Rapperswil Castle

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For other uses, see Rapperswil (disambiguation).
Schloss Rapperswil
Rapperswil - Seedamm IMG 2913 ShiftN.jpg
Rapperswil harbour, as seen from Seedamm, Fischmarktplatz to the right, Rapperswil castle and Stadtpfarrkirche (St. John's Church) in the background (November 2009)
Rapperswil Castle is located in Switzerland
Rapperswil Castle
Location within Switzerland
General information
Classification Historic monument
Town or city Rapperswil
Country Switzerland
Coordinates 47°13′38″N 8°48′56″E / 47.227337°N 8.815509°E / 47.227337; 8.815509
Construction started ~ 1220 respectively 1352
Completed ~ 1229 respectively 1354

Rapperswil Castle (Swiss German: Schloss Rapperswil) is a castle in the city of Rapperswil. It is located on the eastern shore of the Lake Zurich and belongs to the municipality of Rapperswil-Jona in the canton of St. Gallen, Switzerland. Since 1870, the castle has been home to the Polish National Museum created by Polish émigrés, including the castle's lessee and restorer, Count Wladyslaw Broel-Plater. It is a Swiss heritage site of national significance.[1]


Deer Park on Lindenhof hill

The medieval Altstadt of the city of Rapperswil is dominated by the castle perched atop a longish rocky hill on the peninsula called Lindenhof on its western side respectively Herrenberg on its eastern side where the castle was built. It is surrounded on three sides by the Lake Zürich. Thus, the castle was well protected, dominating the old town of Rapperswil, and controlling the water way between Lake Walen and Lake Zürich on its most narrow part, as well as the medieval route between Lombardy and Zürich, and the Jakobsweg (Way of St. James) to the Einsiedeln Abbey. The castle is situated next to Stadtpfarrkirche Rapperswil and (to the east) a former small castle, as of today Stadtmuseum Rapperswil.


Rapperswil/Habsburg soldiers marquing a battle barque manned by Old Swiss Conferdation soldiers at Endigerhorn in Rapperswil, Rapperswil Castle atop the Lindenhof hill to the left (Old Zürich War ~1445)
The ruined Rapperswil castle, view of the palas and so-called Gügegliturm tower from the courtyard, drawing by Heinrich Keller ~1848

Rapperswil Castle dates back around 1220 and is first mentioned in 1229. The castle and the fortifications of the former locus Endingen (given by Einsiedeln Abbey) were built by Count Rudolf II and his son Rudolf III of Rapperswil. It was founded when the nobility of Rapperswil moved from Altendorf (SZ) across the lake to the other side of the so-called Seedamm. The counts of Rapperswil had possessions in what is now Eastern and Central Switzerland, and they acted as Vögte of Einsiedeln Abbey. Sandstone from the Lützelau island was used to build the castle, the town walls and the city. The Counts of Rapperswil became extinct in 1283 with the death of the 18-year-old Count Rudolf V of Rapperswil, after which emperor Rudolf I acquired their fiefs. The Grafschaft of Rapperswil proper passed to the house of Homberg represented by Count Ludwig († April, 27 1289) by fist marriage of Elisabeth of Rapperswil. Around 1309 the Grafschaft passed to Count Rudolf († 1315) of Habsburg-Laufenburg by second marriage of Elisabeth of Rapperswil, the sister of Rudolf V, followed by her son, Count Johann I († 1337) and his son, Johann II († 1380).

In 1350, an attempted coup by the aristocratic opposition (a central person was Count Johann II) in the city of Zürich was forcefully put down, and the town walls of Rapperswil and the castle were destroyed by Rudolf Brun. Eis-zwei-Geissebei, a Carnival festival hold in Rapperswil on Shrove Tuesday, may go back to the siege and destruction of the city of Rapperswil. The battlements and the castle were rebuilt by Albrecht II, Duke of Austria in 1352/54. After the extinction of the line of Habsburg-Laufenburg in 1442, the castle was given to the citizens of Rapperswil. Ending Old Zürich War, Rapperswil was controlled by the Swiss Confederation from 1458 to 1798 as a so-called Gemeine Herrschaft, i.e. under control of two cantons of the Old Swiss Conferation and their representant, a Vogt, and Rapperswil castle became an administration site respectively military base and prison.

Over the course of time, the castle fell into disrepair. In 1870, the castle was leased for 99 years from the local authorities by a post-November 1830 Uprising Polish émigré, Count Wladyslaw Broel-Plater (a relative of Emilia Plater, a heroine of the same 1830 Uprising), who had been in Switzerland since 1844. At his own expense he restored the castle, and on October 23, 1870, opened there the Polish National Museum.[2][3] Except for two hiatuses (1927–36, 1952–75), the Museum has existed to the present day — an outpost of Polish culture in Switzerland, the country which, over the past two centuries, has given refuge to generations of Poland's sons and daughters bereft of their own country. In 2008, some Rapperswil residents petitioned local authorities to evict the Polish Museum from its home in the castle, as two historical museum locations (Stadtmuseum and Polish Museum) estimated to be too expensive. The Museum is conducting a petition campaign to retain the Museum in the castle;[4] the Stadtmuseum (museum of local history) will be kept respectively in 2010/11 renewed at his actual location at the nearby Breny house at Herrenberg.[5]

Architecture and points of interest[edit]

Polish freedom pillar (Freiheitssäule) and the so-called Pulverturm
Rapperswil Castle as seen from Seedamm (December 2009)

Rebuilt by Duke Albert II, since 1354 the castle forms an almost equilateral triangle, each corner is reinforced with a tower. The highest tower in the southwest is called donjon or Gügeliturm in Swiss-German language, where the so-called Hochwächter warned the residents against approaching danger or fire. The five-sided Zeitturm, a clock tower in the east, houses three bells and beside a sundial and two large clocks. Between these two towers the castle's palais is situated. In addition, ramparts respectively battlements are leading to the third tower in the northwest, the so-called Pulverturm (powder tower).

On the castle's terrace, the eastern part of the so-called Lindenhof, the Polish freedom pillar is situated, as a sign of Switzerland's solidarity with peoples who struggle for their freedom. From there is also an impressing view over the Altstadt, upper and lower Lake Zürich, on the Seedamm from Rapperswil to Hurden and the to Glarus Alps, as well to the Bachtel mountain. On the northern side of the Lindenhof plateau stretches a supervised Deer park with 10-15 deer down toward the lake, which is a reminder of the legend of its founding. In the castle's palais, there is located next to the Polish Museum a restaurant.[6] Guided tours are offered by the museum.



External links[edit]