The Lion of Lucerne
The Lion of Lucerne – Photo by Matt Herbert
Mirrored in the pond that stretches below him, the Lion of Lucerne catches the imagination of those who trek to see him amid the other tourist sites in Switzerland.
Mark Twain’s A Tramp Abroad is often quoted when referring to the lion. “…that indescribable something which makes the Lion of Lucerne the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world…”but as there are in tourist towns, souvenirs of the lion do him disservice, Twain said.
“The commerce of Lucerne consists mainly in gimcrackery of the souvenir sort; the shops are packed with Alpine crystals, photographs of scenery, and wooden and ivory carvings. I will not conceal the fact that miniature figures of the Lion of Lucerne are to be had in them. Millions of them. But they are libels upon him, every one of them. There is a subtle something about the majestic pathos of the original which the copyist cannot get.”
The Lion commemorates the Swiss mercenaries who lost their lives at the Tulleries Palace in Paris in 1792, during the French Revolution. The inscription above the Lion reads “Helvetiorum fedei ac Virtuti” meaning “To the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss.”
The sculpture was carved into the limestone cliff face in 1820 and 1821 by Lucas Ahorn. It was designed by Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen.
The Lion of Lucerne, in the cliff. Photo by Matt Herbert
While studying abroad in London, United States student Matt Herbert traveled to Switzerland and visited the lion’s lair. “After a bit of wandering, I came upon it. If I hadn’t seen the other tourists gathered in front of it, I would have walked right past. The site is sort of hidden in a lush little Eden that is shaded by large overhanging trees,” he said.
“The lion itself is engraved into a rock wall behind a giant clear pool that glitters with coins. It’s a serene sight in an idyllic little Swiss city. The sculpture itself is impressive and even though you’re observing it from a distance, you can tell how massive and detailed it is.”
After hiking through the woods all day, Herbert said, “and the fact that it was a lion, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Aslan from The Chronicles of Narnia.”
Find more information on the Lion of Lucerne here.