Tourbillon Castle (French: Château de Tourbillon) is a castle in Sion in the canton of Valais in Switzerland. It is situated on a hill and faces the Basilique de Valère, located on the opposite hill. The castle was ruined in a fire in 1788. It is a Swiss heritage site of national significance.
The Diocese of Sion was originally founded in Octodurum, now called Martigny in the early 4th century. In 589 the bishop, St. Heliodorus, transferred the see to Sion, as Octodurum was frequently endangered by the inundations of the Rhone and the Drance. Very little is known about the early Bishops and the early churches in Sion. However, in the late 10th century the last King of Upper Burgundy Rudolph III, granted the County of Valais to Bishop Hugo (998- 1017). The combination of spiritual and secular power made the Prince-Bishops the most powerful nobles in the Upper Rhone valley. Sion became the political and religious center of the region. By the 12th century they began building impressive churches and castles in Sion to represent their power and administer their estates. Valère, as the residence of the cathedral chapter in Sion, was one-third of the administrative center of the powerful Diocese of Sion. In the 12th century the Cathedral Notre Dame de Sion (du Glarier) was built in the town below Valère hill. Glarier Cathedral became the seat of the Diocese of Sion, while the Prince-Bishop of Sion lived in the castle.
Tourbillon Castle was built sometime between 1290 and 1308 by the Bishop of Sion, Boniface de Challant, as his principal residence. However, in 1373, the Prince-Bishop bought Majorie Castle and moved his residence off the rocky spire. While, Tourbillon became the Prince-Bishop's summer residence, it remained a visible symbol of secular and ecclesiastical power. A large part of the castle was destroyed by the Patriots of the Valais in 1416. The castle was then rebuilt in 1477 by Bishop Guillaume VI of Raron, wanting to build a chapel and an exterior wall built with battlements. In later centuries, the military importance of the castle decreased, and in 1788, a gigantic fire in Sion reduced the castle to ashes. Fifteenth-century frescoes in the chapel were damaged but survive.
The castle ruins are located on a rocky spire above the city of Sion. Reaching the site requires climbing steep stairs that wind around the hill. The castle is surrounded by a ring wall that follows the irregular top of the spire. On the west side of the complex is a pentagonal fortified building. The 15th century chapel is located in the south-west corner. The chapel's frescoes are still intact despite the fire that destroyed the castle. A slender watch tower still stands in this corner as well. The southern wall is fortified with a square gate house. The keep is rectangular and many of the interior walls still stand.
- "Kantonsliste A-Objekte". KGS Inventar (in German). Federal Office of Civil Protection. 2009. Retrieved 25 April 2011.
- Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Sion". Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company.
- Diocese of Sion - Cathedral (German) (French) accessed 19 March 2014
- My Switzerland.com - Tourbillon accessed 19 March 2014
- Swiss Castles.ch (German)(French) accessed 19 March 2014
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