Détail de la Crucifixion (écu de Savoie), prison, Château de Chillon © FCC Maud Jenni Hédiguer
Détail de la Crucifixion (saint Jean, saint Christophe et saint Antoine l'ermite), prison, Château de Chillon © FCC Maud Jenni Hédiguer
Détail de la Crucifixion (sainte Catherine et la Vierge), prison, Château de Chillon © FCC Maud Jenni Hédiguer
La Crucifixion, prison, Château de Chillon © FCC Maud Jenni Hédiguer
Plan de la prison au château de Chillon Suisse

Item of the month of February 2019

Drawing of the Crucifixion
In 1842, the famous French writer Victor Hugo published a collection of his travel diaries entitled “Le Rhin”, in which he described a drawing that he observed in the prison of Chillon Castle during his visit in 1839. He attributes it to Michel Cotié, companion of the political prisoner François Bonivard at the beginning of the 16th century: “Nothing remains of him [Cotié] but a few charred drawings on the wall. They are half-natured figures that do not lack a certain style; an almost erased Christ on the cross, a Saint on her knees with her legend around her head in Gothic characters, a Saint Christopher [...] and a Saint Joseph.”

Dated from the 15th century, this Crucifixion is located on the south wall of the prison, in a small enclosed space called “croton”; the latter served as a chapel for prisoners in the Middle Ages. It is attested since 1386 in handwritten sources.
In the centre, Christ on the cross is surrounded by the Virgin and Saint John. To the right of Mary is also Saint Catherine, while John is flaked to his left by Saint Christopher carrying the child Jesus and Saint Anthony the hermit. Attributes and names written in phylacteries make it possible to identify them all.
In 1899, archaeologist Albert Naef and his team closely examined the various figures represented around Christ on the Cross. They conclude that the drawings were made by different hands - prisoners - at different times. However, their quality and homogeneity refute this hypothesis: it is inconceivable that captives could have produced these drawings in the dark. On the other hand, art historians do not detect several hands or several periods. The presence of a shield of Savoy, even if it is no longer easily readable, leads us to believe that this drawing would rather be the result of a commission from the House of Savoy for those sentenced to death.
Indeed, the presence of the saints is explained by their consoling powers: Saint Catherine is the patron saint of virgins and the dying, Saint Christopher, protector of death without confession, and Saint Anthony protects from the fire of hell.

Drawing of the Crucifixion
15th century
Black fat chalk

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    Temporarily closure until 30th April 2020. In line with guidance from the Swiss public health authority and Vaud Council, Chillon Castle is temporarily closed until end of April 2020. We are sorry for the inconvenience and we thank you for your understanding

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