Château de Rolle

Rolle is probably the most memorable of the places I visited in my one/two days of exploration in rural Vaud and Geneva, lands mostly in the ownership of Savoie in the olden days. What made this place spectacular was its simplicity and real sense of defensibility. A lot of the other châteaus in this area are far more of the ‘recent country house’ style, even if their origin is in the Middle Ages. 

The original castle dates from between 1264 and 1269 with Peter II of Savoie financing the construction of this building, and his descendants lived in it for a few more decades. It is in the 14th century when the Bernese nobles figured that they didn’t much appreciate the Count of Savoie, and ‘Wouldn’t it be oh-so-nice to burn a castle or two?’ So thought, so done, and this wonderful place was turned into a ruin.

Not until 1558 did another Bernese — Jean de Steiger — want to gaze upon the mountains on the other shore of Lake Geneva from this historic building. Again, so thought, so done, and Rolle rose again to become a wonderful country retreat for a family of financiers. It is also them who can be credited for an innovation which can be summed up as ‘latrine tower’.

The latrine tower is to the far right

Sometimes it feels to me that history is the history of latrines. No matter what we have done — and where we have done it — our basic human functions remain unchanged. So, whether it is some hole in an 12th century castle, an enclave of a great hall that a laird saw fit to use while others partied not ten-feet away, or a tower purpose-built over (and into) a lake, these minor innovations are the footprint of human endeavour for more comfort.

The other noteworthy aspect of Rolle is the view. The day I was there was not the best, but I got a glimpse of the mountains on the other side of the lake, and this glimpse reminded me of the time I saw Fuji-san rising from the Pacific Ocean. Some scenes are incredibly beautiful, and the connections our conscious mind creates between things we have experienced before feed into this sense of beauty.

Rolle, therefore, has both the human and the ethereal feel to it, and I would not do well if I cautioned people away from it.

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