“The most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world.” Mark Twain (1880). A Tramp Abroad.
Months before leaving on this holiday, when time permitted, we would watch short YouTube tourist videos of the places we were planning to visit. Rick Steves featured heavily on these rare evenings of ‘spare time’, and his video on Lucerne was excellent. In particular his description and reverence to the Lion of Lucerne. When we saw the video, we both decided that the Lion Of Lucerne was a must see.
The sculpture commemorates the Swiss Guards who were massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution, when revolutionaries stormed the Tuileries Palace in Paris, France.
Though it’s often overrun with tour groups, a tranquil moment here is genuinely moving: The mighty lion rests his paws on a shield, with his head cocked to one side, tears streaming down his cheeks. In his side is the broken-off end of a spear, which is slowly killing the noble beast. (Note the angle of the spear, which matches the striations of the rock face, subtly suggesting more spears raining down on the lion.)
By the time we got to Lucerne some weeks after leaving Australia, we had in fact completely forgotten about the Lion. It wasn’t until we had crossed the Chapel Bridge and having some breakfast that it jumped back into my mind. Luckily I had added a few landmarks and downloaded the relevant maps to Here Maps before leaving home. Within minutes we were on our way and wandering through Lucerne on our way to the lion.
It’s a short walk of 10-15 minutes from the Chapel Bridge. It would be much the same from the train station as well, considering how close they are to each other. There was a bus that would have been quicker but we elected to walk as it was a brisk Swiss morning and a good walk would warm us up!
The Commemorative Chapel
Just as you’re walking up the hill to the Lion, there is a small chapel to your right that’s easily missed. Inscribed at the top of the entrance is “INVICTIS PAX”, which translates from Latin to “peace to the undefeated“.
Curved over the door are the words “PER VITAM FORTES, SUB INIQUA MORTE FIDELES”, which translate to “brave in life, loyal in unjust death“.
Lion of Lucerne
We were certainly not disappointed when we finally came upon the lion. It’s absolutely stunning to see, and there is no way to describe the pathos this sculpture holds.
We were lucky to arrive when not many other people were around, as we’d heard it can get quite crowded.
The sculpture itself of the mortally wounded lion with tears streaming down its face is amazing to see. The pain in the lions face is real with the spear sticking out of him so painfully.
I have never been moved by a piece of art as much as I was today.
The inscription above the lion states “Helvetiorum fidei ac virtuti” — “To the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss.”
The sculpture itself is enormous, measuring 10 metres wide and six metres high. Like any true art, it is impossible to try and convey its beauty on a web page. Honestly, the only way you’re going to feel the power of this thing is to stand in front of it.
Entry to The Lion Of Lucerne is free.
Read more about the Lion of Lucerne at TripAdvisor.