The first fortress was erected in the 10th century, around 923; it was originally a simple wooden guard post, built on a promontory dominating the ancient Roman road and Lake Annecy. The present buildings were constructed between the 13th and 19th centuries.
In the 11th century, in 1008, Bernard of Menthon - St Bernard, patron saint of skiers - was born in the castle. He later founded the hospice at the Great St Bernard Pass and abbeys in the high mountains.
From 1180, the castle was occupied by the Menthon family who still live there. The origin of the family is uncertain but they came from Burgundy and acquired a degree of feudal power. After their arrival, they constructed the three big square towers.
In the 15th century, Nicod de Menthon was ambassador to France of the Duke Amédée de Savoie, then Governor of Nice and admiral of the fleet sent by the Council of Florence to Constantinople.
During the Renaissance, the medieval fortress was transformed into a sumptuous residence, seat of the Barony of Menthon. Apartments took the place of the round walk between the towers and the Menthon family bought a large quantity of furniture.
The general appearance of the castle was unchanged until 1740, when several alterations were carried out to increase comfort. A suite of spacious light rooms was added onto the side facing the lake, comprising the dining room and the grand hall of 100 m² giving a view of the lake from its four windows.
In the 19th century, between 1860 and 1890, the castle was restyled (consolidation, raising of walls, adding of turrets, creation of a half-timbered gallery in the inner courtyard) by the count, René de Menthon, a fervent disciple of Viollet-le-Duc, who gave the château the appearance it has today.
François de Menthon, father of the present count, was a lawyer and member of the Resistance who represented France at the Nuremberg Trials. He worked for the creation of a united Europe and was Minister of Justice under De Gaulle.
France is affectionately referred to as "the Hexagon" for its overall shape.French history goes back to the Gauls, a Celtic tribe which inhabited the area circa 300BC until being conquered by Julius Caesar.The Franks were the first tribe to adopt Catholic Christianity after the Roman Empire collapsed. France became an independent location in the Treaty of Verdun in (843 AD), which divided up Charlemagne's Carolingian Empire into several portions.The French monarchy reached its zenith during the reign of Louis XIV, the Sun King, who stood for seventy-two years as the Monarch of all Monarchs. His palace of Versailles and its Hall of Mirrors are a splendid treasure-trove of Baroque art.The French Revolution ended the rule of the monarchy with the motto "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity!" On July 14th, 1789 angry mobs stormed La Bastille prison and began the Revolution in which Louis XVI, his wife Marie-Antoinette and thousands of others met the guillotine.One decade after the revolution, Napolean Bonaparte seized control of the Republic and named himself Emperor. His armies conquered most of Europe and his Napoleonic Code became a lasting legal foundation for concepts of personal status and property.During the period of colonization France controlled the largest empire in the world, second only to Britain.France is one of the founding members of the European Union and the United Nations, as well as one of the nuclear armed nations of the world.Text by Steve Smith.