Period III newsletter

Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1844, the Lion Monument, 1821. Photo: TES.

The Lion Monument of Lucerne

The Lion Monument (Löwendenkmal) was inaugurated on 10 August 1821, 29 years after the attack on the Tuilerien in 1792. One of the few surviving guardsmen was Carl Pfyffer von Altishofen, an officer in the Swiss Guard Regiment of King Louis XVI. On 10 August 1792 he was in Switzerland, otherwise, he had shared the fate of the approximately 850 guardsmen killed, most died on that day, the survivors were executed on 3 September.

He was the initiator of the monument. During the French occupation, the memorial was politically impossible. Only 1815, and supported by the conservative mood during the restoration, he was able to realize his plan to commemorate his colleagues. Carl Pfyffer collected over 20,000 Swiss francs thanks to donations from home and abroad, including from members of foreign royal houses such as the Tsar of Russia, the King of Prussia and the French royal family.

The commission for the monument went to the Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1844), who was well known at the time. The lion was carved directly from the stone wall in the old quarry, which Pfyffer had already leased for this purpose since 1805. His idea was that the monument should be a lion in the style of ancient models. The carving of the lion itself was not without drama. The Solothurn sculptor Urs Pankraz Eggenschwiler (1766-1821) was supposed to carve the lion directly into the wall of the former sandstone quarry on the edge of Lucerne but did not survive it.

After his fatal accident on the construction site, Lukas Ahorn (1789-1856) from Constance completed the lion. Above the monument is the inscription Helvetiorum Fidei ac Virtuti (on the loyalty and courage of the Swiss). The dying lion is pierced with a broken spear. His leg rests on a shield with the Fleur-de-Lis of the French royal family. Another shield bears the coat of arms of Switzerland. The inscription under the lion contains the names of the officers and the number of victims and survivors.

The inauguration on 10 August 1821 was a festival of the ancien régime. The ambassadors or representatives of royal houses of aristocratic Europe were present. For the liberal and progressive circles who demanded equal rights for all citizens, it was a reactionary demonstration and a glorification of the conservative ruling class of Lucerne. Today the monument is an attraction for the whole world and tourists from all classes. (Source: B. Schumacher, Kleine Geschichte der Stadt Luzern, Baden, 2015;