Das Löwendenkmal, a.k.a. The Lion Monument or "Lion of Lucerne," is a masterpiece created in the early part of the 19th century. Awe-inspiring and mournful, it is dedicated to the memory of the heroic fight and final defeat of the Swiss Guards in 1792 in Paris. The fateful day of August 10th marked the beginning of the bloody days of the French Revolution. When the Bourbon King Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, together with their children, were brought back to the Tuileries Palace in Paris after a failed attempt to escape the French Revolution. Working-class Parisians stormed the royal palace - the Tuileries - and the Swiss regiment of the Guards were forced to lay down their arms by the order of Louis XVI, which resulted in their massacre.
Known as a universal symbol of courage and strength, the lion was designed by Danish sculptor Bertel Thorwaldsen and was hewn into the sandstone cliff between 1820 and 1821.
Depicting a dying lion with its paw poised over the shield bearing the fleur-de-lys of the Bourbon king, a broken lance pierces its heart, signifying its loyalty in protecting the shield to its death.
The effort to erect the monument was initiated by Ch. Karl Pfyffer of Altishofen and was made possible by donations from the comrades and friends from the different regiments. It was executed by Lukas Ahorn, who hewn the image into the rock face. The niche in the rock wall measures about 43 feet and the animal alone is 30 feet. Inscribed in Latin are the following words:
HELVETIORUM FIDEI AC VIRTUTI or THE LOYALTY AND BRAVERY OF SWISS.
And the names of the martyred soldiers, including the 26 officers and 16 soldiers who were sacrificed, are also inscribed below the lion.
The sculpture is set amidst tranquil foliage and a gently rippling pool in front, a perfect setting for contemplation.
Adjacent to the Löwendenkmal is The Gletschergarten (Glacier Garden - www.gletschergarten.ch), which holds within its grounds a museum displaying old relief maps of Luzern and Switzerland, including a set of geological potholes retelling the subtropical ocean beach that was Luzern some 20 million years ago. Also housed in the museum is the original stucco model of the lion.
The Alpineum opposite is a relic from a bygone era, with static models of Alpine scenes behind a glass display which no doubt will spark the imagination of our great-grandparents, but today they come across as a little dry.
On Löwenplatz, a huge circular building houses the Bourbaki Panorama, recently re-opened after renovations. The panorama itself is a huge mural depicting the retreat of the French Eastern Army under General Bourbaki into Switzerland during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 to 1871.
From the waterfront, walk along Alpenstrasse or Lõwenstrasse towards Löwenplatz. And from the square, facing the Bourbaki Panorama, take a left turn walking about 1 minute uphill on Denkmalstrasse, passing a block of souvenir shops, and then reaching the monument.