Framed by the Swiss Alps and set securely on a rock foundation at the edge of Lake Geneva, Chateau de Chillon's hand-carved stones and dark history now live in the light.
Chillon occupied a controlling position along ancient trade routes during the Middle Ages, working as a tollhouse, warehouse, fortress, prison, and arsenal--depending on who owned, remodeled or operated it. For a virtual history and tour of the castle, click HERE and choose the parts you'd like to see or read about.
I don't remember much about the upper rooms of the fortress but am haunted by the stone staircase descent into the depths of the underground rooms where prisoners, chained to its rough-hewn walls, languished in the stone-cold spaces for decades.
During the Romantic Movement, Lord Byron found the medieval dungeon aesthetics (note the alluring juxtaposition of rough prison walls and the Gothic cathedral roof overhead in the castle tour link, above) fascinating enough for a romantic verse-tale...here's a quick excerpt:
Chillon! The prison is a holy place,from The Prisoner of Chillon/a fable
And thy sad floor an altar - for 'twas trod,
Until his very steps have left a trace
Worn as if thy cold pavement were a sod,
By Bonnivard! - May none these marks efface!
For they appeal from tyranny to God.
At the castle exit, I am thrilled to return to the sun and the al fresco picnic waiting at the edge of the lake. I am glad to walk free of the wailing, sobbing prison walls, grateful for the gift of the experience, and happy to walk in light of the past.