The Dying Lion
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The Dying Lion

The Lion Monument in Luzern commemorates the Swiss Guards who were killed in 1792 during the French Revolution. The Swiss they were ordered to defend the Tuileries Palace in Paris, to which the royal family had relocated. As an illustration of the suckier side of soldiering, when the palace was stormed the royal family escaped, and the King ordered the Swiss to return to their barracks - but this order wasn't acted upon until the situation had already become untenable. The result was 760 dead Swiss and 350 survivors.

While this happened, Karl Pfyffer von Altishofen, an officer of the Guards was on leave in Luzern. It was due to his desire to create a memorial to the friends who had died that money was collected and the memorial made. Wikipedia describes the symbolism of the monument:

The monument is dedicated Helvetiorum Fidei ac Virtuti ("To the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss"). The dying lion is portrayed impaled by a spear, covering a shield bearing the fleur-de-lis of the French monarchy; beside him is another shield bearing the coat of arms of Switzerland. The inscription below the sculpture lists the names of the officers, and approximate numbers of the soldiers who died (DCCLX = 760), and survived (CCCL = 350).


Mark Twain, in his A Tramp Abroad calls it the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world and describes the lion in the chapter The Nest of the Cuckoo-Clock:

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[b]

2010-11-21 15:47

Lion Monument, Switzerland 2010