Sion and its castles
The topography of Sion is very specific – situated in the middle of the Rhone Valley, the town is dotted with hills. They have always been occupied by men who have made them into observation points and defensive sites.
The history of these protuberances and their occupation gives us an insight into how the land was organised and medieval politics. In Valais, the bishop was a central character – he was not only the spiritual head of the diocese, but also, up until the XVIIIth century, he held temporal power over the majority of what is currently Valais.
These kingly rights had been granted to Bishop Hugues by the King of Burgundy, Rodolphe III, in 999. Throughout the Middle Ages, the bishop had to fervently defend these prerogatives, which were contested by the powerful House of Savoy as well as by the local nobility. Therefore, the history of Valais of this period is marked by many conflicts, some of which were bloody.
In this context, the castles of the town of Sion were important footholds and outward hallmarks of episcopal power. The most noteworthy fortifications in Sion stand on the twin hills of Valère and Tourbillon. On the summit of the latter, which is the highest, a castle was built in around 1300 by the bishop of Sion as his home.
Its foothills are occupied by the Majorie and Vidomnat towers. The other hill houses the fortified village surrounding the Valère Basilica.
Facing them, at the other end of the town, stands the hill of Montorge. There are also ruins here, remnants of the castle that was destroyed by fire in 1417 and has never been rebuilt.