Château de Grandson

Almost 1'000 years of history!

Humans inhabited the region since prehistoric times, as excavations have testified. When the level of lake Neuchâtel was artificially lowered in the 1870’s, a great number of ancient artefacts came to the surface and a late Iron Age culture was named La Tène after a village near Neuchâtel. The ancient Romans constructed a fortified oppidum at Yverdon, and those that followed, all sought to be near this direct highway from North-Western Europe to Rome. Charles of Burgundy too, chose this way across the Jura Mountains to re-take Grandson Castle in 1476.

The Sires of Grandson, first mentioned in 993, chose a rocky outcrop, overlooking the lake to construct a castle, adjoining the little town. The first member of the family, recorded as Princeps castri Grantionensis, is Adalbert II in 1049.

Château de Grandson

The simplified plans above illustrate, that at first a square tower was built, surrounded by a fortification. This was followed by a second, separate building to the south, the old Château. It is thought that eight generations of the family enlarged and built on the castle, including Othon I, under whom the castle took its shape in the latter part of the 13th century, as it appears to us today.

The very close ties of the family to the court of Savoy explains, why this structure follows those of the so-called Carré Savoyard. Daniel de Raemy has devoted two sizeable tomes to this subject, Chateaux, Donjons et Grandes Tours Dans Les Etats De Savoie, Lausanne 2004. A more recent book that re-examines the similarities of building castles in Savoy, Wales and Palestine was written by Robert J. Dean, Castles in Distant Lands, Willingdon 2009.

In 1397, a great fire destroyed all the roofs of the castle and a good part of the town. 80 years later, the Sires de Chalon, enforced the defences against the onslaught of the Confederates.

After the victorious battle of Grandson in 1476, Château de Grandson was used alternately by Berne and Fribourg until 1798. A few alterations did take place during this period, namely the erection of staircase and the internal construction of the private apartments.

The following owners, République Helvétique, the Canton of Vaud and the city of Grandson and the subsequent private owner, Francois Perret did not effect many changes, however used the castle for such diverse purposes, such as prison, barracks, tobacco factory, tribunal, winery and finally as private housing.

In 1875 Baron Gustave de Blonay (1830-1900) acquired the castle, and together with his son, Godefroy (1869-1937), carried out a number of alterations with the help of the architect Otto Schmid. The comforts that the early 20th century afforded, such as central heating, electricity, bathrooms and a master kitchen were installed. The East-wing was re-built to house the Salle des Chevaliers, along with the choir stalls from Northern Italy, dating from the 17th century. The Grand Salon was furnished with a substantial wooden ceiling and a very grand, spiral staircase.

With the acquisition of Château de Grandson by Georges Filipinetti in 1956, a chapel was created, a torture chamber and a dungeon. This work was overseen by Herbert Wolfgang Stuber, the “Comte de Caboga”. This period also saw the opening of the castle to the public with a number of exhibits, such as arms and armour and automobiles.

After a brief period of closure, Château de Grandson was re-opened to the public and acquired by a Swiss foundation for arts, culture and history (Stiftung für Kunst, Kultur und Geschichte), with the financial aide of the Confederation and the Canton Vaud.

Since then, the Fondation du Château de Grandson runs the castle and guarantees it’s access to the public. Recently, we have started a program of restoration, conservation and ameliorisation. An exciting part of this project will be a new elevator passing through all six levels of the main South building.