Rapperswil Castle

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For other uses, see Rapperswil (disambiguation).
Schloss Rapperswil
Rapperswil - Hafen - Schloss-Pfarrkirche - Seedamm 2014-09-23 15-20-02.JPG
Rapperswil harbour, as seen from Seedamm, Fischmarktplatz to the right, Rapperswil castle and Stadtpfarrkirche (St. John's Church) in the background (September 2014)
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, built in the early 13th century AD by the House of Rapperswil in the former independent city of Rapperswil.

It is located on the eastern Zürichsee respectively western Obersee lakeshore in Rapperswil, a locality of the municipality Rapperswil-Jona in the canton of St. Gallen in Switzerland. Since 1870, the castle has been home to the Polish National Museum established by Polish émigrés, including the castle's lessee and restorer, Count Wladyslaw Broel-Plater. Schloss Rapperswil and the museum are listed in the Swiss inventory of cultural property of national and regional significance.[1]

Deer Park on Lindenhof, Zürichsee and Kempraten in the background
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 around 1445)
The ruined Rapperswil castle, view of the palas and so-called Gügegliturm tower from the courtyard, drawing by Heinrich Keller around 1848
Polish freedom pillar (Freiheitssäule) and the so-called Pulverturm
Rapperswil Castle as seen from Seedamm (December 2009)


The medieval Altstadt of the city of Rapperswil is dominated by the castle perched atop a longish rocky hill on the peninsula called Lindenhof hill 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 and by those upper section on the northwesten Seedamm area. Thus, the castle was well protected, dominating the old town of Rapperswil, and controlling the water way between Walensee and Lake Zürich on its most narrow part, as well as the medieval Gotthard Pass 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 the Stadtmuseum Rapperswil.


Rapperswil Castle dates back around 1200 to 1220 AD, and it was first mentioned in 1229. The castle and the fortifications of the former locus Endingen (given by the Einsiedeln Abbey) were built by Count Rudolf II and his son Rudolf III von Rapperswil, when the nobility of Rapperswil moved from Altendorf (Alt-Rapperswil) across the lake to the other side of the so-called Seedamm, maybe to establish their own parish church and to avoid to go the mess, by crossing the lake, in St. Martin Busskirch. As before in the 11th and 12th century AD, the family acted as Vogt of the 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, after which emperor Rudolf I acquired their fiefs. The Herrschaft Rapperswil proper passed to the house of Homberg represented by Count Ludwig († April, 27 1289) by fist marriage of Countess Elisabeth von Rapperswil. Around 1309 the bailiwick passed to Count Rudolf von Habsburg-Laufenburg († 1315) by second marriage of Countess Elisabeth, the sister of Rudolf V, followed by her son, Count Johann I († 1337 in Grynau) 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 23 October 1870 the Polish National Museum was established.[2][3] Except for two hiatuses (1927 to 1936 and 1952 to 1975), 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 daughters and son 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 was conducting a petition campaign to retain the Museum in the castle, but although the Stadtmuseum (museum of local history was kept respectively renewed at its location at the nearby Breny house at Herrenberg in 2012/13, [4] indeed, the future of the Polish Museum remains unsure.[5][6]

Architecture and points of interest[edit]


Rebuilt by Duke Albert II, since 1354 the castle forms an almost equilateral triangle,and 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).

Lindenhof hill[edit]

On the castle's terrace, the eastern part of the so-called Lindenhof hill-square, 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 old city of Rapperswil, upper and lower Lake Zürich, on the Seedamm and the wooden bridge from Rapperswil to Hurden and to the Glarus Alps, as well to the Bachtel mountain. On the northern side of the Lindenhof plateau stretches a supervised Deer park with 10 to 15 deer down toward the lake, which is a reminder of the legend of its founding.


Inside the castle's palais, there is located next to the Polish Museum the Schloss Restaurant.[7] After hours visits are available by appointment, as well as guided tours for groups in the Polish Museum, although the castle is just partially accessible for the public. Remarkable are the impressing Rittersaal (knight's hall) and the historical wooden architecture, as well some pictures and tapestry.

State of research[edit]

It is assumed also a predecessor building, a Roman watchtower in conjunction with the Vicus Centum Prata, but for the present there are no archaeological findings. Due to the structural conditions, as of today there were no significant archaeological excavations carried out, incidentally at the entire area of the Lindenhof and Herrenberg area. Likewise, there are few reliable data for the construction, only the renovations and the function of the castle are therefore secured by sources.

Heritage sites of national significance[edit]

Rapperswil Castle and the Polish Museum are listed in the Swiss inventory of cultural property of national and regional significance, as well as the historical lake crossings.[1]


  1. ^ a b "A-Objekte KGS-Inventar" (in German). Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft, Amt für Bevölkerungsschutz. 2009. Retrieved 2014-11-09. 
  2. ^ Pauszer-Klonowska, pp. 466/467.
  3. ^ "Official Website". The Polish Museum in Rapperswil. Retrieved 2014-11-09. 
  4. ^ "Architektur" (in German). Stadtmuseum Rapperswil-Jona. Retrieved 2014-11-09. 
  5. ^ "Official statement on the Future of the Polish Museum in Rapperswil". The Polish Museum in Rapperswil. Retrieved 2014-11-10. 
  6. ^ "Umstrittenes Polenmuseum soll im Schloss Rapperswil bleiben" (in German). Schweiz aktuell. 2013-03-28. Retrieved 2014-11-10. 
  7. ^ "Schloss Restaurant Rapperswil" (in German). Schloss Restaurant Rapperswil. Retrieved 2014-11-09. 

External links[edit]