Lion of Lucerne

Lucerne is a beautiful city in Switzerland that is a favorite stopover for those touring the country or of Europe itself. This city is renowned for its preserved medieval structures and its peaceful setting against the waters of Lake Lucerne.

Among the attractions are the Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke), which is nearly seven hundred years old. The wooden bridge winds across the water, taking several turns. With a roof overhead, its sides are open for viewing the waters while overhead, within the rafters are works of art to view as you stroll.

Chapel Bridge

Nestled within the Alps, Lucerne sits at the foot of Mount Pilatus. A chief attraction of the city is the train that climbs its sides. Known as the worlds steepest cogwheel train, the cars are set at angles that match the mountainside to so that passengers can sit in a more or less level position. The trip to the top of the rail is rewarded with a magnificent view of the surrounding mountains.

pilatus-bahn-switzerland-worlds-steepest-cogwheel-railway

The grand Church of St. Leodegar is another major landmark of the city of Lucerne , Switzerland. Considered the city’s most important church, it was finished in 1639 to replace a Roman basilica that had burned. Its two spires stand out amid the others structures of Lucerne, drawing even those who do not know its long history.

church_of_st-_leodegar_switzerlan

Green mountains capped with stone and snow beckon to hikers and give a sense of peace to those who chose to stay below and observe their reflections off the waters of Lake Lucerne. At every turn, venerable buildings line cobblestone streets, luring visitors to imagine the ages past in this small, mountain city.

Amid its attractions is another, perhaps more captivating, monument to the past. Upon the walls of an old quarry filled with water is a sculpture carved from the stone walls. Created by carving into the mountainside, it is the figure of a lion, mortally wounded by a spear. Near its head is the symbol representing Swiss soldiers but another symbol, that of the French monarchy, lies underneath the lion.  A pained, if not desperate, expression is expertly carved upon the face. The significance of the sculpture harks back not to a battle within Switzerland, but rather one in France.

Lion of Lucerne

The shield with the Fleur de Lis represents the French monarchy of the late seventeen hundreds, ruled by king Louis XVI, whose wife was Marie-Antoinette. The royal family, impressed by the well-disciplined Swiss forces, hired them for protection. The forces numbered approximately a thousand. With France divided into aristocracy, clergy, and peasantry, discontent flared, fueled by the skilled rabble rousing of journalists of the age. The French Revolution ignited.

Under heavy political fire, the royal family was denied its lodging at Versailles and other royal lodgings and instead was forced to use a less extravagant palace at Tuileres. There, with the Swiss guards protecting them, the revolution grew, until finally, the lives of the Louis XVI and his family were at risk. A failed attempt to flee left them at the mercy of an angry mob of thousands that gathered around Tuileres.

Les_Tuileries

With some three hundred of their number away at other duties, approximately 700 Swiss stood to protect the French royalty. Grossly outnumbered, the Swiss ran out of ammunition and were overrun by the vast mob. The result was a massacre. The Swiss were killed, beheaded, and even mutilated as the angry mob stormed over them toward the Palace of Tuileres. Most of the Swiss at Tuileres died that day. Others, badly wounded were imprisoned, where many died from their wounds. Others still escaped, though a vast minority, compared to the one thousand employed by the king.

Years later, a solider of the Swiss guard who had not been at the battle initiated the idea to create the monument.  Artist Bertel Thorvaldsen designed the sculpture and sculptor Lukas Ahorn carved it into the wall of the quarry between 1820 and 1821.

lion-lucerne-closeup

From that time, many have visited Lucerne and viewed the touching tribute. The mournful expression of the dying lion becomes clear when the story of the Swiss guard is revealed. It is difficult to know the true history and not have the figure of the wounded lion move you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *