Castle Rapperswil and The Polish Museum

Castle Rapperswil above the city of Rapperswil in the Swiss canton of St Gallen is home to the Polish Museum in Switzerland. It offers a breathtaking view over Lake Zurich with its islands of Lutzelau and Ufenau. It is a place few people know of and yet it is your loss if you haven't gone there when in Switzerland.



Castle Rapperswil was built on the present location between 1220 and 1230 by Rudolf II and his son Rudolf III of Rapperswil; at the same time, they were elevated into the hereditary peerage as Counts of Rapperswil. The city of Rapperswil grew quickly around the new seat of the family. Before that, the family had resided on the other side of Lake Zurich in what today is called Altendorf (Old Village).

Altendorf was first mentioned as Rahprehteswilare in 972 in a document commissioned by Emperor Otto II of the Holy Roman Empire listing the land holdings of the Abbey of Einsiedeln. When the family moved to their new condo, the former village of Rapperswil acquired the name 'vetus villa' or just the old village, Altendorf. I digress.

The line of Counts failed and the Castle passed to the Counts of Habsburg-Laufenburg. When they died out in , the Castle was acquired by the burghers of Rapperswil in 1442. In 1462, they bought themselves out of the hands of the Dukes of Habsburg-Austria and immediately joined the Swiss Confederation (Oath Fellowship). The castle is still in possession of the city of Rapperswil.

In 1350, castle and city were completely burned down during a heated discussion between the city of Zurich and the House of Habsburg. The Counts of Habsburg-Laufenburg rebuilt both; the castle as you see it is the result of that period. It served as seat for the Swiss representative on site for centuries and was falling into disrepair after the annexation of the Swiss republics by Emperor Napoleon of France.

In 1870, the city got lucky and leased out the entire castle to Polish emigrate Count Wladyslaw Broel-Plater. He restored the pile and founded the Polish National Museum. It was housed in the castle from 1870 to 1925 when it was repatriated. From 1936 to 1952, a museum for contemporary Polish art was housed there; this collection was repatriated in 1952. In 1975, the third Polish Museum opened in the castle. It tells the story of Polish emigration, famous Polish expatriates like Marie Curie, and holds a large collection of Polish traditional art.

While you're there admiring the view, don't forget to visit the museum. It contains several important collections from eminent families that had to flee Poland at one point or another. As an added plus, there is an excellent restaurant.

Further reading
Zurich is More Than Banks
Town of Embroidery: St Gallen
Nonexistent Switzerland