The Architecture of a Prison

[Photo Credit: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-DIG-ppmsc-07095]

When Julia toured the Château de Chillon in 1896, she doubtless walked through Bonivard’s Prison on its lower level. Here François Bonivard, prior of the nearby St. Victor’s monastery, was imprisoned by the Duke of Savoy from 1532-1536 in punishment for favoring the Reformation. Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley toured the site in 1816, and soon after Byron wrote The Prisoner of Chillon, which vividly describes the dungeon: “There are seven pillars of Gothic mould/In Chillon’s dungeons deep and old/There are seven columns, massy and grey/Dim with a dull imprison’d ray. . .” While Julia and her three traveling companions would have known of the poem and the site’s tragic history, Julia must have also admired its magnificent Gothic vaulting.