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Chillon Castle (French: Château de Chillon) is an island castle located on Lake Geneva (Lac Léman), south of Veytaux in the canton of Vaud. It is situated at the eastern end of the lake, on the narrow shore between Montreux and Villeneuve, which gives access to the Alpine valley of the Rhône. Chillon is amongst the most visited castles in Switzerland and Europe.[1] Successively occupied by the house of Savoy then by the Bernese from 1536 until 1798, it now belongs to the State of Vaud and is classified as a Swiss Cultural Property of National Significance.[2] The fort of Chillon, its modern counterpart, is hidden in the steep side of the mountain.

Château de Chillon
Castle of Chillon N.jpg
View from the north, with the Dents du Midi in the background
Chillon Castle is located in Canton of Vaud
Chillon Castle
Location in Vaud
Chillon Castle is located in Switzerland
Chillon Castle
Location in Switzerland
General information
Architectural styleMedieval
ClassificationHistoric monument
Town or cityVeytaux, Vaud
Coordinates46°24′51″N 6°55′39″E / 46.414167°N 6.9275°E / 46.414167; 6.9275
Design and construction
ArchitectJacques de Saint-Georges



Chillon began as a Roman outpost, guarding the strategic road through the Alpine passes.[3] The later history of Chillon was influenced by three major periods: the Savoy Period, the Bernese Period, and the Vaudois Period.[4]

The castle of Chillon is built on the island of Chillon[5], an oval limestone rock advancing in Lake Geneva between Montreux and Villeneuve with a steep side on one side and on the other side the lake and its steep bottom. The placement of the castle is strategic: it closes the passage between the Vaud Riviera (access to the north towards Germany and France) and the Rhone valley which allows quick access to Italy. Moreover, the place offers an excellent point of view on the Savoyard coast facing. A garrison could thus control (both militarily and commercially) access to the road to Italy and apply a toll. According to the Swiss ethnologist Albert Samuel Gatschet, the name Chillon comes from Waldensian dialect and would mean "flat stone, slab, platform". Castrum Quilonis (1195) would therefore mean "castle built on a chillon," that is to say on a rock platform[6].

The first construction dates back to around the 10th century, although it is likely that it was already a privileged military site before that date. Objects dating back to Roman times were discovered during excavations in the 19th century, as well as remains from the Bronze Age. From a double wooden palisade, the Romans would have fortified the site before a square dungeon was added in the 10th century. Sources from the 13th century link the possession of the Chillon site to the Bishop of Sion.

A charter of 1150, where Count Humbert III grants the Cistercians of Hautcrêt free passage to Chillon, attests to the domination of the House of Savoy on Chillon. We learn that the owner of the castle is a certain Gaucher de Blonay. But this lord of Blonay is much more a vassal of the count than one of his officers. It is a seigniorial domination of the Savoy within the framework of a feudal society and not an administrative domination.

Savoy periodEdit

Arms of the House of Savoy

The oldest parts of the castle have not been definitively dated, but the first written record of the castle was in 1005.[7] It was built to control the road from Burgundy to the Great Saint Bernard Pass[8] From the mid 12th century, the castle was summer home to the Counts of Savoy, who kept a fleet of ships on Lake Geneva. The castle was greatly expanded in 1248[9] by Peter II.[10]

Chillon as a prisonEdit

During the 16th century Wars of Religion, it was used by the dukes of Savoy to house prisoners. Its most famous prisoner was probably François de Bonivard, a Genevois monk, prior of St. Victor in Geneva and politician who was imprisoned there in 1530 for defending his homeland from the dukes of Savoy.[11]

Bernese periodEdit

Over his six-year term, de Bonivard paced as far as his chain would allow, and the chain and rut are still visible. He was rescued in 1536 by his countrymen and Bernese, who took the castle by force. The prison was residence for the Bernese bailiff until Chillon was converted into a state prison in 1733.[12]

Vaudois periodEdit

In 1798, the French-speaking canton of Vaud drove out the German-speaking Bernese authorities and declared the Lemanic Republic. The Vaudois invited in French troops to help them maintain autonomy from the other Swiss. When the French moved in and occupied, Chillon was used as a munitions and weapons depot.[13]


Chillon is open to the public for visits and tours. According to the castle website, Chillon is listed as "Switzerland's most visited historic monument".[14] There is a fee for entrance and there are both parking spaces and a bus stop nearby for travel. Inside the castle there are several recreations of the interiors of some of the main rooms including the grand bedroom, hall, and cave stores. Inside the castle itself there are four great halls, three courtyards, and a series of bedrooms open to the public. One of the oldest is the Camera domini, which was a room occupied by the Duke of Savoy - it is decorated with 14th century medieval murals.[15]

Popular cultureEdit


See alsoEdit

Chromolithograph of Chillon by Helga von Cramm with a Havergal prayer, hymn or poem, c. 1878.


  1. ^ Mc Currach, Ian (27 April 2003). "One Hour From: Geneva". The Independent. London. Retrieved 2014-07-30.
  2. ^ "Swiss inventory of cultural property of national and regional significance". A-Objects. Federal Office for Cultural Protection (BABS). 22 May 2019. Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  3. ^ de Fabianis, p. 176.
  4. ^ "Château de Chillon - History overview". Retrieved 2013-01-13.
  5. ^ Gil, Annika (December 13, 2006). "Combien d'îles sur le lac Léman" (PDF). La Gazette.
  6. ^ Jaccard, Henri (1867). Essai de Toponymie. La Société d'Histoire de la Suisse Romande. ISBN 978-1-141-93817-9.
  7. ^ According to publication Chillon by Auguste Guignard (former secretary of the Association for the Restoration of the Chillon Castle), published by Ruckstuhl SA (Renens, Switzerland) in 1996: "The oldest historical document relating to Chillon bears the date 1005, and from this it is seen that the castle belonged to the bishops of Sion, who confided its care to the d'Alinge family."
  8. ^ de Fabianis, p. 175.
  9. ^ de Fabianis, p. 175.
  10. ^ Cox 1967, p. 20.
  11. ^ de Fabianis, p. 175.
  12. ^ de Fabianis, p. 175.
  13. ^ de Fabianis, p. 175.
  14. ^ "Chillon Website - Main Page". Retrieved 2013-01-13.
  15. ^ "Chillon Website - Rooms". Retrieved 2013-01-13.
  16. ^ Morton, Caitlin (14 June 2017). "17 Real-World Locations That Inspired Disney Movies". Condé Nast Traveler. Retrieved 3 April 2018.


  • Cox, Eugene L. (1967). The Green Count of Savoy. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. LCCN 67-11030.
  • de Fabianis, Valeria, ed. (2013). Castles of the World. New York: Metro Books.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link) ISBN 978-1-4351-4845-1

External linksEdit