Perhaps the most castly castle ever

As I teeter through the ruins of my sleep patterns towards the end of the term, there seems to be just about time tonight to attack the blog backlog! And that puts me up against the last set of photos from last year’s trip to Switzerland, in which I and my companion sought out the lakeside castle of Chillon. To do this, we took a train along the shore of Lac Léman as far as Montreux and then, with a certain amount of error margin, a bus the rest of the way and finished up looking at this.

Château Chillon from the roadside

You have to admit this is more like a castle than most Disney examples manage

There was, deep within the buildings, a really useful room of interpretation with phase diagrams on the walls that allowed me to get a vague sense of how things got this way. At some point before 1000 someone enclosed a hammerhead peninsula into the lake and stuck a tower at the near end, left as you’re looking here; after a little while a chapel turned up on the far end, but outside the enclosure so as to be accessible from the shoreline settlement; in the early eleventh century the initial tower and some buildings were replaced by a big quadrangular central donjon; the near end then got a new, square tower and the outer sides of the peninsula were sloped into a glacis for the enclosure; and after that, alas, I seem to have stopped paying attention but I guess people slowly filled things in. At some point, quite late on, a new curtain wall enclosed the chapel and its surrounding buildings and now there’s really quite a lot of it.

Donjon of the Château de Chillon from below and outside

The donjon is fairly hard to gainsay

I took about a hundred and ten photos; processing them and discarding blurs and duplicates still left me with eighty-odd; by great strength of will I have whittled it down to twenty-four to show you. I won’t try and sustain a commentary, though; you just have to go and see…

View into the inner courtyard of the Château de Chillon

View into the inner courtyard from one of the galleries around it

Staircase in the outer courtyard of the Château de Chillon

The galleries are reached, of course, by period early modern rickety staircases

Barrels in the wine-cellar of the Château de Chillon

The Château is one in both French senses, producing a reasonable wine (I checked) that they sell on the premises

The prison chamber of the Château de Chillon

Just along from the cellar, predictably, is a big chamber that was long used as a prison before the new business caught up

The natural rockface in the prison chamber of the Château de Chillon

The chamber is part-built and part-carved out of the natural rock

The prison-chamber of the Château de Chillon

The vaulting nonetheless gives it the effect of having an aisle set into a cave

Fillets and wooden formers left in the vaulting of the prison-chamber at the Château de Chillon

There are some very interesting constructional leftovers in that vaulting…

Byron's inscription in a pillar of the prison-chamber in the Château de Chillon

… and some sadly-predictable outcomes of letting genuine Romantics loose in a big open prison turned tourist trap (yes, that does say BYRON)

Subterranean exterior of the Chapelle de Saint-Pantaléon, Château de Chillon

Now underground, this is the outside of the apse of the old chapel, further along the peninsula

Altar of the Chapelle de Saint Pantaléon, Château de Chillon

The altar, carefully fenced off

Back upstairs now!

View from the sixteenth-century dining room above the prison at the Château de Chillon

View from the sixteenth-century dining room above the prison… You c an see why one might want to build here, but also why one would want good protective eaves

writing-desk in the Musée du Château de Chillon

The main dining room and nearby chambers have displays of stuff in them; I rather liked this for a writing-desk…

Wall-painting in a bedroom of the Château de Chillon

Savoyard painting on one of the bedroom walls up above

Detail of camel in wall-painting in a bedroom of the Château de Chillon

I’d say this is a detail but can a camel ever be just a detail?

Natural rock in the first-floor walls of a room in the Château de Chillon

Even up here, a storey above notional floor level, the natural rock still forms part of some of the walls

Gallery walk in the upper part of the Château de Chillon

In general, quite a lot has been built onto these structures and footings

At last you have to climb the donjon tower. No, you do. Save some breath!

Subterranean storeys of the donjon tower at the Château de Chillon, visibl;e through a glass floor panel

It could be worse; you aren’t even allowed all the way down it…

View over the inner courtyard from some way up the donjon tower of the Château de Chillon

Nearly all the way up, looking down into the inner courtyard

View from the top over the junction between the courtyards of the Château de Chillon

View from the top over the junction between the courtyards

As you can see, it is never hard to find the lake; even the prison has windows against whose sills you can imagine that the water is lapping…

Channel separating the Château de Chillon from the lakeshore

Channel separating the castle from the lakeshore, understandably enough used for a fish-trap

In the end, though, even this castle ultimately has some pretty tough competition for dominating local scenery…

View from the landing stage of the Château de Chillon

At the landing stage, I think facing out toward la Vallée

3 responses to “Perhaps the most castly castle ever

  1. My thoughts exactly when I made a visit several years ago. I was greatly impressed. The wife, not so much.

  2. Pingback: Link Love | Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured)

  3. Pingback: Medieval treasures of New York | A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe

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