· Downtown Tour
· Chapel Bridge
· Spreuer Bridge
· Musegg Wall
· Lion Monument
· Jesuit Church
· Hof Church
· Franciscan Church
· Paulus Church
· Bourbaki Panorama
· Wooden Houses
· Pius Church
Lion Monument, Lucerne
The Lion Monument in Lucerne is a giant dying lion carved out of a wall of sandstone rock above a pond at the east end of the medieval town. It was designed as a memorial for the mercenary soldiers from central Switzerland who lost their lives while serving the French king Louis XVI during the French Revolution.
When the revolutionary masses attacked the royal Tuileries castle in Paris on August 10, 1792 the Swiss mercenary troops tried to defend the royal family and make sure the royals could escape.
The latin inscription HELVETIORUM FIDEI AC VIRTUTI means
"To the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss". (To understand HELVETIORUM [=of the Swiss] see:
Confoederatio Helvetica vs. Switzerland)
Furthermore you'll find the engraved names of the dead and of the saved officers of the Swiss guard as well as the death toll among the Swiss soldiers (DCCLX = 760) and the number of surviving soldiers (CCCL = 350).
An officer of the Swiss guards, second lieutenant Carl Pfyffer von Altishofen, a descendant from an influential patrician family, happened to be on home leave in Lucerne when his fellow soldiers were killed in Paris. After the times of revolution were over in 1815 and France as well as Switzerland had returned to conservative regimes, Pfyffer felt obliged to erect a memorial to honor the mercenary soldiers.
Liberal politicians from all over Switzerland dissapproved of the memorial, but they were in a minority position during the 1820's and Pfyffer was backed by a majority in Lucerne.
The Lion Monument was inaugurated on August 10, 1821. Originally the site was private property. In 1882 the city of Lucerne bought it. The site is accessible without an entrance fee. The monument soon became one of Lucerne's major tourist attractions.
The Lion Monument was designed by Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1884), a classicist Danish sculptor in 1819 while he stayed in Rome, Italy.
Lucas Ahorn (1789-1856), a stone-mason from Constance (southern Germany) actually carved it out of the sandstone rock in 1820/1821.
The giant sculpture is 6 m [20 ft] high and 10 m [33 ft] long. The upright wall of rock is the remains of a quarry exploited over centuries to build the town.
Swiss mercenary soldiers had a long tradition since the military success of the Swiss troops against the counts of Habsburg and duke Charles the Bold of Burgundy in the 15th century. Recruiting, equipping and instructing mercenary soldiers and sending them to the service of French kings and Italian dukes was big business for patrician families in central Switzerland.
But already in the age of reformation Swiss church reformer Huldrych Zwingli, who had been campaigning in northern Italy as a military chaplain himself earlier, challenged the institution. As this meant undermining a major source of income of influential families as well as giving up a major field of occupation for young men in a peripheral region always fighting with economical problems the disputatious church man's initiative encountered fierce resistance. The mercenary issue might even have been the essential reason why central Switzerland did not join the church reform and stayed with the traditional catholic belief. The dispute finally lead to two civil wars in Switzerland in 1529 and 1531. Zwingli himself was killed during the second war.
With the liberal (modern) Swiss constitution of 1848 mercenary services in favor of foreign powers were declared a criminal offense - with the sole exception of the Swiss guard at the Vatican. While the Vatican used to be just one of the Italian principalities until the late 19th century, it has been reduced to a district of Rome exempt from Italian jurisdiction since. So the papal Swiss guard can be regarded as a mix of folklore (with their colorful costumes) and of a city police today.
Mark Twain, well known American author, called the Lion Monument «the saddest and most moving piece of rock in the world».
By bus: From the main train station take a northbound bus number
until stop "Löwenplatz" [Lion Square].
From Löwenplatz turn to the right for a few steps and then left again
and follow either Löwengartenstrasse or Denkmalstrasse
leading you north to the Alpineum.
From there it's only a few more steps to the entrance to the English Garden
with the Lion Monument and the Glacier Garden.
GPS coordinates: latitude=47.058326 longitude=8.310589
maps by search.ch and google
Short quotations allowed but with precise declaration of origin (Link).
Reproduction of substantial parts and pictures in printed or electronic form only with explicit written consent by the editor.