Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Dungeons and Dragoons

On a substantial rock at the end of Lac Leman, a couple kilometres from Montreux, sits Chillon Castle (http://www.chillon.ch/en/), a fortress that was built, section by section, stone by stone, over several centuries on a strategic site thought to have once hosted Roman Legionnaires. 

The castle is best remembered as a prison for François Bonivard, immortalized by Lord Byron’s poem, The Prisoner of Chillon (https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Sonnet_on_Chillon#Sonnet_on_Chillon). I particularly like this line: “Freedom's fame finds wings on every wind …” 
Bonivard was “a lover of independence, a child of the later Renaissance,” who “threw in his lot with a band of ardent reformers and patriots, who were conspiring to shake off the yoke of Duke Charles III of Savoy,” and convert Geneva into a republic. The Duke confined Bonivard in Chillon’s dungeon, chained to a post and so unable to move about, from 1530 to 1536. After his release by the Bernese, Bonivard became a scholar, author, and reformer. 

Geneva established itself as an independent republic in May 1535. 

In 1602, another Duke of Savoy, Charles Emmanuel, attempted a surprise attack on Geneva, but was repelled by the Geneva militia – an event celebrated by the annual festival of L’Escalade (which comes up this weekend) - http://www.lake-geneva-switzerland.com/geneve/see-l%E2%80%99escalade-festival-and-celebrations-in-geneva-in-mid-december/. 
Donna-Lane and I had walked to the castle from the Montreux marché, only to find that the Christmas presentation at the castle would not occur until the weekend (we were there on Wednesday). So I ended up instead with a fascinating history lesson, including how to design a fortress to ward off would-be attackers (if we ever buy a house outside the village, I may consider a moat.)

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