DSCN0183Renaissance, not Middle Ages…this is because I do not have pictures showing a medieval event, so I had to make use of whatever soldiers in armour I had in my picture archive (Fête de lEscalade, Geneva, 2011).                                                        [Please note that the words in dark red in the text below are hyperlinks.]

As I was doing some fact checking for a post I am writing on Switzerland’s largest museum on prehistory and archaeology (which I visited last week in Neuchâtel), I stumbled across some references to past editions of Swiss Celtic festivals which I had not heard about in due time. Held during weekends in August or September 2007, 2010 and 2012 in the region of the Three Lakes (Neuchâtel, Morat, Bienne), these events seem to have been as much about celebrating the revival of Celtic music in its present form as about recreating some aspects of Celtic life in Switzerland for the modern visitor:

This reminded me of a medieval festival at Estavayer-le-Lac I had missed almost two years ago:

(source: www.latele.ch)

During the process of checking the date of this medieval festival, held (as it should be) at a castle (that of Chenaux, Estavayer-le-Lac), to my surprise I found out that several similar events are organised either each year, every two years or even on a less frequent basis in Switzerland. So I thought it would be nice to share this list on the Internet so that anybody interested in such recreations of medieval history staged in Switzerland might have some kind of starting point from which to go further, especially since 2015 looks to be a vintage year for Swiss medieval festivals.

Aventicum MMXV, Avenches's two thousandth anniversary, 22 to 25 May 2015Logo: screenshot from http://www.aventicum2015.ch

The first event on this year’s calendar is to be held at Avenches, the town which was the capital of the equivalent of Switzerland under the Romans. To mark its 2000th anniversary as a town/city, Avenches will be holding on 22 to 25 May 2015 probably the second largest gathering of reenacting associations in Switzerland this year and its medieval village is likely to stand out in this respect with no fewer than 250 participants in historical costumes — more information at http://www.aventicum2015.ch/ (in French).

On 20 and 21 June 2015, to celebrate St. John’s day (midsummer’s day) the Castle of Gruyères will be holding a ‘medieval’ fair presenting to the visitor some of the craftsmanship and forms of entertainment of the 16th century in what I consider to be one of Switzerland’s loveliest castles — more information on the web page of the tourism office of Gruyères dedicated to this event. Unofficial clip shot in 2007:

For its 10th edition (to be held on 10, 11 and 12 July 2015), the ‘médiévales’ of Saint-Ursanne in the canton of Jura has chosen the themes of ‘myths and fantasy’. The event, which is normally the largest of its kind in Switzerland (but this year it looks like it will have to vie for the second position with Aventicum MMXV because of Fêtes médiévales de Saillon), will have an Arthurian camp with some 50 participants and visitors will be able to listen to tales and stories from the Middle Ages. According to the web page of ‘les médiévales, this three-day event will feature hundreds of participants, performers and actors as well as it will bring together dozens of craftsmen/craftswomen who will be displaying their skills — additional info on the FB page of ‘les médiévales’ of Saint-Ursanne. Clip by a local TV station (KBleu) with more clips available on the same famous web channel:

On 15 and 16 August 2015, the castle of Grandson (whose garrison was put to death by the forces of Charles the Bold, duke of Burgundy, after they had surrendered on 28 February 1476) will hold its medieval weekend. In addition to providing food, craftsmanship and forms of entertainment typical of the Middle Ages in the castle’s courtyards, gardens and many halls, the festival offers visitors the opportunity to wear medieval costumes so as to be able to ‘soak up the atmosphere’.  More info at http://www.chateau-grandson.ch/en/medieval_festival.html; some pictures of previous editions are available at http://www.amis-chateau-grandson.ch/albums-photos. Unofficial clip:

(source: organising association)

Fêtes Médiévales de Saillon, Switzerland’s oldest medieval festival (the first edition was held in 1987), takes place every four years at Saillon in the French-speaking part of the canton of Valais. Over five days, this festival offers various medieval workshops as well as all the other types of activities you would expect from such a festival: medieval falconry, knight tournaments, performances by jugglers, plays as well as music and dance performances. The highlight of this festival is probably the ‘grand cortège’ (street procession) of some 1,000 participants clad in full medieval attire and the 500 performers/artistes who will put up medieval performances on the closing Sunday. The festival attracts over 25,000 visitors, so be prepared to book your ticket(s) in advance. The programme for this year’s edition, which is to take place from 9 to 13 September 2015, is available here; the theme of Fêtes Médiévales de Saillon 2015 is the Orient, in keeping with 2015 being the year of light (UNESCO) and in recognition of the Orient’s contribution to the European Middle Ages. Official clip:

(source: Fêtes Médiévales de Saillon)

Grande fête médiévale au Château de Chenaux à Estavayer-le-Lac les 26 - 27 septembre 2015 (source: Estavayer 1470)

The medieval festival at the castle of Chenaux in the charming lakeside town of Estavayer-le-Lac, which has managed to preserve much of its medieval character, seems to be one of the latest joiners to the calendar of Swiss medieval festivals as the first edition was organised in 2013. The event will include demonstrations of medieval archery and fencing, combat reenactment, medieval storytelling, a mass in Latin, food tasting (including a medieval feast), medieval music and dances, etc. It will be held on the weekend of 26-27 September 2015. Photos and other information are available at http://www.estavayer1470.ch.

As part of the Christmas market held at Montreux, three ‘medieval magic’ weekends are organised in December at one of the most romantic castles in Switzerland, château de Chillon, with activities such as medieval music and dances, Christmas stories, workshops, etc. More info here.

Some future medieval festivals: fête médiévale St Triphon (13 & 14 August 2016; the programme for the last edition, in 2014), unofficial clip here; Médiévales du Vieux Bourg du Landeron (26, 27 and 28 August 2016); FB page hereTell’s Play in Altdorf (March 2016).

Past festival: fête médiévale au château d’Aigle (2014)

Other reenactment festivals of Swiss history: Fête de lEscalade, Geneva; Sechseläuten, Zurich (in April); prehistory Sunday at the prehistoric lakeside village of Gletterens, canton of Fribourg (23 August 2015); the Roman festival of Augusta Raurica (29 & 30 August 2015, some 10km from Basle).