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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Lion of Lucerne

Curled in his den above a pond, impaled by a spear, is a dying lion – a haunting monument to the Swiss soldiers who were killed protecting the French king during the French Revolution.

More than 700 Swiss soldiers were massacred defending King Louis and Marie Antoinette in an attack on the Tuileries in 1792.

The dying lion is allegorical of  the soldiers’ courage, strength, and willingness to die rather than to betray their oath of service.  Mark Twain described it as “the most moving piece of stone in the world.”


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

Above the mournful lion is the Latin inscription, “HELVETIORUM FIDEI AC VIRTUTI,” which means “To the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss,” and below the lion’s niche is a list of the names of the fallen officers and the approximate numbers of soldiers who died (DCCLX = 760), and survived (CCCL = 350).

The tragedy was that their noble sacrifice was in vain.

On that fateful day, a contingent of 900 Swiss Guard mercenaries guarding King Louis XVI at the Tuileries Palace in Paris found themselves surrounded by an angry mob of some 30,000 French Revolutionaries. The mob demanded that the mercenaries step aside; the mercenaries refused. More than 700 of the Guard lost their lives in the battle that ensued, willing to die for the man they had been hired to protect, King Louis XVI.

No one bothered to tell the Swiss Guard that they were guarding an empty palace; the king and his family had already snuck out and fled.

THE LION INSIDE A PIG

Although thousands of visitors throng the monument daily, few realize that there are not one, but two different animals carved on the sandstone.

Here's how the story goes ...

The initiative to create a commemorative sculpture was taken by Karl Pfyffer von Altishofen, an officer of the Swiss Guard who was on leave in Lucerne during the August 10th massacre. He put up a public appeal for funds and commissioned  Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen to design the monument.
Although many contributed, the money collected was not enough to pay Thorvaldsen. The liberals, in particular, disapproved of the monument  The lack of funds did not discourage Pfyffer, who somehow managed to persuade Thorvaldsen for the job. According to the Thorvaldsens Museum Archives,
Pfyffer deliberately hid the truth from Thorvaldsen until the delivery of the model of the sculpture was secured. Upon discovering that he was shortchanged, the irate Thorvaldsen decided to get even by adding some last minute changes to his design. The artist didn’t alter the sculpture itself, out of respect for the fallen soldiers. Instead, he changed the shape of the alcove where the lion lay to resemble the outline of a pig!

Can you see the pig?

Musings Of A Tired Mummy

31 comments:

Lin said...

Isn't that absolutely amazing?! It's just so beautiful.

Sandee said...

What a tribute to all those that died. Beautiful.

Have a fabulous day. ♥

betty said...

I saw the pig after I went back and looked several times. Fascinating story. I bet it was so impressive to see in person too! I can't imagine designing and creating something this magnificent looking!

betty

ALLIE NYC said...

I am currently reading a book on the French revolution it was pretty brutal. But push people past the limits and create a financially unstable world and that is what happens the west should be ware...


Allie of
www.allienyc.com

Hootin' Anni said...

Mark Twain described it as “the most moving piece of stone in the world.”....I agree!

Mellie said...

I see the pig! I didn't at first but I looked again and there it was.

The Writing Greyhound said...

That's such a lovely tribute - and fab photos!

Hena Tayeb said...

I didn't see the pig until you mentioned it.. such a great informative post!

stevebethere said...

That is a beautiful tribute the detail of it is amaing :-)

Have a roaringtastic week :-)

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

I can see the pig - great story about the origin on the sculpture.

Meditations in Motion said...

What a sad and compelling story! I had heard of The Lion of Lucerne before, but never heard the story behind the sculpture.

Mandy said...

SO neat! The lion is absolutely beautiful. And how funny about the pig!

With Love,
Mandy

Su-sieee! Mac said...

That's a wonderful tribute to the Swiss soldiers. I had no idea this had happened.

XmasDolly said...

The story gave me goosebumps as does the lion. Thank you so much for sharing and have a nice day my friend! Hugs

XmasDolly said...

Oh my gosh, yes YES I see the pig now! What a sad story and the carvings in the mountain. Thanks so much for sharing. HI GIRLFRIEND, Did ya miss me? Yep, I'm back now... do stop by if you get a chance. HUGS

tiredbutcraftymummy said...

What an amazing story especially the ending with the alcove being shaped as a pig! #AnythingGoes

betty-NZ said...

What a fantastic memorial! It's so moving just to see it in a photo; I'm sure it's even better in person.
In your first shot, I noticed that the outline was not symmetrical and now I know why. Thanks so much for sharing.

I'm so glad you linked up at 'My Corner of the World' this week!

My Corner of the World

riitta k said...

Fantastic & realistic statue - sad though.

Chris Blackwood said...

I'd love to be there to see that in person. A beautiful sight.

An Apel a Day said...

Before I read the post I sang in my head The Lion King song, "In the jungle the mighty jungle the lion sleeps tonight..." I didn't realize it was passing away. How sad, but what a beautiful tribute.

An Apel a Day said...

I do see the pig! I just forgot to add that to my previous comment. A double take, for sure!

Sandee said...

Thank you for joining the Wordless Wednesday Blog Hop.

Have a fabulous Wordless Wednesday. ♥

pilch92 said...

That lion is so sad. :(

Enda Sheppard said...

What a fascinating post ... great story, well told #BloggerClubUK

Suchot said...

I saw the lion when I visited Lucerne years ago and it is incredibly moving. I didn't know the part of the story about the pig - very interesting.

Michelle said...

What a wonderful sculpture! And a fascinating story.

Heather Keet said...

I had never heard of this before, it is absolutely stunning! I love that he added a pig as a protest to being hired for work that they couldn't pay him for. #GlobalBlogging

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

The beautiful details of old buildings such as these really makes our modern towers look drab to me.

Unique creations by Anita said...

Beautiful

Rhonda Gales said...

What an amazing image! I love your travel posts. Thanks for sharing on Sunday's Best.

Indah Nuria Savitri said...

Now I miss Lucerne and Switzerland. Such a great story indeed..