Montorge, 13th century

Savoyard fortress built on the lands of Prince-Bishop

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Montorge Castle is symbolic of the unremitting battles between the bishop of Sion and the Counts of Savoy throughout the Middle Ages. It was built in 1233 by Aymon de Chablais, son of the Count of Savoy, and the purpose of it was to control the Rhone Valley and the road to High Valais. It was a real provocation for the bishop of Sion because it encroached upon his land. Therefore, the erection of this fortress on episcopal territory led to bloody battles with the House of Savoy. They finally ended when the castle was taken by bishop Henry of Raron in 1264.

After this and throughout the XIVth century, Montorge became a major stake in the conflicts and alliances between the bishop and the Counts of Savoy. Montorge passed from hand to hand as the political situation changed. It is this turbulent history that led to the ruin of the fortress, which was destroyed by fire in 1417 during the "War of Raron" between the powerful family from local noble stock and the people of Valais, who were eager for freedom. Since this period the castle has not been rebuilt and only the ruins survive.

Montorge Castle was built on a rocky promontory. To the north, a sheer cliff made it impossible to access it, while to the south, the bare grassy slope prevented anyone from climbing up unseen. To provide protection for the east and west slopes, several defensive structures were built such as ditches, outposts, a fortified bridge, etc. To get into the fortress, it was then necessary to get past the guardroom and the entrance tower. Inside there was a large building and its annexe with a water tank in the basement. It is difficult to say now how they were laid out, but they most probably looked like the fortified houses on the hill of Valère.

On the highest point of the hill stood a watchtower and warning tower, which, because of its dominant position, was able to communicate with many other castles in the valley. It is possible that it is older than the castle itself. No medieval relic has been found at the place where the statue of the Virgin stands today.

At the start of the twenty-first century, thanks to the "Bourgeoisie of Sion" the owners of the site, a clearing of the site, followed by removal of the vegetation covering the stonework, uncovered some of the site’s archaeological riches and enabled reinforcement and restoration work to be carried out.

 

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