The castrum

Towards the end of the 10th century, Rodolphe Aynard had a castrum built in his seigneury of Theys. The Latin term castrum designates different realities ranging from a fortified tower on a motte castrale to a fortified town. We do not know the location of this primitive castrum, of which no traces seem to remain.

On the other hand, when, from the 1280s onwards, the Counts of Geneva, the new lords of Theys, established their stronghold at the place known as “Au Châtel”, they locked the esplanade naturally protected by two deep streams by raising a motte topped by a stone tower upstream, at the most constricted point. This is a procedure that is well known in the Geneva region and which continued until the 14th century.

The defensive mound on which the bases of a stone tower can be seen

It is therefore necessary to distinguish this type of fortification, which works in conjunction with a dry ditch downstream, from a motte castrale as was built in the 10th and 11th centuries and which perhaps corresponds to what the texts refer to as a castrum when they describe the fortification built by Rodolphe Aynard.

The defensive system

  • Two deep streams delimit the spur on which a naturally protected esplanade extends.
  • Upstream, a motte (artificial earth mound) topped by a stone watchtower locks the site.
  • Downstream, a dry ditch is dug at the foot of the fortified house. 
  • On the terrace stands the stronghold of the Counts of Geneva: the Châtel.
  • The medieval path ran around the motte and then across the dry ditch.