Schwanau Island – mystical and legendary

Lake Lucerne Region

The island of Schwanau is located on the idyllic Lake Lauerz, nestled between the Grosser and Kleiner Mythen and the Rigi.

Schwanau is the larger of the two islands in Lake Lauerz. The other island, Roggenburg, is located around 130 meters south-east of Schwanau. With a length of 200 meters and a width of up to 55 meters, Schwanau covers an area of 5728 m². The island is about 125 meters from the southern shore of the lake.

Mythen massif with Lake Lauerz and Schwanau Island

Mythen massif with Lake Lauerz and Schwanau Island

Schwanau island with a rich history

According to archaeological investigations by the Swiss National Museum, the finds indicate that the island of Schwanau was settled around 1200 BC.

Schwanau island with castle, chapel and restaurant

Schwanau island with castle, chapel and restaurant

Originally, the island of Schwanau, like the entire Arth estate, belonged to the Lenzburg dynasty. After the Lenzburgs died out, the island came into the possession of the Kyburgs around 1173. Later, in 1273, the Habsburgs took over the island. The oldest part of the keep dates from the time of the Kyburgs and was probably built between 1200 and 1240. This part of the castle included a curtain wall that enclosed a residential building. The castle was destroyed by fire around 1250, but the exact cause of the destruction is still unknown. The castle was not rebuilt afterwards.

In 1684, the island was inhabited by Johann Linder from Einsiedeln, and the chapel of St. Johann was built at the same time. During the French occupation, the chapel was severely devastated.

After the devastating Goldau landslide in 1806 and the subsequent tidal wave, the remaining buildings on the island of Schwanau were completely destroyed. At the time, the island belonged to the parish of Schwyz, which sold it to the general and governor Ludwig Auf der Maur in 1809. After the purchase, Ludwig Auf der Maur called himself “Baron de Schwanau”. However, the sale was subject to certain conditions. These included never selling the island to a non-Swiss and keeping the newly built chapel and the castle ruins in good condition.

Despite these efforts, the top floors of the old tower had to be demolished around 1850 due to dilapidation.

It was not until 1959/60 that the castle and the island were thoroughly examined and subsequently conserved. This disproved an old claim that a second castle had existed on the small island next to Schwanau.

Schwanau with restaurant

Schwanau with restaurant

Schwanau Chapel

Schwanau Chapel

In 1967, the canton of Schwyz acquired the castle and the island from the Auf der Maur family for 35,000 francs. Schwanau was placed under federal protection in 1971 and in 1999 the Schwyz cantonal government decided not to sell the island. Instead, a comprehensive restoration concept was drawn up and implemented in 2009. The castle ruins were secured once again and the tower was given a new staircase access and a viewing platform. Today, Schwanau Island is a historical attraction and a cultural heritage site that attracts visitors from the region and beyond.

Today, the chapel and the Schwanau castle ruins are still preserved, and an inn has also been built. The island of Schwanau is a historically significant place and attracts visitors with its eventful history.

Legend “Gemma von Arth”

Around 1300, the young, pretty farmer’s daughter Gemma from Arth is abducted by a tyrannical bailiff and imprisoned in a castle on the island. The girl manages to escape from the dungeon, but there is no escape from the island. In desperation, Gemma throws herself from the tower into the icy water and drowns. Every year on the anniversary of her death, she chases the ghost of the evil bailiff around the castle ruins.

Video Romantic island of Schwanau in Lake Lauerz 🇨🇭

We recommend a lovely excursion to the romantic little island of Schwanau in Lake Lauerz.

Romantische Insel Schwanau im Lauerzersee 🇨🇭

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