) supported Geneva in the struggles between the town and the Dukes of Savoy and thus became an enemy of Duke Charles III (1486-1553), who put him in chains in the dungeon around 1532.

The castle became the property of the (new) canton of Vaud in 1803 and has undergone thorough renovations and restorations ever since.

The feature Local History will provide further historical and architectural information. (Source: A. Guignard, The prisoner of Chillon by Lord Byron, Renens, 2016).