The famous cheese takes its name from the region and the town in which it was built: the castle of Gruyères, located in the canton of Fribourg (less than an hour’s drive from Lausanne), Switzerland.
Overlooking the middle valley of the Sarine river in the Fribourg Pre-Alps, it occupies a strategic position 115 meters above the surrounding plain.
From an architectural point of view, it was built according to a plan that is very common in Switzerland, called the “carré savoyard” (Savoyard square) (military model developed by the House of Savoy). The same building plan can be found in the castles of Bulle and Chillon.
Built in the 13th century, the first mentions of the castle date back exactly to 1244 (archives). At that time, it was the main residence of one of the most important noble families of Western Switzerland in the Middle Ages: the Counts of Gruyère.
In the 15th century, Count Louis (known for his fight against Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy and for being one of the main leaders of the Battle of Murten in 1476) transformed the castle into a seigneurial residence.
Managed by the counts for several centuries, the castle became in 1554 the property of the bailiffs (who were at the time regional management bodies of several Swiss cantons), following the bankruptcy of Count Michel, who was beset by financial problems and had his properties confiscated.
For nearly 250 years, the bailiffs continued to extend the pastures in the Alps, increase cheese production and export to foreign markets. The Gruyère cheese wheels take the road to Vevey (located on the northern shore of Lake Geneva) where they are loaded onto boats that transport them to Lyon, France.
In the middle of the 19th century, the castle, considered too expensive to maintain, was put up for sale. A family from Geneva won the auction.
Already owner of a castle near Geneva (La Boissière), the Bovy family will undertake, during the summers, many works of fittings and restoration.
For the interior decoration, Daniel Bovy invited his artist friends (from France and Geneva) to the summer residence and they all participated in the new decor of the castle, which became over time a true artistic residence (sculptors, painters, writers, …).
Testimonies of this creative period, the paintings of Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot and Barthélemy Men still adorn the walls of the castle today.
Now open to visitors, the castle of Gruyères, its French gardens, its esplanade, via the Salon Corot or the Baillis room, is undoubtedly worth a visit.