Bellinzona Castles (World Heritage)

The three mighty castles Castello Grande, Castello di Montebello and Castello di Sasso Corbaro are witnesses of the long history of Bellinzona, which from time immemorial fulfilled a strategically important bridge function between Central and Southern Europe and was conquered by the Confederates at the end of the 15th century.

Bellinzona Castles: Facts

Official title: The three castles of Bellinzona
Cultural monument: Three medieval fortifications in the inner villages with protective walls and city fortifications; Castello Grande (12th / 13th century) with ao Torre Bianca, Torre Nera, curtain wall and kennel; Castello Montebello (13th / 15th century), including a core castle (13th century), main castle, forecourt and curtain wall; Castello Sasso Corbaro with residential tower (around 1400), curtain wall and defense tower (1478/79)
Continent: Europe
Country: Switzerland
Location: Bellinzona, Canton Ticino
Appointment: 2000
Meaning: Unique and still preserved example of medieval military architecture in the entire Alpine region; outstanding evidence of fortress architecture in Switzerland

Bellinzona Castles: History

around 1000 BC Chr. The Ligurians settle down in Ticino
31-14 BC Chr. Conquest of the Ticino valleys by the Romans under Emperor Augustus
around 900 Extension of the territory of the bishops of Como to Bellinzona
1154 Emperor Friedrich I Barbarossa crossed the Lukmanier Pass for the first time
1291 Rütli oath: start of the Swiss Confederation
1403 Bellinzona to the Uri
1422 Bellinzona back to Milan
1500 Continuation of the conquests by the Confederates
1798 Fall of the old Swiss Confederation
1803 Ticino an independent canton of Switzerland
1878 Bellinzona sole capital of Ticino
1920-1955 Comprehensive security and restoration work on the fortifications
1992 End of the restoration of the Castello Grande

“Key and gateway to Italy” – Castles of Bellinzona

According to thereligionfaqs, Bellinzona, the capital of the Swiss canton of Ticino, has long been a bridge between Central and Southern Europe, a transit area for peoples and armies, and the crossroads of transalpine traffic. Here, where the valley of the Ticino (Ticino) widens to the fertile Magadino plain, several trade routes and roads converge, coming from the Alpine passes of St. Gotthard, Lukmanier, San Bernardino and Nufenens. In the shadow of the three mighty castles Castello Grande, Castello di Montebello and Castello di Sasso Corbaro, the city developed into a landmark and widely visible witness of a fortified past. Anyone who called this valley point their own could participate in the trade in goods and influence the course of history.

The area around Bellinzona was already settled in the Stone Age. Around 1000 BC Ligurians moved north from northern Italy and settled in the valleys of the Alps. They were followed by Celts and Etruscans. The Romans, who lived as early as 196 BC. BC as far as the Bellinzona area were the first to recognize the strategic importance of this bottleneck. They built a fort on a rock ridge, which served as the starting point for their campaigns of conquest against the “barbarians” in the north. In 568 the Lombards advanced across the Alps to northern Italy and founded an empire with the capital Pavia. The Frankish king Charlemagne (747-814), called for help by the Pope, moved south, conquered the Lombard Empire in 774 and incorporated it into the Frankish Empire as the kingdom of Lombardy.

Since the 13th century, Ticino has repeatedly been the scene of armed conflicts between the loyal to the emperor and the loyal to the papacy: the Guelphs, who, under the leadership of the pope, fought against the strengthening of the central imperial power in imperial Italy, attempted to rule over the alpine valleys and passes ruled by the imperial Ghibellines to expand. During this time, the Castello di Montebello was built on the eastern rocky spur of Bellinzona. After a long siege, Bellinzona came under the rule of the Visconti family from Milan. The new owners began to develop the city into an impregnable fortress. They expanded the two older castles and connected them with a wide defensive wall that reached as far as the course of the Ticino river. Around 1400 a tower was built on the eastern mountain flank, which formed the core of the Castello di Sasso Corbaro. However, construction of this fortress did not begin until 1478, after the Swiss Confederates, who were pushing south, had defeated the overwhelming Milanese army in the Battle of Giornico in 1478. The dukes of Milan – the Sforza family had replaced the Visconti – tried in a great hurry to close the gap in their defense system. But after a short siege by the French, the citizens of Bellinzona voluntarily placed themselves under the protection of the Confederates in 1500 without them having to attack the fortress. The French renounced the county of Bellinzona in 1503 in favor of the Confederates. The three castles were divided among the cantons: Castello Grande went to Uri, Castello di Montebello to Schwyz and Castello di Sasso Corbaro to Unterwalden. Bellinzona lost its strategic importance and the castles fell into disrepair over time. Only at the beginning of the 20th century did the restoration of the former fortresses begin – now owned by the canton of Ticino, which was founded in 1803.

Bellinzona Castles (World Heritage)