The “Lion of Lucerne” combines art, history andnatural beauty into Switzerland’s most beloved historic monument.
With itspicturesque setting and historical significance, the Lion Monument of Lucerne(also called Löwendenkmal) is one ofEurope’s most famous sculptures. In many ways, the monument representsEuropean unity; though it sits in Switzerland, it was designed by famous Danishsculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen, and constructed by German mason Lukas Ahorn.
The LionMonument was erected in 1821 to honor Swiss Guards who were killed during theFrench Revolution. In 1792, rioting crowds broke into Tuileries Palace. Swissmercenaries tried to defend the royal family, but 760 soldiers were killedduring the battle. One Swiss officer from Lucerne was on leave at the time;when he heard of the massacre, he felt compelled to construct a memorial in hishome city to honor his fallen comrades.
Tucked into a sandstonerock face, the sculpture is famous for its heartbreaking realism. Spanningnearly 32 feet (10 meters) in length, it features a lion dying upon a bed ofshields and spears. An inscription above the big cat reads “Helvetiorum fedei ac Virtuti," which means"To the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss.” Author Mark Twainfamously proclaimed the Lion Monument to be “themost mournful and moving piece of stone in the world.”
The Lion of Lucerne is a 15-minute walk from Old Town. Signs throughoutLucerne guide visitors to the monument. Make sure to bring your camera. Whenyou see the picturesque waterfront setting, you’ll understand why the sculptureis so famous. If you want to avoid crowds, make sure to get there early in theday. Admission is free.
After enjoying the Lion Monument, explore other nearby attractions. Juststeps from the statue is the Glacier Garden, a dramatic landscape of rock andsubtropical flora. This natural wonder is covered with botanical gardens and makesfor a perfect place to take an afternoon stroll.