Family & construction history

The Hallwyl family belonged to the minor nobility of Aargau and excelled in many ways during its 800-year history - on the battlefields of the Swiss Confederation and at the courts of Europe as well as in science, politics, trade and finance.


A member of the Hallwyl family was first mentioned in the year 1167: Waltherus de Allewilare was part of the social circle of the Barons of Eschenbach as well as belonging to the entourage of the Counts of Lenzburg.

Of the more than 500 family members, only one has been selected to represent each exhibition theme shown here. The audio guide available free of charge at the museum cash desk provides information on the portraits of the 20 family members on show in the exhibition.

14th century: Johans I of Hallwyl

© Museum Aargau

Johans I (1305–1348) was a marshal, a guardian in Sundgau, and later a bailiff in Swabia and Alsace. He carried out important assignments for the Habsburg sovereigns and was the official educator of Duke Frederick. He later used his position to expand his power in Aargau. Johans I is regarded as the most powerful and most successful member of the Hallwyl family. It was he who had the Hallwyl tower castle enlarged to create a prestigious castle complex.

15th century: Hans von Hallwyl

© Museum Aargau

Hans (1434–1504) had fought under the Habsburgs as well as under the Kings of Bohemia and Hungary. On 22 June 1476 he led the Bernese troops to victory at Murten against Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, and went down in history as the Hero of Murten.

15th/16th century: Dietrich of Hallwyl

© Museum Aargau

Dietrich (1462–1509) established a farm and cultivated the land belonging to Hallwyl Castle himself. He had a fish pond created in the Schlatt and maintained a sound income from the sale of carp.

16th century: Hartmann III of Hallwyl

© Museum Aargau

Hartmann III (1503–1573) studied theology under Wolfgang Capito in Basel and later went to the universities of Mainz and Leipzig. He welcomed Luther's revolutionary ideas, gave up his plans to become a priest and took up service as an envoy and emissary for the City of Bern. In 1546/47 he was an emissary of Bern in the Schmalkaldic War.Hartmann III (1503–1573) studied theology under Wolfgang Capito in Basel and later went to the universities of Mainz and Leipzig. He welcomed Luther's revolutionary ideas, gave up his plans to become a priest and took up service as an envoy and emissary for the City of Bern. In 1546/47 he was an emissary of Bern in the Schmalkaldic War.

16th century: Burkhard III of Hallwyl

© Museum Aargau

Burkhard III (1533–1598) collected medical recipes, researched into his family's history and had several extensions and conversions carried out in Hallwyl Castle. He owned an experimental laboratory with distillation apparatus and supplies of medicines similar to that of an apothecary. In around 1580 he compiled more than 2,500 recipes in the 'Hallweil Book of Medicines' including the 'Genuine Hallwyl Magic Potion'.

16th/17th century: Johann Georg of Hallwyl

© Museum Aargau

At the instigation of his father Dietrich, Johann Georg (1544–1604) obtained a sinecure at the cathedral chapter in Basel in 1579. His training and his later period of office as bishop were influenced by the Jesuits: he was said to be strictly devout, eager for reform and unselfish. In 1601 he was unanimously voted bishop of the largest bishopric in the German-speaking region by the cathedral chapter of Constance.

18th century: Bernhardine of Hallwyl

© Museum Aargau

Bernhardine, née Diesbach (1728–1779), came from a wealthy Bern family and married the 55-year-old Johannes of Hallwyl when she was aged 16. After the latter's death, she suffered considerably due to the loss of her daughter, fear for her sick sons and her own infirmity.

18th/19th century: Franziska Romana of Hallwyl

© Museum Aargau

Franziska Romana, née Hallwyl (1758–1836), married her cousin Abraham Johannes and was Lady of the Castle as a widow for more than 50 years. Born into a period of upheaval, she witnessed the downfall of the Ancien Régime, the French Revolution and the foundation of the canton of Aargau. She followed all these developments with great interest.

18th/19th century: Karl Franz Rudolf of Hallwyl

© Museum Aargau

Karl Franz Rudolf (1777–1852) served under the Russian Tsar and became a captain in the artillery battalion of the Imperial Guard. After his return to Hallwyl Castle he was Lord of the Castle for 40 years, becoming a citizen and colonel of Aargau as well as being voted onto the Grand Council. The family lost many of its privileges in the aftermath of the Helvetic Revolution. Karl Franz Rudolf fought countless legal battles to defend his family's rights, causing him to amass considerable debt. In 1833 he was finally forced to sell the castle mill.

18th/19th century: Wilhelmina of Hallwyl

© Museum Aargau

The wife of Walter of Hallwyl (1839–1921) was the daughter of a Swedish industrialist. During the course of her life she assembled an extensive collection of paintings, porcelain, silver, weapons and utility objects. These can be viewed by the public today at Hallwyl Museum in Stockholm.

Wilhelmina of Hallwyl (1844–1930) invested most of her large inheritance in the restoration and documentation of Hallwyl Castle from 1910 to 1916. After her husband's death she established the Hallwil Foundation in 1925. This trustee organisation took on responsibility for the castle complex and opened it to the public.

Architectural history: the development stages to becoming a moated castle

Hallwyl Castle was constantly expanded from the time of its founding in the late 12th century. It underwent thorough restoration from 1997 to 2004.

The tower castle

In the late 12th century the lords of Hallwyl am Aabach established a small castle complex 700 metres from the run-off at the northern end of Lake Hallwil. It consisted of a residential tower surrounded on three sides by a dry moat. Large boulders were placed at the outside of the tower walls, as is commonly found in castle towers in the region dating back to the same era or slightly later.

There was also an inn serving the castle residents which was presumably older than the castle itself.

The keep

As the Hallwyl family gradually grew in importance and reputation, the space afforded by the tower castle became too limited. This was remedied in around 1265 with the construction of the keep, which was erected directly on the bank of the stream east of the residential tower. Two rooms on the ground floor were used to store supplies. The first and second floors consisted of residential rooms.

A bridge was built over the Aabach, possibly around the time the keep was constructed if not some time previously.

Nach Oben