Chateau Chillon, or Chillon Castle, is located on the banks of Lake Geneva in the canton of Vaud, Switzerland. It’s spectacular location and wonderful setting make it one of the most visited castles in the country.
Began during the Roman occupation of modern-day Switzerland, the castle was originally built as an outpost guarding the alpine passes the Roman’s. Although no official foundation date is known for the castle we see today, appears in documents from 1005 which mention the castles use in guarding the Great Saint Bernard Pass. By the mid 12th century, the French House of Savoy had gained control of the region and the then duke, Peter II, expanded the castle greatly as well as mooring his fleet in the waters of Lake Geneva. Europe in the 16th century was dominated with wars of religion and Chateau Chillon was no different. It was during this period that the castle was used as a jail.
The Prisoner of Chillon
The most famous prisoner who was held in its dungeons was François de Bonivard, a Genevese. Bonivard monk, who was imprisoned there in 1530 for defending his homeland from the Dukes of Savoy. Over his 6-year imprisonment he paced as far as the chains would allow him, today the chain, along with the ruts it created are still visible. He was eventually rescued when the castle was taken in 1536, by his countrymen along with soldiers from the canton of Bern. The story of Bonivard was later immortalised by Lord Byron in the poem the Prisoner of Chillon. Today you can still see Byron’s name that he carved into one of the pillars in its famed prison.
From 1733 onwards, the castle served as a state prison and later as a munitions and weapons depot.
Today the castle is open to the public and it was also the inspiration for the Disney animated film “The little Mermaid”