Saturday, July 12, 2014

Chillon Castle in Montreux, Switzerland

Chillon Castle overlooks crystal clear blue waters of  Lake Geneva in Switzerland near the border of France.  The Savoy family chose their location on a rocky inlet  nestled under the Alps for protection.  The medieval style lets you imagine Disney films with a princess waving her golden long locks calling for her prince to come.  Three noble families lived in the castle to shape its thousand year history.
The castle is the number one tourist attraction in Switzerland with 330,000 visitors each year.  The French call Lake Geneva Lac Leman.   The lake forms a natural moat with an old drawbridge to raise for defense.  
At first the castle had twenty five little buildings but over time they were connected through passageways.
Deep in the cellar they stored food and supplies in oak barrels.

The castle was located in a perfect place for trade and charged tolls for the chance to carry goods on the routes around the fortress.  The power of controlling supplies to all of Europe gave the families of Chillon stability.  

Supplies were needed to feed guests to the castle at a large banquet.  Peter Savoy built the three spiky towers along the lakeside view.  The Savoy family didn't live at the castle all year because they needed to travel to  make sure their lands were safe.
The Savoy's were in control from 1150 to 1536.  They moved their administration to Chamberly in the 14th century and let the castle be used as a place to store prisoners.     In 1536 the Bernese family came to free the prisoners as in many political changes it was a hope for freedom.    But the castle was still used to hold prisoners.
From the dungeon there was a little window with bars with a view of refreshing Lake Geneva.  Lord Byron made the castle famous by writing a poem from the prisoner's point of view.  
Prisoner of Chillon Castle
There are seven pillars of Gothic mould,
in Chillon's dungeons deep and old,
There are seven columns, massy and grey,
Dim with a dull imprison'd ray,
A sunbeam which hath lost its way,
And through the crevice and the cleft
Of the thick wall is fallen and left;
Creeping o'er the floor so damp,
Like a marsh's meteor lamp;
And in each pillar there is a ring,
And in each ring there is a chain;
That iron is a cankering thing,
For in these limbs its teeth remain,
With marks that will not wear away,
Till I have done with this new day,
Which now is painful to these eyes,
Which have not seen the sun to rise
For years I cannot count them o'er,
I lost their long and heavy score
When my last brother droop'd and died,
And I lay living by his side.

Lord Byron, 1816
Perhaps the princess of the castle thought of the prisoners below in the cold, dark, damp, lonely dungeon.  She saw the same blue waters from the castle window.  So close but so far from being able to help.  Maybe she sneaked
them food to stay alive as the servants were cooking on an open flame.  As she lay in bed thinking of her day she prayed for the prisoners below sleeping on a hard damp floor of cold stone.  Its not that different today when so many are blessed with safe homes  but know some are less fortunate and must stay in a prison for political injustice.

Imaginations run wild as time intersects the past with reminders of a different era where rulers controlled many subjects.  Each had a task or job to perform to keep the kingdom strong.  

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