Lion Monument, Lucerne: The Iconic Swiss Landmark

The Lion Monument from the side

Visited by nearly 1.4 million people per year, the Lion Monument in Lucerne is on almost everyone’s list of things to see in Lucerne. Tucked away in the newer part of the city, this monument commemorates the Swiss Guards who were massacred during the French Revolution in 1792 when revolutionaries stormed the Tuileries Palace in Paris.

Nestled in an idyllic park setting, the Lion of Lucerne holds a special place in Swiss history, representing not only the events that unfolded in Paris but also the strength and resilience of Switzerland throughout the years. And it was even described by Mark Twain as “the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world.”

Visiting The Lion Monument

If all you are after are the juicy details on how to get to the monument, prices and so forth, this section is for you.

AddressDenkmalstrasse 4, 6002 Luzern (Google Maps)
Opening TimesAlways open
Entry FeeFree
AccessibilityYes, a cobbled path into the park
Public TransportBus 1 or 9 to Löwenplatz (or Wesemlinrain)
ParkingCity Parking – opposite (Google Maps)
Lion Monument Details

A visit to the Lion Monument should definitely be combined with the Glacier Garden, as it is right next door.

Visitors to the Lion Monument
Visitors to the Lion Monument

Getting There

As Lucerne is a very compact city, the easiest way to get to the Lion Monument is either by bus or walking. It is possible to drive, but parking is difficult and expensive in Switzerland, so unless that is the only thing you are visiting, it does not make much sense.

On Foot

Walking from the Chapel Bridge to the Lion Monument takes around 15-20 minutes. If you are walking from the old town you can also pop into the Hofkirche St. Leodegar Church on your way, and also walk along the promenade on the lake to enjoy the views from Lake Lucerne. You can see the route I suggest on the map below.

By Bus

You can catch either bus number 1 or 19 from Schwanenplatz on the lake to Löwenplatz (or Wesemlinrain, they are both about the same distance walk). It only takes 5 minutes on the bus. It will cost you around 6.20 for a day ticket (so you can go and return), unless you have a half-tax ticket (half price) or Swiss travel pass.

By Car

If you come into Lucerne by car, you could park close to the Lion Monument as the base for your visit. There is City Parking in the mall at Löwenplatz and a few others in the area.

History & Story of the Lion Monument

The Lion Monument Details
The Lion Monument Details

There is actually a lot of information and a sad story behind the Lion Monument. Below you will find a lot of detail about this stunning rock carving.

However, if you are visiting the monument there is also a QR Code on the information board that you can use to access even more information on site.

The Lion Monument reflected in the pond
The Lion Monument reflected in the pond

Origin and Purpose

As I mentioned earlier, the Lion Monument commemorates the Swiss Guards who were slain during the French Revolution in 1972. These valiant soldiers lost their lives whilst defending the Tuileries Palace in Paris.

You may be wondering what Swiss Guards were doing in Paris? For three centuries the Swiss were mercenaries who were hired to protect the French Kings. And over 500,000 actually served during the 15th to 18th centuries in that role.

At the time of the French revolution there were 1000 Swiss Guards in service of King Louis XVI and the majority of them lost their lives that day.

One officer, however, was on leave that day, and his name was Karl Pfyffer von Altishofen. After a long period of grieving he decided to write a book about what had happened. This incitied a lot of public reaction motivating him to start collecting money forthe creation of this monument to his fellow comrades. He also chose the location below the Wesemlin as a fitting spot in Lucerne for it

Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen designed the monument to honor their sacrifice, and to this day, it remains an iconic tourist attraction.

The Lion Monument set in a park with a pond
The Lion Monument set in a park with a pond

Construction and Completion

The process of creating the Lion Monument was both skillful and arduous. Hewn into a sandstone rock, the rock relief was masterfully crafted by local stone mason Lukas Ahorn. To appreciate the scale of the project, just take a moment to consider the statue’s staggering dimensions: it measures six meters in height and ten meters in length.

Commemorative Plaque

As you stop to take in this impressive sculpture, you’ll also notice the commemorative plaque accompanying the monument. This plaque lists the names of the fallen Swiss Guard officers who lost their lives in the line of duty.

The Lion Monument serves as a powerful reminder of the loyalty and courage displayed by those soldiers during a tumultuous time.

Restoration & Maintainence

In order to keep the Lion Monument in pristine condition, restoration efforts are periodically carried out. As the sculpture faces the elements and experiences natural wear and tear over time, these efforts ensure that it remains intact and continues to stand as a symbol of the Swiss Guards’ sacrifice for future generations.

In fact, at the time of writing the memorial is undergoing maintenance and will not be fully visible again until the end of July in 2023.

Lion monument symbolism and inscription
Lion monument symbolism and inscription

Design and Significance

The Lion Monument, or the Lion of Lucerne, is a rock relief in Lucerne, Switzerland, designed by Bertel Thorvaldsen and hewn in 1820-21 by Lukas Ahorn. The monument is a symbol of courage and loyalty, as it was created to commemorate the Swiss Guards who were massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution. In this section, we’ll explore the symbolism of the lion, the inscriptions, and the layout of the monument.

Symbolism

The lion is a powerful symbol in many cultures, often representing strength, courage, and nobility. In the case of the Lion Monument, the dying lion is depicted with a spear wound and is covering a shield with the fleur-de-lis of the French monarchy. Nearby is another shield bearing the Swiss coat of arms, symbolizing the bravery and sacrifice of the Swiss Guards in their final moments.

Inscriptions

As you look at the monument, you’ll notice a series of inscriptions that provide context to the story behind the sculpture. The main inscription on the rock face states: “To the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss” in Latin, a tribute to the fallen guards. In addition, a list of the names of the Swiss officers who died during the attack is engraved on the monument, as well as the approximate numbers whose died and survived . All of this serves as a memorial to those who sacrificed their lives in service to their country.

Layout

The Lion Monument is located in a picturesque park in the city center of Lucerne, providing a serene atmosphere for visitors to pay their respects. The sculpture is actually carved directly into the back wall of a former sandstone quarry, nested within a rocky grotto, which adds to the monument’s sense of history and permanence. As you walk through the park and approach the monument, you can appreciate the thought and care put into its design and layout, making it an essential stopping point on your visit to Lucerne.

Written by Ashley Faulkes
As a twenty-year resident of Switzerland, I am passionate about exploring every nook and cranny of this beautiful country, I spend my days deep in the great Swiss outdoors, and love to share these experiences and insights with fellow travel enthusiasts.

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