Löwendenkmal

Löwendenkmal

The Lion lies in his lair in the perpendicular face of a low cliff for he is carved from the living rock of the cliff.  His size is colossal, his attitude is noble. His head is bowed, the broken spear is sticking in his shoulder, his protecting paw rests upon the lilies of France.  Vines hang down the cliff and wave in the wind, and a clear stream trickles from above and empties into a pond at the base, and in the smooth surface of the pond the lion is mirrored, among the water-lilies.

Around about are green trees and grass.  The place is a sheltered, reposeful woodland nook, remote from noise and stir and confusion and all this is fitting, for lions do die in such places, and not on granite pedestals in public squares fenced with fancy iron railings.  The Lion of Lucerne would be impressive anywhere, but nowhere so impressive as where he is.

Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad, 1880

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This memorial in Lucerne was our first stop on the bus from the landing in Basel to our hotel for two reasons:  it was on the way, and our hotel rooms weren't quite ready.  The story behind the memorial is the hidden surprise.

The Swiss have always been a 'warrior culture'.  For ages it has been a requirement of citizenship that able-bodied men serve in the Swiss Army, and their exploits on the battlefield are legend:  it was the Swiss who, during the Burgundian Wars, handed Charles the Bold defeat after defeat until his death in battle at Nancy.  One story, possibly true, probably legend, claims a mere 1200 Swiss pikemen routed a vastly larger invading force by catching them in a mountain pass.  During times of relative peace, the Swiss maintained their military skills by hiring out as mercenaries.  The famous Swiss Guard that still today guards the Pope is a remnant of this tradition.

In the late 18th century, Swiss Guards protected the royal family of France, and were on duty at the Tuilleries Palace when the French Revolution swept away the monarchy.  This commemorates the 760 Swiss Guards who died protecting the royal family in August 1792.