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Chillon Castle

The Chillon Castle (Chateau de Chillon) is located on the shore of Lake Geneva near Montreux, Switzerland. The castle consists of 25 independent buildings that were gradually connected and now form a single whole.

Chillon Castle

It now hosts a museum with some historical objects preserved.

It was made famous by Lord Byron, who wrote the poem The Prisoner Of Chillon (1816) about François de Bonivard, a Genevois monk and politician who was imprisoned there from 1530 to 1536.

The oldest parts of the castle have not been definitively dated, but the first written record of the castle is in 1160. From the mid 12th century, the castle was home to the Counts of Savoy, and it was greatly expanded in the 13th century by Pietro II.

A few jaded cynics might call it a tourist trap, but let's be fair. The Chateau de Chillon is a genuine 13th Century castle just outside Montreux, Switzerland, not a plaster replica at Disney World. And Lord Byron's famous poem, The Prisoner of Chillon, was about a real person: François Bonivard, a lay official at St. Victor's priory in Geneva, who spoke out in favor of the Reformation and was shackled to a stone pillar by the Duke of Savoy from 1530 until the Bernese conquest of Vaud in 1536.

The castle appears to rise out of the waters of Lac Léman, where it occupies a rocky islet and is connected to the mainland by a small wooden bridge. The setting could hardly be more dramatic--and it's certainly beautiful, at least to modern visitors who know they won't be assigned to basement quarters for an indefinite stay. (In the old days, its scenic location had a more practical value: The castle faced the road between Bergundy and Italy, thereby protecting the House of Savoy's military and commercial interests.)

A thousand years and counting No one is sure when the castle was first built. Its site has been occupied since the Bronze Age, but most historians date the oldest parts of the chateau to about a thousand years ago and credit Pierre II of Savoy with building the present structure in the 13th Century. Its infamous dungeons were literally carved from the rock that supports the castle foundations. The visible portions of the castle include some two dozen buildings around three courtyards, all jammed together in a classically crowded medieval style.

For the last 200 years, the château has been owned by the Canton of Vaud, and it has been a tourist attraction since it was visited (and popularized) by 19th Century poets and authors such as Byron, Shelley, Victor Hugo, Hans Christian Andersen, Flaubert, Mark Twain, and Charles Dickens.