St. John's Day, Medieval Festival
Fête médiévale de la Saint-Jean
Gruyères (Fribourg canton)
A Midsummer celebration in the medieval castle at Gruyères reliving the town's rich heritage and history while enjoying historical reenactment, living history displays and a visit to a castle which turns into a magical journey through eight centuries of architecture, history and culture...
Geographical, cultural and historical context
Gruyères is medieval town located at the top of a hill overlooking the upper valley of the Saane river and the Lake of Gruyère, in the midst of the Fribourg green pre-Alpine foothills, in the canton of Fribourg, in Switzerland. The town, today famous also for the Gruyère cheese, the hard yellow cheese named just after the town, boasts ancient origins as witnessed by the Celtic graves from the Hallstatt and La Tène era discovered in the area, as well as the remains of a Roman era villa from the 2nd-3rd century AD and an Early medieval cemetery. The town is supposed to derive its name from Gruerius, the legendary founder of Gruyères, who captured a crane (in French: “grue”) and chose it as his heraldic animal inspiring the name Gruyères. Gruyères is first mentioned around 1138-39 as de Grueri, and initially developed beneath the castle, which the Count of Gruyere had built on top of the hill, to control the Saane valley. In year 1195-96 Gruyères became a market town enclosed by city walls and started developing separately of the castle. The late 15th century stands out as the golden age in the history of the counts of Gruyères. In 1476, count Louis takes part in the Burgundian Wars (1474-1477 AD), a conflict between the Dukes of Burgundy in France and the Swiss Confederacy and its allies.
Event description and programme
Every year on St John’s Eve Gruyères starts celebrating its glorious heritage and the Middle Ages in a festival dedicated to St. John the Baptist. Reenactors from all over Switzerland and France and Germany organize several military and civil living history displays and interactive workshops inside and outside the castle. The festival recreates the ancient way of celebration, when people went in a procession to the chapel of St. John in order to invoke his protection. The following day was the time of jubilation, when the count offered citizens a barrel of his best wine. The spectacular fire shows and musical performances complete the programme. Setting of the event as well as a major tourist attraction is the castle of Gruyères, one of the most prestigious in Switzerland, towering majestically above the medieval town and containing a regional museum and an arts museum. The castle was constructed between 1270 and 1282 in the typical square plan of the fortifications in Savoy. The visitors can enjoy as well a real medieval fair where to meet several historical characters of the period and interact with potters, tailors, smiths, apothecaries, weavers, bakers and many other merchants and craftsmen at their stalls. From the court to the gardens of the castle the atmosphere is enhanced by the shows of acrobats, jugglers and fire-eaters and the rhythm of medieval music and dances around the St John's fire.
Château de Gruyères
Address: Rue du Château 8, 1663 Gruyères, Switzerland
Tel.: +41 (0)26 9212102 | Fax: +41 (0)26 9213802
Gruyères Town Council
Address: Rue du Bourg 33, 1663 Gruyères, Switzerland
Tel.: +41 (0)26 9218090 | Fax: +41 (0)26 9218099
La Gruyère Tourisme
Address: Rue du Bourg 1, Case postale 123, 1663 Gruyères, Switzerland
Tel.: +41 (0)848 424 424 | Fax: +41 (0)26 921 38 50
Image: Château de Gruyères
Text sources: Château de Gruyères, Gruyères Town Council, Wikipedia
Gruyères on Google Maps:
Promos and video reportages of the event:
Visiting the Gruyeres Castle: